A Prayer for National Coming Out Day


Dear Lord,

For all who are coming out for the first time, sharing another part of themselves with their friends and loved ones, let them know your strength.

For all who have been out for any amount of time and are living as their authentic selves, let them know your joy.

For all who are not ready to face the backlash of being honest about their sexuality, let them know your protection.

For all who are putting their privilege aside to stand by an LGBTQ child, let them know your peace.

For all who will use this day to demean and belittle your gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual, and questioning children, let them know your forgiveness.

For all of us who journey through this life, let us know your love, and let us extend that love to everyone we meet.


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Yes, it IS political


So Donald Trump has had yet another instance of, “Good God, did he really say that?”

In case you somehow missed it, there was recently a tape released from 11 years ago of the Republican nominee speaking on a hot mic about a woman (she is not named in the recording). Among other things, he said that he just kissed, he didn’t wait, and if you’re attracted to a woman, you should just “grab them by the pussy.”

I have seen a number of people speak out against this latest obscenity, for which I am grateful. Some Republicans have pulled their support for him, citing this as the tipping point. Both Paul Ryan and Reince Priebus have called out his comments, though neither have pulled their endorsements.

As I scroll through my Facebook feed, a lot of those calling out his remarks are prefacing their comments with, “This isn’t political.” I understand why they want to do this. Stepping into a political firestorm like we’ve seen this election is frightening. We’ve seen actual violence between people who disagree, so suggesting that you’re picking sides is scary. And most of us don’t want to fight with our friends, so we soft pedal our views a little bit, casting them in the best light we can.

But here’s the thing. Donald Trump is running for president of the United States of America. He is seeking the highest office in this country. He wants to be the face of our country to the rest of the world and for the people living here.

Two years ago, speaking out against his words and actions toward the disabled and women and immigrants and people of color and the LGBTQ community wouldn’t have been political. Then you could just shake your head at his deplorable deeds and remind people that we should be better than this just as people. We could mourn the rise and success of someone who thinks so little of so many, but you’d be right. It wouldn’t be political.

But there’s no way to separate that out now. If someone is a politician, their actions and the acceptance or condemnation of those actions are political.

To say it’s not political is to say that politics aren’t influenced by behavior. But we know better.

A person who believes that it’s okay to sexually assault women will not work to enact laws that protect women from sexual assault or that punish those who perpetrate assaults.

A person who believes that it is acceptable to mock the disabled will not work to protect the rights of the disabled in the workplace.

A person who chooses a running mate who enacted one of the first laws allowing people to discriminate against LGBTQ people will not work to ensure that strides made in the community will be maintained.

A person who calls all Mexicans rapists and demands the halt of immigrants who practice a particular religion will not work to ensure that our country helps those who want a better life.

A person who says that the only way to lower crime is to enact racist, unconstitutional policies like stop and frisk will not work to bring justice to black and brown communities that are crying for safety.

His words and behavior give us a pretty clear picture of his potential governance. So calling out his words and behavior is a political move. Talking about the behavior of a candidate is talking about their politics.

More importantly, however, is that you recognize that your actions are political as well. If you say that this kind of behavior can’t stand and then vote for this candidate anyway, you are absolutely saying that this kind of behavior CAN stand. You are saying that xenophobia and racism and sexism and misogyny are bad, but they aren’t that bad.

If we’re talking about politicians, our words are political. Let’s just be honest about what our politics stand for when it counts.

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Ideals, Humanity, and Grace for Hillary Clinton and Me


It’s been a week since the first presidential debate, and one of the issues raised therein was just how feminist are either of the candidates.

Hillary Clinton recently released an ad highlighting some of the most egregious statements about women made by Donald Trump. In the debate, she brought up the specific case of Alicia Machado, a Miss Universe contestant who gained weight after winning the title, bringing scorn and shame from Mr. Trump. Following the debate, Mr. Trump has defended his statements about Ms. Machado, and during the debate itself, he defended crass, derogatory comments he has made about Rosie O’Donnell, saying that she deserved them.

The question being raised was whether or not someone who spoke about (and still speaks about) half of the electorate thusly is someone who is qualified to represent Americans in the highest office of the land.

Of course, as soon as you call one candidate’s views on women into question, it becomes fair game for them to turn the tables.

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani attacked Secretary Clinton and her treatment of Monica Lewinsky following the revelation of then President Bill Clinton’s affair. In a private email to a friend, she called Ms. Lewinsky a “narcissistic loony toon.” She has not ever walked back that statement, though in 2014, she did say that she “wished her well.”

Does this mean that Hillary isn’t a feminist?

I don’t think so.

A few years ago, a friend invited me to be on the board of a non-profit she was starting to help the women in our state achieve greater freedom. I loved the mission that she laid out, but felt like maybe I wasn’t a good choice. After all, I had an affair with a married man, so I had inflicted pain on a woman. That wasn’t the behavior of a feminist.

And yet, I am a feminist. My beliefs about the importance of equality for women have not changed. My desire to see women in positions of influence and power has not diminished. I long to see women receive equal pay for equal work, and recognition for the work that they do. I want to see women able to speak without apology. I am a feminist, and I am happy to offer whatever support I can to feminist causes.

Certainly my affair was not feminist behavior. It wasn’t Christian behavior. It wasn’t loving behavior. It wasn’t even entirely sane behavior.

It was, however, human behavior.

High stress situations do not always reveal our best selves. When we feel abandoned, when we feel alone, when we feel sad, we may say or do things that betray our ideals.

Hillary Clinton has spent her life fighting for the rights of women everywhere. Over and over she has shown herself to be a champion for women and for feminism. Her nomination as the Democratic representative is a huge milestone for women everywhere.

Her anger and subsequent name-calling of a woman who caused her pain is not a shining moment of feminism. Certainly tearing down another woman is something we want to avoid as women seeking equality for other women. But in the middle of a public scandal, it is an understandable offense.

I don’t say this to excuse bad choices that any of us make when we’re in pain, but to remind us, to remind myself, that one negative decision does not erase all of our ideals. Instead, they are a reminder that we are human.

More than that, when we stray from our ideals, they allow us to reassess those beliefs. We have an opportunity to ask ourselves if we still hold to the things we believed, or if those ideologies have changed. We are offered a chance to affirm those beliefs, or if necessary, evolve.

Giuliani may be right that Clinton was wrong to attack Lewinsky during the exposure of her husband’s affair. However, she has shown herself in her actions both before that time and since, to be an advocate for women’s rights. She may not have lived up to her ideals at all times, but that does not strip her feminism.

Aspiring to live up to our ideals is a worthwhile pursuit, even when we are hurting. But allowing ourselves a measure of humanity in our pain is necessary.

Giving grace, to others and ourselves, is a worthwhile ideal as well.

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Go Ahead & Have a Happy Marriage



I read another article yesterday stating that marriage isn’t about your happiness. It’s not a new idea – lots of people have floated that idea before. Maybe I’m not a reliable source, since I ended my first marriage, but I just can’t buy these words from Debra Fileta:

Marriage is not about your happiness, it’s not even about you. It’s about love—which is something we choose to give time and time again. It’s about sacrifice, serving, giving, forgiving—and then doing it all over again.

No wonder we choose divorce over commitment. Because often, we’re choosing “personal happiness” over real commitment, over real love.

In my first marriage, I lived by the creed that my happiness was unimportant, that self-sacrifice was the way to a successful marriage, to the point that even when he told me that he was an atheist without involving me in the previous year-long process, I simply accepted it without examining how it made me feel. I was so accustomed to putting my own feelings on the back burner that any negativity I felt was simply shoved away to keep the peace. I thought that this kind of sacrificial service was a more “real” version of love. Because real love didn’t care about emotions, it was better not to bother with emotions at all.

These articles point to a world that eschews commitment and make the assumption that personal happiness is the culprit. While emotions are not always accurate, they are still true, and personal happiness is a good tool for determining the overall health of a relationship.

In my previous marriage, I spent the better part of a decade finding personal happiness in relationships outside of my marriage, because there wasn’t much happiness to be found inside. I spent nearly all of my time online with people that I had met through writing, or with friends I had made through parenting or church groups. I instinctively knew that happiness mattered to me, and I found it where I could.

When we tell people that happiness is unimportant, we ignore one of the best tools to gauge the health of a marriage.

The truth is, those relationships that were outside of my marriage weren’t always rosy. Even in the years when Rich and I were friends, we had difficult patches. Times when we didn’t communicate well, times when we just weren’t very happy. But because there weren’t limits on how our emotions gauged the overall temperature of our friendship, we could use that to adjust the areas where we were unhappy, and strengthen the friendship. This was true of all of my outside relationships. I was able to use happiness not as the measure of whether a relationship was worth keeping, but rather as a way to determine the health of that relationship. And yes, relationships that left me consistently unhappy needed stronger evaluation, and sometimes they needed to be left.

In the article quoted above, the author writes, “They tell us to do what feels right, and not to tolerate anything less. They fool us to thinking that love is about doing what makes us happy. And the second we feel less than happy, they encourage us to bail, to abandon ship and to stop investing.”

I don’t know who the mythical “they” are as mentioned here, but I don’t think that there are many who would agree that the first time we feel unhappy, we should abandon any relationship, let alone a marriage. Most adults recognize that any commitment will have periods of disillusionment and disappointment, neither of which are hallmarks of happiness. Most people understand that generosity is a key to any strong connection. Most recognize that there are times when the needs of others come before our own. Marriage takes work, and work isn’t always happy. However, work that is always unhappy indicates that there are larger problems. Ignoring emotions can lead to ignoring deeper problems, and ignoring deeper problems can lead to the breakdown of a marriage.

Self-sacrifice is essential in doses. It reminds us that we are part of something bigger and helps us to grow as people. Non-stop sacrifice, on the other hand, leaves you depleted. It leaves you worn-out and small.

You only have so much self to go around, and when there is no you, there can be no we.

My marriage isn’t only about my happiness. I do, however, want to have a strong marriage, and if my happiness is a tool to show me areas where our marriage is weak, then by God, I’ll go ahead and have a happy marriage.

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Intentional Marriage


Yesterday Rich and I took advantage of the holiday to enjoy an evening off. We went to a matinee of Don’t Breathe and then went to a local Japanese Steak House for some teppanyaki. Nothing extraordinary, just a few hours spent together enjoying one another’s company.

I didn’t think much about date nights in my first marriage. In fact, I would have said that they weren’t an essential part of a strong marriage. And I don’t entirely disagree with my “then” self. When kids are young and you’re lucky if you can sit down on the toilet without a child knocking on the door, or even just barging in, finding an opportunity for you and your spouse to get out of the house can be daunting. We had four kids in just under five years, so date nights were a luxury that we could rarely afford.

In those early years, however, we still tried to be intentional about spending time together. We had a regular Sunday night ritual that we rarely missed – hoagies and Fox’s Sunday night animation line up. It wasn’t anything special, but it was a point every week when we would reconnect and remember that we were an “us” in addition to the other hats we wore.

And then it fell to the side. We stopped being intentional about our time together and allowed other things to take priority over it. It didn’t seem like a big deal. After all, it was just a sandwich in front of the TV. Nothing special about that. Besides, we were fine. We didn’t examine our relationship, so we didn’t see the cracks that were forming.

I don’t know if you can ever really pinpoint the beginning of the end of a marriage, and I don’t know if it’s even wise to try. But the lack of intentionality in my first marriage certainly contributed to its demise. Loneliness in my marriage led me to find friendship outside, and eventually one of those friendships developed into something more.

September was when I left my first marriage, so it’s the month when I tend to think about the state of my current relationship the most. (As an aside, a recent study showed that divorce filings peak in March and August. So maybe September is a good time for all of us who are marriage to evaluate those relationships.) When I’m assessing my marriage now, one of the key factors that I look at is intentionality.

  • Are we looking for opportunities to serve one another?
  • Is our relationship characterized by kindness?
  • Are we honest with one another?
  • Are we willing to admit when things aren’t going well and commit to fixing them?
  • Are we asking for what we need from the other person and listening when they tell us what they need?

Some of these are easier for me than others. I still struggle with saying, “It’s fine,” when it’s not fine. I struggle with deciding if I need to be honest about every feeling I have exactly when I have it, or if that might be damaging (honesty really is good pretty much always, I’m finding). I’m still relearning what it means to be in a healthy marriage, after nearly a decade in an unhealthy one.

But I am committed. I’m committed to our marriage. I’m committed to honesty. I’m committed to kindness. I’m committed to service. I’m committed to intentionality.


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When Fear Threatens Safety


Back to school. Hard to miss with pictures of kids littering our Facebook walls and aisles of the big box stores filled with pencils, binders, and glue sticks.

Oh yes, and of course the return of fear of transgender kids in bathrooms.

On Sunday night, just as school was about to start for many students in the country, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor blocked the order from the justice department saying that all students should be allowed to use the bathrooms of their chosen identity.

For parents everywhere, the first days of school are filled with lots of emotions. Make sure the kids have all of the supplies that they need. New lunch boxes, new backpacks, new shoes. Then the quick run out to the store to pick up the things that you forgot about. Fill out all of the forms, finding the kids’ social security cards because who can remember that many numbers, and wondering why can’t they keep this stuff on file so you don’t have to fill out the same thing every year?

You schedule a coffee date with another friend because it’s the first morning you’ve had free since June. You clean the living room and look at it sparkle for hours because there is no one there to mess it up. You catch up on laundry. You finally binge Orange is the New Black because there are no little people around who might be corrupted by prison boobs.

Of course, there are fears that accompany first days as well. Will my child like their teachers? Will their teachers like them? Will they be able to make friends? All questions that boil down to the ultimate question, Will my child be safe?

When we start to talk about the issue of bathrooms and transgender individuals, the issue of safety is often one that is quickly raised. While I do not believe that plays into the decisions of law-makers or talking heads regarding most anti-transgender bathroom bills, it would be both naive and dismissive to assume that safety doesn’t cross the mind of parents of cis-gendered kids. When politicians and pundits expatiate on the the dangerous “man in a dress” coming to rape your child, fears naturally arise.

But fear is not always based on truth. In fact, it is often not based on truth.

There have been long-standing fears about integration in schools. From black students being escorted by federal troops to a high school in Arkansas in 1957, to white parents opposing busing of black students to primarily white schools in 2014, we have seen fear play a role in the discussion of desegregating schools. Yet the evidence shows that integrating schools benefits both black and white children.

There have been fears about the mainstreaming of students with disabilities. Children with special needs often received no education at all before 1975, but we now see that there are benefits to all when special needs children are included in neurotypical class settings.

The problem is, when we hold onto our fears, we stigmatize the people who are on the outside. Black children are assumed to be a threat to white students, to they are called thugs. Autistic children are assumed to be a drain on resources for neurotypical children, so they are isolated. Fear causes us to believe the worst about people, which often causes people to believe the worst about themselves.

Nearly 46% of transgender students attempt suicide. When students are denied access to the bathrooms of their expressed gender, those rates rise to over 60%. They can result in urinary tract infections, dehydration, and kidney problems from avoiding the bathroom. People who already feel discomfort with their bodies have additional shame piled on, simply for needing to pee in school.

Ultimately, there have been zero attacks by transgender students on cisgender students in bathrooms. Zero.

Our emotions absolutely have value. Teaching our children caution in public spaces is wise. But these laws do nothing to save cisgender children, and at the same time, they significantly increase the risk to transgender children.

All parents ask themselves in one way or another if their child will be safe at school. No matter our situation, we all want our kids to be free from danger. But we need to ask ourselves if our fears are justified, and if they are causing harm to other children as well. Parenting is hard no matter what. Let’s work together to keep all of our children protected by not allowing our fears to threaten the safety of others.

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Back-To-School Blessing for LGBTQ Students


Lord, today I pray for the LGBTQ kids headed back to school.

May each of these children know that you are with them. May they feel your love surrounding them as they go about their days. May they encounter students, teachers, and administrators who will treat them with respect and dignity. May they express themselves without despair or shame.

Lord, let the LGBTQ children learn the curriculum that will help them become more well-rounded adults, but also learn of the kindness and compassion of those with whom they interact.

Help them to encounter more fairness than bigotry,
more courage than fear,
more love than hate.

In the halls,
let them feel protected.

In their classes,
let them feel understood.

In their activities,
let them feel accepted.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers.


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