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Transgender/HB 2

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Hi, everybody (kudos if you read that as Dr. Nick). Unless you live under a rock, you know that the North Carolina General Assembly recently passed a law that, among other things, prevents people who are transgender from using the bathroom that best fits their gender identity. Since I’ve written about this over on my own blog (The Progressive Redneck), Jasmin asked me to put together a few words on the law and what it means for our little community here at Love Wins.

I suppose the best place to start would be a definition of “transgender.” According to GLAAD, it is “an umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth.” Basically, these are the folks we used to refer to as “transsexual” (not to mention other more derogatory terms).  Transgender is often confused with “cross-dresser” or “transvestite,” but that’s not correct. People who cross-dress tend to do so for sexual or emotional satisfaction, while still identifying as their assigned sex. As previously stated, people who are transgender do not.

Here’s a fun fact, those of us who do identify with our assigned sex are what’s known as “cisgender.” You’ve probably heard that word a time or two lately and you may or may not have known what it meant. I know I didn’t until a few years ago when I found out I actually had a son instead of a daughter. In the conversation which followed that revelation, he told me that for as long as he could remember, he’d felt more like a boy than girl. I wasn’t surprised, by that remark or that he was trans. Looking back, both were plain to see. His sister had remarked on it more than once (before he came out), saying he was the boy I had always wanted but never had. Funny how things work out, huh?

Parker’s story isn’t uncommon; most trans people report similar experiences. And, science is beginning to back them up. Recent studies are showing that the brains of trans folks are structured and tend to operate more like those of the gender with which they identify than those of the assigned sex. And, this is prior to any hormone therapy or other treatment. It seems they are, in fact, “born that way.”

So, now that we have a (very) basic understanding of this ‘”transgender” thing, what does House Bill 2 (aka “The Private Facilities Privacy and Securities Act) mean to the members of our community? A lot, actually. For those of us who have jobs, we have lost the ability to seek remedy for discriminatory acts in the state court system. For those of us who are LGBTQ, we have lost protections in the work place and in housing that several municipalities had enacted. The same goes for veterans; HB 2 covers only “race, religion, color, national origin, age, biological sex or handicap.”

But, the group it immediately impacts are our friends who are trans*. Going to the bathroom in public, a relatively easy thing for us cis folk, is an incredibly stressful time for them. Mostly because, when they do, they are exposed to a higher risk of harassment, humiliation, and even violence. A study conducted in the Washington DC metro area found that the 70% of trans* people who responded had suffered some sort of negative attention when attempting to use the bathroom. 70%, y’all. That’s bad.

It gets worse, however. Nine percent of the respondents said that attention had been physical, as in being cornered, intimidated, kicked, and punched. One person even reported being sexually assaulted! Other people reported being denied access to the restroom, which is not out of the ordinary. And, while it may sound like small potatoes next to being raped or beaten up, it has negative consequences, too. Mostly in the form of bladder infections and other preventable medical conditions.

Although HB 2 says nothing about religion, it is a sure bet that it’s roots are religious in nature. Numerous other bills that have set out to curtail rights for people who are LGBTQ have cited “religious liberty” as a reason for doing so. But, does the Bible actually say anything about people who are transgender? No, not really. The closest we can get is Paul’s comment about “soft men” in 1 Corinthians 6:9. But, he was actually referring to the temple prostitution that had pervaded the city of Corinth in his day, not trans folks.

Now, the Bible may not mention people who are trans*, but it does have something to say about inclusion. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul writes, “There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” And, in the 13th chapter of John, Jesus told his followers, “Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other.” He didn’t qualify it by placing limits on who to love.

He said love each other. That’s it.

Here at Love Wins, our doors are open to anyone and everyone. They are especially open to people who are LGBTQ because they are the most vulnerable among us. And for us, no matter what laws pass down on Jones Street, welcoming and loving people will never change.

 

Related Content: Who Is Not Welcome Here, New House Bill Seeks To Aid LGBT Homeless Youth

 

If you’d like to be in conversation with us, please make sure to comment on our Facebook page, Twitter, or shoot us an email. We’d love to hear from you.

The Little Things

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In an earlier post, I said that “being disappointed comes with the territory when you do this kind of work” and while that’s true, every now and then, being happy is a part of the package. That happened for us all here at the hospitality house last Thursday, when our friend, Lewis, moved into his new apartment.

While it’s always a good thing when one of our friends doesn’t have to sleep outdoors any longer, this was kind of special for me. I got to know Lewis when he started riding to First Presbyterian Church with me to make use of their showers. He and I are both veterans (him, Army/Vietnam. Me, Air Force/peace time), so there was an immediate bond. He and I share that somewhat dark sense of humor that people who have dealt with trauma, danger, and death tend to develop. He’s just a genuinely fun and interesting person to be around. Finding out he’d finally gotten a place turned a so-so day into a great one.

If we’re being honest, big successes like this past Thursday are few and far between. That means, if you don’t want this place to beat you down, you to have to look for your happiness in the smaller, more everyday happenings. It can be as mundane as having a pair of clean, dry socks on hand for someone who needs them (if you think clean, dry socks are mundane, however, you’ve probably never had wet, cold feet). Or, listening to a friend who hasn’t had the chance to take a shower in a few days talk about how much better they feel after the shower. And, the delight of our friends when they find a box of pastries from Yellow Dog Bakery on the table is almost palpable.

I know these things aren’t going to change reality for our community members. But for a few minutes, they may make our friends’ day a little brighter; maybe even make them feel included with the rest of the world, a little more…human. These little things do matter. And, there’s nothing disappointing in that.

Related Content: It’s The Small Things, We’re That Place

Giving It Away

If you live in a city that’s pedestrian-friendly, you might have seen this person:

panhandler Black and White

How many times have you seen someone standing on street corner, asking for money? Or how many times have you been approached in a parking lot by someone asking you for help to get something to eat?

I’m willing to bet that, at some point in time, you’ve heard someone say, “Why should I give them money when they’re just going to spend it on drugs or alcohol?” Whenever I hear that, it’s so hard not to look that person in the eye and say, “Isn’t that what you were going to do with it?”

As satisfying as that would be, it’s probably a little counterproductive. A more effective (and by “more effective,” I mean, “less snotty”) response might be something along the lines of this excerpt from a blog post by Aaron Reddin of The One in Little Rock:

Stop giving Christmas gifts. Stop giving birthday gifts. Stop helping your kids with their first car. And certainly stop helping them pay for college!! Just stop it!! Stop giving your teenagers lunch money. Stop giving people directions. Stop giving things to people! I can’t stress it enough!! Because the risk is very high and chances are that those Christmas or birthday gifts may be sold, returned or even RE-GIFTED!!! There’s a good chance that after you buy your kid a car, they’re going to break the speed limit with that gift! They could even get a ticket! And if we’re really honest, they’re probably gonna have sex in it!!! OMG!!! And college? Don’t you know what happens there? I’m not going to help somebody pay for college if they’re gonna go to drinking parties and maybe even be exposed to marijuana or something like that! What if they tried it! I’m not contributing to that! And that lunch money you’re giving your kids? Probably buying baseball cards or maybe even a buddy’s dad’s old Playboy magazine that buddy stole!! I’ll have no part of that. They can find a way to get food on their own!! And for the sake of all that is good and holy, what about those HOMELESS people?!?!?! What if God decided to never give me another blessing that He knew I would turn around and use for something I shouldn’t??  Or maybe He just suspected that I MIGHT use it for something I shouldn’t? But He gives to me still. Abundantly. Knowing that with most of the blessings He has given me in my life I will turn around and break His heart with them in some way or another. I’m glad He never stops giving. Never. Who are we to determine the condition of someone’s heart when giving? How are we even justified in calling it a gift if we attach strings and conditions?

Jesus says “give to anyone who asks.”

I don’t think He was joking. And I don’t think He gave us a right to give based on our perception (or prediction) of one’s heart and/or actions.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no angel. There are plenty of people who I don’t give money to. I tell myself that I don’t give for altruistic reasons like their safety (I won’t make someone cross traffic for a couple of bucks), but I suspect if I dug a little deeper, that altruism probably wouldn’t hold up to scrutiny.

But, I’m working on it. Usually by reminding myself of two things, 1) as Aaron mentioned just a couple of lines above, Jesus said “give to anyone who asks.” 2) Jesus did not say, “As long as you approve of their choices.”

It’s harder than it sounds.

Related Content: How To Not Be Taken Advantage Of By Panhandlers, Q and R: Panhandlers: Do I Give Or Not?

Where Do You Find Your Oil?

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I should probably go on record and say that I’m a Christian. Not a conservative Christian or even an orthodox one. I’m (relatively) progressive and my views tend to be more humanist than not. I’m also sort of an agnostic, as I believe in God, but I don’t know that God exists. All my fuzzy, esoteric beliefs aside, I consider myself a Christian. I believe that Jesus is a path to God and a pretty good one, at that. I also attend church on Sundays and even teach Sunday school (I still can’t believe they let me do that). It was in church recently, that I got the inspiration for what you’re reading right now.

The sermon was based on the Parable of the 10 Virgins, part of a series entitled “Short Stories of the Bible.” I’ll be honest, I’ve never really liked this story. Jesus comes off as a bit of jerk. It’s as if he’s saying, if you don’t have your <ahem> “mess” together, you’ll be locked out of the kingdom. But, our pastor, Michael Usey, presented a different way to view this passage: what if it’s about self-care?

In the story, five of the bridesmaids didn’t bring extra oil for their lamps, and when the bridegroom finally arrived after a long delay, those lamps had gone out and they had to go find more oil. By the time they got back, the door was closed, and they were locked out. Right about now, you may be wondering how this story could possibly be about self-care. Maybe the story tells us that self-care isn’t something you can put off until the last minute; you’ve got to plan ahead and make sure you have enough oil in your flask to last until the bridegroom arrives.

Full disclosure: I’d never heard the phrase “self-care” until I started hanging around Love Wins, even though I’d practiced it since the beginning of my career as a firefighter. I’m not really a fan of the term; it’s a little too much of a buzzword for me. Buzzword or not, self-care is essential to your survival if you live in the real world. And, everyone does it differently: Hugh, for example, makes it a point to seek out beautiful things (he shares them in The Hughsletter), while I look for things that make me laugh – generally, the more snarky and inappropriate the better. Preparation is great, but what happens when your flask is empty, even after you thought ahead and brought extra? Where do you get more oil?

I get it in community.

While I can honestly say that I am excited to walk in the door on the Thursday mornings that I volunteer, there are many days when I’m dragging, and I feel utterly defeated by the time I go home. Sometimes, the things I do to prepare aren’t enough to get me through the day. And when what I’ve done on my own isn’t enough, there are usually these little moments that give me just enough oil in my flask to get me home.

Even when things go completely crazy here at the hospitality house, I can find the fuel I need for self-care. Seeing my friends, Mark’s enormous smile, the laugh of a toddler like Carl Jr. or Betty, finding out Red got a job, or, after three years, seeing Danny and Shelia again. All these things make it possible for me to keep going.

Oil in my flask.

And for that, I’m thankful.

Where do you find your oil?

Someone On Their Side

Hugh wrote this piece for our newsletter earlier this week and, as he’s incommunicado for the weekend, we decided to run it as his blog post for today. Which is just as well because, in my humble opinion, it’s some of his best work.
Holding Dad's Hand

Her name is Nina, and life for her hasn’t always gone well. She’s 30 years old, a victim of lots of abuse, hard nights and too many chemicals taken at the wrong time. She’s a beautiful person, but hard living, an abundance of tattoos, and a jaded exterior would keep you from noticing her beauty if you weren’t looking for it.

She has been a member of our community here at Love Wins for a few months now. Slowly she has let us in, gradually revealing more and more wounds. She has been sober and clean for more than six weeks. As she told me, she knows she can’t expect too many more chances.

She worked really hard and got accepted into the program at one of the local shelters. It’s a residential program, and on Monday she showed up, ready to begin her new life. We knew we wouldn’t see her for at least a month.

A week later, her mother sent me an email. Nina was in a coma in the hospital. That was all she knew.

By the time I got the email and then went to the hospital, she was awake, but barely. She’d had pneumonia and developed sepsis – her whole bloodstream was infected. She had been unconscious for five days. This was on a Wednesday.

On Thursday, we got a call that she had been released from the hospital. This made no sense. She had been barely functional the day before. But yes, she had been discharged, and told to “go home and rest.” And yes, they knew she was homeless, staying at the shelter. She was “released to the streets,” as my friends who are homeless say.

The shelter has no facilities for someone as medically fragile as she is. So we called 911 at 5:00PM, and she went back to the hospital, just four hours after she’d been discharged.

My co-worker Madeline sat with Nina in the ER until after midnight, unrelenting, demanding the hospital readmit her. Because Madeline advocated for her for more than seven hours, because she recited the magic phrase “I want to see a social worker” so often it was practically a mantra, because she made it a point to get the names of anyone who resisted helping, because, frankly, because she was there, Nina was readmitted at 1:00AM.

Nina is still in the hospital, recuperating, and will probably be there until later this week. I spoke to her yesterday though, and she tells me that this time, things are different. “This time Hugh, they take me seriously. They know I have people.”

And in a sentence, that is what we do here at Love Wins. We are not ending homelessness, or stamping out poverty, or defeating hunger, as much as we would like to do those things. We are making sure that people like Nina have someone on their side, someone in their corner.

Because of your gifts and financial contributions, we are able to sit with Nina in the ER, demanding she be heard. Thank you for that.

Homelessness: 6 Ways The Church Misses It

Today’s post comes from our friend, Bec Cranford. Bec does a lot of things, but the one that applies in this context is her position as Director of Community Relations and Volunteer Services at Gateway Center in Atlanta. A version of this article originally appeared on her website, thebeccranford, and she was kind enough to let us share it with you guys. 

Faith Matters

Many good hearted mission students and church outreach groups venture out onto the streets of Atlanta looking to serve others and feel good about that service. Yet most of outings are really just poverty tourism, hopefully working to wake us up from our materialism-induced slumber like a splash of cold water in the face. We say we want to serve others, but somewhere along the way, we get mixed up and, in the end, do more damage than good. It’s like colonialism, or any other myopic worldview, being forced on a people from a different culture. We think that we -the outsiders, the church, the outreach team – are bringing the good news to a people who may have more faith than we do; God is already under the bridge, inside the tent, and on the park bench. Here are seven quick thoughts on how we unknowingly miss the mark when serving those experiencing homelessness:

 

1) We assume that prosperity and health mean that someone is righteous.
We think that when someone is suffering, down on their luck, or facing difficult places in life, it’s somehow their fault. But like Job’s friends, we don’t know everyone’s backstory. Not everyone who is experiencing homelessness in Atlanta is addicted to crack or alcohol. Yes, many are- but what circumstances in life forced them to find a chemical escape?

 

2) Focusing on eternity, and not the Kingdom of God.
Christ’s central message revolved around the Kingdom of God, which he said in various places, “is near”, “at hand”, and “within you.” He never said its 10,000 years away or in some distant future. When we focus more on the Dante’s Inferno version of Hades, or some distant place with golden streets and pearly gates instead of helping people going through hell, we are not focusing on the Kingdom of God.

 

3) Preaching in exchange for a bowl of chili.
Really? Why do we make people experiencing homelessness listen to a sermon before they can eat hot bowl of chili? Instead of forcing our own version of the truth on a captive audience, why don’t we build friendships? Or better yet, why don’t we serve the chili first, then offer a chapel service or bible study for those who would like to stay? Also on a side note, there are only three public restrooms in Atlanta, so chili might not be the best option for an evening meal.

 

4) Drive–by Sandwich tossing.
This does not form friendships or foster community. It’s more about us feeling like saints than walking with people experiencing homelessness. And honestly, peanut butter and Jelly on white is not the most nutritious thing to serve. Hunger is not the issue in the South; Atlanta may be the only place where most of our homeless have diabetes.

 

5) The Mission doesn’t need another chapel.
The Mission doesn’t need another Super Apostle or Prophet to serve those experiencing homelessness with a “word”. The local shelter doesn’t need another bible study, chapel service, or worship experience. What the local homeless agency needs for the church to step up and offer financial literacy courses, adult education and mentoring. Mostly what it needs is for you to build community with others. It’s not the great evangelist who does the deep, heavy work, it’s the faithful disciple who stays on to see people grow. I think in our hearts, we all want to be the person who sees some special conversion, but sometimes healing and redemption take weeks, months, and years.

 

6) The Shelter doesn’t need your leftovers.
When we give our donations away, we need to make sure that the service agency can use the items we are sending. If you have items that would better suit a local charity thrift store- than by all means, send them there. People experiencing homelessness do not need your worn out clothing, your children’s broken toys or your stained underwear. When you give to a service agency think about what you are giving. And when you give to the pantry, go ahead and throw away your expired food.
I hate it when people cherry pick scriptures, or use them out of context. Yet, we do this over and over again in the Church. There are many scriptures that are very important to consider when serving the poor, most notably Matthew 25:31-46. The periscope of this parable dealing with sheep and goats reminds us that we are to love the least of these in service. Society deems so many folks “the least” and, so does the church; sometimes unknowingly, sometimes not. Who is marginalized come Sunday Morning?

Instead of looking at people as projects to fix, or souls to win, we should focus on serving Christ in every person experiencing homelessness: from the transwomen in midtown, the schizophrenics around the Capitol, the sex workers in Pittsboro, the survivalists in Douglasville and to those addicted to crack near Turner Field. Every one of these people should be Christ to us. And Christ is everyone who has been deemed the least. What a radically different world we would have if the Church treated everyone as Jesus!

Tell Us A Story

We All Have A Story To Tell
Flannery O’Connor once said, “A story is a way to say something that can’t be said any other way, and it takes every word in the story to say what the meaning is.” And, if you know anything about Love Wins, you know that stories are a big deal for us; in fact, they may be the driving force behind everything we do. As Hugh says, “Our stories belong to us, they define us, and sharing our stories with each other is one of the most beautiful, most intimate things we can do.” We listen to stories all day here at the hospitality house and now, we want to expand that listening to our online community.

To that end, we’re inviting you to tell us a story: specifically, we want to hear stories about your experiences with Love Wins – your interactions with us, our ideas, ways we have pushed you, challenged you, offended you or changed you  – your choice.  It doesn’t matter if those stories are about in-person or online encounters or if they’re happy or sad, we want to hear them. Don’t worry, writing experience isn’t necessary – what’s important is that you have a story to share. If you’re looking for examples, you may want to scroll through our blog to get a feel for what we write about.

A few specifics:

The post must be 500 – 700 words, give or take.
Include a one-paragraph bio.
Make sure to include any necessary hyperlinks.
Your post is subject to editing for style or content.
To submit a post, email the file as an attachment to Joel Rieves at joel@lovewins.info. You can also email me with any questions.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

This Day in History #Biscuitgate

Biscuitgate

I just realized – #Biscuitgate occurred two years ago today. It made me think how far Raleigh has come as a city, and how hard we all have worked.

I am immensely grateful I get to do this work, and get to work with the amazing, caring people I have over the last two years. Together, we have helped Raleigh live up to its ideals and helped its policies match its principles.

But we aren’t done yet. The more than 70,000 meals served at The Oak City Outreach Center in the last year tell us there is much work left to be done.

Hugh and Renee’s Big Adventure

Hugh's view.

Hugh’s view.

Hi, everyone. I’m Joel Rieves, volunteer extraordinaire and interim social media specialist here at Love Wins. As many of you know, Hugh and his wife, Renee, are spending a few days at Duke Hospital while Renee gets a new heart. As a result, Hugh wasn’t able to write a blog post this week (the slacker), so I thought I’d put together a timeline of recent events using excerpts from his Facebook statuses. Enjoy.

Tuesday Morning: The Call _ I came home from work, and we ran around like crazy people, grabbing clothes and feeding the cats and rushing out the door. We have been here once before, and it didn’t work out, so we waited until we were pretty sure it was going to happen before we let anyone else know.

Tuesday afternoon/evening: The Waiting is the Hardest Part _ It will more than likely be near midnight before the actual surgery starts. When it does, it is an 8- 10 hour surgery, assuming nothing goes wrong. In other words, don’t be shocked if you don’t hear anything from us until mid-morning or later.

Tuesday night/Wednesday morning:Under the knife _ Grateful for the love and prayers around the country tonight while they operate on my girl. 8-10 hours of surgery feels almost like forever.

Wednesday morning: There’s Got to be a Morning After _ Renee is out of surgery and, so far, doing well. We spoke to the surgeon, and he said the surgery went well, and he feels good about her recovery. She is going to be sedated heavily for the next 36 hours or so. Right now she is being transferred to ICU, and I will be able to see her in about 2 hours. I predict I will crash shortly after that, so right now I am going to grab some breakfast while I can.

Wednesday afternoon: I Wanna Be Sedated _ Renee is heavily sedated, but doing well, all things considered. The right side of her heart is having to learn to adjust to the higher pressures in her lungs, so they left the sternum open to allow it time to adjust – they will finish wiring that closed tomorrow if all goes well. The pain from that is a huge reason for the sedation. She will be sedated at least through Thursday night, perhaps longer. I got a good 3 1/2 hours of sleep, and feel great.

Wednesday evening: The only prescription is more cowbell _ Wednesday afternoon update: Renee is doing well – neural responses are good, earlier she was running a fever but they got it down. Still zonked out, as she will be for at least the next 24 hours, maybe more. The transplant team is happy with how things are going.

Thursday morning: Comfortably Numb _ Renee is responding well to treatment. She is still heavily sedated to allow her time to recover, but they wake her up periodically to check her responses to stimuli, and those are going well. She told them (via the squeeze the hand test) that she wasn’t in pain, for which we thank the drugs.

As I mentioned in an earlier update, they did not fully close her chest due to swelling (this is typical in these cases) and they thought it might happen thisafternoon. That has been now pushed back to tomorrow. She will remain on heavy sedation until after that.

Thursday evening: Life Is A Carnival _Renee continues to improve. Her fever hasn’t returned, and her blood pressure, which jumped up a bit this morning, has returned to normal levels. Her heart is working all on its own, without a pacemaker, for the first time since she was 13 years old.

Life is a miracle.

They continue to say she will have her chest closed tomorrow – what they are not saying yet is when. But after her chest is closed, she will be awakened, be breathing on her own and, within a short time, on her feet, walking the hallways. And 10 days or so later, home.

 

Helping Hugh and Renee

Good luck granny
As you may remember, our pastor and director Hugh’s wife is on the list to receive a heart transplant.

This morning, they got the call. Right now, they are at Duke Hospital in Durham, waiting to go into surgery late tonight. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers during this time.

Some of you have asked for practical ways to help them during the next few weeks – you can find lots of information about what they need right now on this post on Hugh’s personal blog.

Back here at the Hospitality House, however, Love Wins is going to struggle for the next few weeks with Hugh’s attention focused on his wife’s needs. We are hoping for some help from you guys to see us through.

We knew this would eventually happen, so we have put together a list of specific needs. Please email Madeline Anderson at m.anderson@lovewinsministries.org for more information about ways you can help us right now.