I have a complicated relationship with survival.
That relationship involves monumental loss, and deep love. It is the space where heartbreak and resilience live. The very space that makes me me in so many ways.
Twenty years ago today I was a 28-year-old who was far too young and far too old at the same time. On July 15, 1995, I was sitting in the health department in St. John’s, Newfoundland, listening to a doctor I had never met coldly tell me that I was HIV+. This was a time just before effective medication. HIV was still a death sentence. I knew that, deep in my bones, because I had buried friends and acquaintances and would bury many more over the years to come. We were all too young and too old at the same time. Continue reading
I was raised Roman Catholic at the tail end of an era of seeing priests as infallible, as inherently good. It was unthinkable to question a priest’s motives or moral authority even if my own survival depended on it.
In the article “Ex-Cop to Americans, ‘I’m a Black Ex-Cop, and this is the Real Truth About Race and Policing’” Jay Syrmopoulos mentions a recent Gallup poll where Americans rank police in a list of top five ethical professions which also ironically includes clergy. The irony feels meaningful.
Do I think that a majority of priests sexually abuse children? Heck no. I believe an overwhelming majority answer the call to the priesthood to do good work. A very small minority of priests actively hurt children, but—and this is a big but—the system protected that small minority in such profound ways that it forever altered the system for the worse until it became impossible to see any good. For the Catholic Church to harbor the insidious evil that it did and to do the damage that it did, it required good priests and non-clergy to ignore the un-ignorable over centuries. Continue reading
This joint sermon was delivered at Arlington Street Church in Boston, MA, on August 3, 2014.
You can listen to an audio recording here (in my opinion, the audio recording is much better than the written word—I swear! We’re more charming in person).
We aren’t taught in this culture to be openhearted. There’s no lesson. And I came to openheartedness as central to my spiritual practice the hard way. Whether it was the violence I was growing up with, the shame and the struggle around being queer and being gender nonconforming, whether it was being 28 years old and being diagnosed with AIDS at a time before medication was available.
Every turn I came to in life there was a reason for me to armor up. There was a reason for me to not let anyone near me. Because the outside world was telling me that if I wanted to stay protected I needed to curl in a ball. The last thing I ever needed to do was leave myself vulnerable. But at the same time that the world was telling me that, there was always this soft, loving voice of the beloved telling me that that was not for me. That I was meant to be openhearted regardless of the information I was getting from the outside world. Continue reading
Categories: Compassion, Faith
Tags: anti-racism, Barb Seidl, compassion, faith, HIV/AIDS, love, openheartedness, spiritual practice, Teo Drake, Unitarian Universalism, whitesplain
Whenever I am asked if my boifriend and I are married, especially in LGBTQ space, I feel unwelcome pressure to define my relationship so that the asker of the question can translate my answer into dominant culture’s terms.
This is the same pressure I have felt around gender. All of the questions about anatomy and my experience can feel like an assessment of which pre-existing “knowable” box to put me in. This is especially true for my boifriend and our relationship to one another. His genderqueer prancy femme boi self cannot be neatly summed up in dominant culture’s language without being dulled in the translation.
What we are to each other does not play by the binary rules the language of marriage requires. How we love and live cannot neatly fit into the “degree of commitment hierarchy” that the State’s definition of marriage requires. Continue reading
Tags: Alex Kapitan, authenticity, boi, commitment, dominant culture, equality, family, femme, genderqueer, LGBTQ, love, marriage, marriage equality, oppression, queer, solidarity, Teo Drake
On Thursday January 2nd I passed the milestone of being in recovery for half my life: 23 of my 46 years. I have now been sober three times longer than I drank. Along the way I have learned a great many things (often the hard way). Here is what is coming forward at the moment, but is by no means a complete list.
Nothing is linear: not healing, not harm, nothing. Shedding damage from trauma, including addiction, has not been a process of going from point A to point B. It has been an ever-meandering route that seems to invariably circle back upon itself (often accompanied by my sentiments of “Fuck, I thought I dealt with this already!”). In early recovery everything was new and often magical; hard, but it still felt like I was getting somewhere… Then it seemed like growth came more slowly or not at all. Over the years I have found that to be the way healing unfolds. I honestly don’t know if there is a destination. What I know is that I am at home in my skin more than I thought would ever be possible. I’m wary of seeing myself as a “work in progress.” I distrust the self-help gurus who push “self-improvement.” Healing for me has come from being curious about who is actually here rather than focusing on “what I could become.” Continue reading
Categories: Compassion, Faith, Identity
Tags: addiction, authenticity, brokenness, compassion, divine, faith, grace, growth, healing, HIV/AIDS, invisibility, love, mindfulness, recovery, sobriety, spiritual practice, spirituality, suicide, survival, Teo Drake, trauma, wholeness
This reflection was originally delivered at The Sanctuary Boston worship service on April 18, 2013, three days after the Boston Marathon bombings.
Take a moment and just feel whatever is holding you, whether that’s the ground, the chair…
The aim of spiritual practice is not to protect us from heartbreak—our own or another’s. It’s to provide the grounding and the renewal so that we can deliberately put ourselves in the place of heartbreak. One of the most sacred things that we are called to do as human beings is to bear witness to another’s suffering. When they cannot hold hope it’s for us to quietly hold it for them. When we can live at the edges of heartbreak and still hold on to hope then that means that our spiritual practice has purpose and passion. Continue reading
Categories: Compassion, Faith
Tags: Boston Marathon bombings, compassion, courage, devotion, divine, faith, heartbreak, HIV/AIDS, kindness, martial arts, mindfulness, sacred, service, spiritual practice, spirituality, Teo Drake, The Sanctuary Boston, trauma, wholeness, yoga