Thursday, April 7, 2016

Let Us Never Forget

            I am sitting down to write with a heavy heart tonight.  I’m attempting to get more regular with these blog posts.  I’m wanting to tackle some other creative, and hopefully meaningful, ventures in the coming months, but I feel the need to successfully and reliably manage the things that I have going on now before I take on other commitments.  For now, I am aiming to put out one social commentary piece sometime around mid-week and then add a new piece to The Full Production version of my story each Sunday. 

So, the plan for this week has been to reflect a bit more on these religious freedom laws that continue to rear their ugly heads.  I also wanted to comment on this interesting phenomenon of corporate America and the role that they are playing in the shaping of public policy.  I love seeing them come to the defense of the LGBTQ community, but I also wonder about how I would feel if there is an issue in the future where they are not on my side.  I was excited to explore this idea of corporate American as almost another branch of government and what that might mean for the future, but then something happened.  I read a headline on Facebook that stopped me in my tracks and made me feel like someone punched me in stomach: ‘Missing Transgender Woman Found Dead In ‘Crude Grave’ in NorthCarolina.’

Elisha Walker, a 20-year-old transgender woman was found dead.  My mind was sickened at the legalization of discrimination that has been recently written into the state’s laws.  Of course, the state of North Carolina does not say that it is legal to murder someone and abandon their body in a shallow grave, but what the law does say is that some people are less worthy of legal protections.  It says that it is okay for some people to be called out as different, asked to prove their worthiness to use a public restroom, and punished if they do not comply.  The message is clear that some people are valued less than others.

Elisha Walker
When I first noted this story, I was in the middle of my day.  While it did cause me to pause, I didn’t have the time at that moment to dive into the story.  Also, I know me.  If I react to or write about something that impacts me emotionally, it is best to put it aside in that moment; because, the reaction that comes out of me at that time is likely to not be honoring to me or the person or issue that I am trying to call attention to.  I marked the story to save it and to make sure that I’d be able to find it later tonight.

Tonight, as I looked through the story, I noted that it was a story from August of last year.  Given that it could not be a direct result of recent the legislation in North Carolina, I though that maybe I should write about something else.  The more I thought about it though, I decided that it should be written about.  Whether this woman’s life was tragically lost before or after the bill, it is clear that there is a cultural or social standard in North Carolina that, at least for this person, said it was okay to do what they did.  Also, this article called attention to other transgender individuals: Shade Shuler, a 22-year-old from Dallas, TX; Amber Moore, 20, who was shot and killed in Michigan; and Kandis Capri, 35, who was shot dead in Phoenix.
Kandis Capri

Shade Schuler

Amber Monroe
Statistically, transgender persons have far more reasons to be fearful of cis gendered persons than the other way around.  I am reminded of a story that I read years ago when I was first becoming comfortable with myself.  It was written by Randy Roberts Potts, the openly gay grandson of Oral Roberts.  In the article, Randy wrote about how things are always darkest during these movements and efforts for human rights just before good things happen, that the fear of loosing control brings those who have been dominant and don’t want to yield up their control to the point of desperation.  I sincerely pray that the hearts of those who believe such laws are needed and just would find their hearts and their convictions softened and that they would allow love to speak through them by creating spaces that allow for openness and honest communication as opposed to hostility, fear, and ignorance.

~ Josh "Culbs" Culbertson

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Act Two, Scene Eight - "The Unraveling"

This post is part of my on-going story that I have been telling through this blog.  If you are just coming here for the first time or if you need to catch up, you can catch the earlier parts of the story in Setting the Stage or Act One.  See the navigation panel to the right labeled My Story.  I hope that my sharing of my story is helpful, encouraging, informative, or at least entertaining for you.  Please feel free to comment or contact me at the e-mail address below.  Thanks!  

          The demise of the Cord happened over a period of time, but there was one event that the fall can be traced back to.  We were having a meeting at the home of one of the guys in the group.  We had a lot of our meetings there.  It was a rural setting with lots of space that allowed us to be creative in our activities with the guys.  The next morning one of the other members of the group was leaving to go to Peru, I believe, for a mission trip; so, we wanted to do something special for him and get the guys together.  We didn’t really have anything planned beyond just getting everyone together and wishing him well on his trip though.  Well, having a bunch of adolescent guys together and nothing for them to do is kind of a recipe, not necessarily for disaster, but certainly for mischief.

            Bored and wanting something more interesting to do, some of the guys decided that they wanted to go to a movie.  On the surface, not an altogether bad idea.  I don’t remember what other options were available, but, after some debate, the guys decided that they wanted to go see a new movie that I just come out called ‘Road Trip.’  Perhaps, you’ve heard of it.  Now, this was the summer of 2000.  It would be six and a half years later before Apple would introduce the first i-phone and the smartphone revolution would take place; so, I didn’t have immediate access to information about the film.  I had heard of it, and I knew that it was R-Rated.  Now, bear in mind that I went to a church where parents forbade their children from reading Harry Potter.  This was prior to the first Harry Potter film being released.  Some of the people attending the church who were around my age had even been forbidden from watching the Smurfs cartoon series as children because they were supposed to represent the fetuses of aborted children living in the forest.  There has been much debate about what the Smurfs represented on Snopes if you’d care to check it out.  All of this to say that these were parents who believed that their children’s very salvation could be undone by the evil workings of something like an R-Rated movie.  I knew that they would not be pleased.

            When I was discussing my feelings on the subject with Anthony and Brent, they felt that we should go ahead and take them.  They said that the guys really wanted to go, and they didn’t think any parents would really find out about it.  I continued to dig in my heals, but Brent and Anthony reminded me that I had ridden with them, and that unless I wanted to arrange my own transportation home, I should get onboard.  So, at that point, all I could do was hope that it wasn’t as bad as it probably was. 

            The movie was that bad.  I didn’t see all of it.  The young man who was going to be leaving on the mission trip the next morning felt convicted by the content of the film.  Convicted is the term that conservative evangelicals use when they feel that their conduct or attitude is being offensive to God.  He left the theater.  I followed him, and we spent most of the rest of the film in the theater lobby and parking lot just talking about his trip to Peru.

            I don’t think that I have to tell any of you that the film was that bad.  Also, parents did find out.  Some of them forbade their children from attending future meetings, a completely understandable reaction.  This was not church group material.  Things slowly began to disintegrate with the group.

            As I look back on this experience, I have regrets, and I have moments of pride.  It’s such a weird thing for me in terms of my own journey because I was using this group as a way to work through part of my own process.  I honestly thought I was helping myself to form healthier, more masculine bonds with other males, and I thought I was teaching those younger than me to do the same.  This logic made perfectly rational sense to me at the time though.  As the Cord was unraveling, the ropes that would keep me bound in this mindset were getting stronger and stronger as this experience only reinforced to me more and more what a failure and how inadequate I was in God’s eyes.