Honouring our Allies
I have been coming to Toronto First Unitarian for about six years and I want to share a confession with you all. And that is, that one of the reasons I come to First,
is for the men.
Now, as a lesbian, this may seem slightly incongruent.
But on this Father’s Day and at the start of Pride week, I’d like to explain.
When getting to know one another, gay and lesbian people at some point will reference THE coming out. When did you know? How did you come out? We ask one another.
Whether it’s spoken when resting in one another’s arms, around a campfire, or over coffee, each coming out story is expressed as the individual’s unique event that sets them immediately at odds with the dominant culture, with family, with friends. Speaking our coming out stories is a rite that connects us to one another and to the larger queer community.
In 1985, my coming out to my father was met with shock and “Well, at least you’re not a terrorist.” At that time and with my age, the word didn’t have as much social currency as it does today. Nevertheless, it did cause me to wonder what other subversive membership I’d signed on for through my sexuality.
After many years of rejection, distance, and anger, my father and I have built a loving relationship. Our reconnection was initiated shortly after my son Nigel’s birth, and a few years ago he commented to Karen and I, with love and respect in his voice, that he thinks we have a wonderful relationship.
While queer people have those critical moments, ultimately, we never stop coming out— from those people on the phone who asks for my husband’s name to coworkers, sales staff, hospitals, neighbours, social gatherings, the school system, and on and on.
When Karen and I arrived to check this place out, just as important to the spiritual values of Unitarian Universalism was the level of acceptance our family would find here. We were relieved to hear the welcome of inclusive language and felt the sincere embrace of both straight and gay congregants who’d worked together to educate against homophobia and make this a welcoming congregation.
The impetus and drive for that education came from queer members of First and our straight allies. The work was done before my family arrived here and I must tell you:
It made all the difference in the world.
And while I know that both genders of varying ages and sexual identities worked to accomplish this and that many of us continue to work at fostering inclusivity and breaking down barriers; on this Father’s Day, I honour the men of our congregation.
Now that’s not to say that I don’t love the women of this community...don’t get me wrong. But Karen and I have often had conversations about the men of First—straight and gay—and how they connect with women, youth, one another, and children of our community in a way that demonstrates our shared values: with honest interdependence, spiritual encouragement, and respect.
Unlike the public school system, I’ve not felt any concern with Nigel’s teachers in the R.E. program and I am particularly grateful for the men of this community who provide for Nigel such strong role models of gentleness, care, creativity, playfulness...
men who sincerely love women, and who embrace their mentoring roles to the youth of our community.
These qualities are not often evident or promoted in the dominant culture of hockey fights, white political elitism, and misogynistic violence.
The men of First provide for me an active reminder that we have many (and sometimes unlikely) allies in the call for social justice. There is a good amount of work that goes into acceptance, educating oneself educating others, asking questions and being open to hearing the personalized answers.
Now that this has become my community, I am quite at ease in coming out to people new to our congregation. Because this is my place and I am here with my visible family. And the men of this community have been instrumental in making me feel comfortable as a lesbian and as a woman in so many ways.
The mutuality of true connection arises even from just feeling listened to and in engaging in mutual laughter and sharing our experiences. In the larger world of gender segregation, this can be a challenge.
But you’ve made space for me, (and my road hockey antics at the Family Retreat). You’ve comforted Nigel through his nervousness before talent shows and recalled Karen’s finishing school advice with laughter.
So let me say that I am proud to honour my allies:
You’re not the typical great guys — thankfully
You truly are beautiful men.