Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Now THIS is Love!

Charles Honey, Religion Editor of the Grand Rapids Press, wrote a stunningly beautiful piece this past Saturday entitled "View of Gay Marriage Changes When it's Personal." I read it and cried.

What a beautiful gift Charlie gave this community! His response to his daughter is a magnificent example of how, even though life takes us down roads we might never imagine, unexpected turns can profoundly deepen our love for one another. Kudos to Charlie for his bravery in sharing the following story:

My favorite picture of my daughter, Emily, features her in full Beverly Sills mode.

She is standing by her Fisher-Price record player and happily singing along to a song from Walt Disney's "Cinderella," the book she holds in her hands like a Verdi score. Her head is held high, her chin tilted theatrically upward. She looks like she is singing an aria to thousands at Carnegie Hall, not in our living room singing to me.

That was Emily for you. Ask her to sing a song and she gladly complied, transporting herself to the stage in the process. While other girls her age were rocking to Madonna, Emily dreamed of being Shirley Jones.

Whether watching "Rainbow Brite" on TV, bouncing on the couch to the tune of "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" or immersing herself in a Berenstain Bears book, Emily sang and danced and read with a joy that seemed to come from someplace bright and beautiful.

My mom always said Emily dropped from heaven. Emily's mother, Wendy, and I felt she had wisdom beyond her years, as if she came into the world already knowing things.

But what Emily did not have, despite dear friends, was one particular friend, one person who cared more about her than about anyone else in the world. That was a person I very much wanted her to meet, because I did not want Emily to go through this hard world alone.

Finding that special one

Finally, she met that person. Her name is Nicole.

(To read the rest of the story, click here.)

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Triangle Responds to Anti-Gay Discrimination at Spectrum Health

Instead of compassionate medical treatment, Ashleigh Haberman and Erica Schaub received a "lifestyle" lecture from a Spectrum Hospital physician.

The couple went to Spectrum Health South Pavilion Urgent Care Center in Grand Rapids for treatment of Schaub's lingering cold. According to a WOOD TV 8 report, the physician responded in an inappropriate manner asking who Haberman was to Schaub. Ashleigh Haberman and Erica Schaub have made a life-long commitment to each other and were married in Canada. When Schaub explained Haberman was her life partner, the lecture began.

The physician asked for the couple's opinion on the recent California Supreme Court marriage decision and "he proceeded to give his opinion on how he felt that marriage, gay marriage, shouldn't be called a marriage because it's a religious-based word, and he's a Christian, and there's no way that marriage could be considered legal in the gay sense," said Haberman.

"It is reprehensible that anyone would be subjected to religiously-motivated bias when trying to care for their health," said Melissa Pope, Director of Victim Services for Triangle Foundation. "The fear of receiving this kind of discrimination and harassment from medical professionals keeps members of the gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender community from receiving the comprehensive and compassionate medical attention that every human being deserves."

Spectrum released a statement that the matter is being investigated stating, "We have begun a thorough investigation of this matter. We will review all aspects of this issue. Once this is complete, we will take appropriate action." Triangle Foundation is calling for disciplinary action and an apology from the doctor and/or Spectrum Hospital.

Spectrum's anti-discrimination policy states:
"Spectrum Health has a zero tolerance policy regarding harassment for any discriminatory reason, such as sex, pregnancy, race, color, national origin, disability, age, religion, sexual orientation, marital status, height, weight or any other protected category. Such harassment is strictly prohibited ... Intent or lack of intent to harass is not the determining factor in deciding whether this policy has been violated. Appropriate corrective action will be taken against any individual who violates this policy." The City of Grand Rapids also has a non-discrimination ordinance that may prohibit this form of discrimination.

For the past seventeen years, Triangle Foundation has been serving members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender communities who have been victims of hate violence, discrimination, harrassment, and/or vandalism. For more information on our work, visit http://www.tri.org/.

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Marriage Equality is Golden

Today at 5:01 p.m. PST, my beloved California will begin allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry and so another Gold Rush begins. Loving, committed couples will begin flocking to The Golden State bringing their rings of gold as well as the gold of an economic boost for the state hosting the weddings.

Meet my friends Bill Voetberg (left) and Tim Straayer (right). They will be celebrating their love and commitment to each other by marrying in California later this summer.

Bill, retired from AT&T, serves the City of Grand Rapids on the Community Relations Commission. Tim is a book editor. Both Tim and Bill are very active in the Grand Rapids Front Runners & Walkers. Additionally, Bill volunteers for Triangle Foundation.

I first met Bill about a year and half ago when he wrote a brilliant article for the Network News on current legislation impacting the LGBT community. After I read the article, I thought, "I have got to meet this guy!" We had lunch and have been friends since. Tim and Bill are downright good people -- smart, compassionate, insightful and a lot of fun. I'm so grateful to know them!

Bill was in a relationship with his partner Harold for over 31 years and cared for Harold until his death six years ago. Harold's family expressed their gratitude to Bill for this care taking and recognized that, without Bill, Harold would have had to have gone into a facility of some kind during his final days. Bill took responsibility for Harold's care because they were a loving, committed couple. After Harold's passing, Bill was unsure he would ever find love again. Enter Tim.

Tim came out later in life and soon thereafter met Bill. The rest is history. Bill and Tim have now been together for three years.

The first time I met Tim, I told him that I thought Bill was amazing -- "I'm kinda crushin' on Bill actually," I said. Tim replied, "Me too!" with a smile that lit up the room! I love these guys and I am so happy that they can express the love they feel and the responsibility they want to take for each other by making a commitment in marriage.
(Did I mention this is taking place in CALIFORNIA!?)

So CONGRATULATIONS to two wonderful men! Stay tuned to my blog as I follow Bill and Tim's journey down the aisle.

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Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Pain of Enlightenment

Last night community members packed Wealthy Theater in Grand Rapids to view the film "For the Bible Tells Me So" which was followed by a panel discussion. Our panel members included

· Rev. Doug Van Doren, Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ
· Mary DeRidder, PFLAG (Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays)
· Rev. Jim Lucas, Gays in Faith Together (GIFT)

This morning I received an email from one of my volunteers relating the following story:

“After the movie, there was an older man in the lobby crying because he was ashamed of his church and of his Christian friends and how they have treated members of the LGBT community. I was able to talk with him for a little while and gave him a couple of numbers and websites to check out. Needless to say, he walked away from the movie with some new convictions and support contacts.

He was feeling torn between his upbringing and church and his devotion/acceptance of a couple of his gay friends. He left feeling much more confident and secure about his friends and the LGBT community in general. What a wonderful thing Triangle Foundation, Wealthy Theater, and all involved gave to this elderly man!”

This is a wonderful story and exactly the reason we do the work we do! Speaking from experience, I can say that the price of enlightenment is often – as the gentleman last night experienced – PAIN.

After my son came out to me, I gave him a card and said to him,

“Your coming out IS a crisis for our family. But the crisis is not that you are gay. The crisis is that we have to ask ourselves why our lives have not been more supportive of the gay community and that is very painful.”

Taking a hard look at yourself is difficult stuff. We often don't like the reflection staring back at us from the mirror. But KUDOS to this gentleman and others who are willing to move from enjoying the comfort of opinion to doing the work of thought!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

For the Bible Tells Me So



Join us this Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Wealthy Theater in Grand Rapids for the film "For the Bible Tells Me So." (Doors open at 6 p.m.)
Triangle Foundation will host a panel discussion following the film. Panel members include Rev. Jim Lucas, Gays in Faith Together (GIFT); Rev. Doug Van Doren, Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ; and Mary DeRidder, PFLAG Holland/Lakeshore.

For more information on this event, click here or call 616-459-4788.

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