“Boys are gross!” I yelled down the stairwell, my words echoing off the painted brick walls as I slammed the door behind me, shutting the book on the happier chapter of my childhood.
I was nine. At the bottom of the stairs was my best friend Jason, a boy not much different from me—fair skin, slight build, whip-smart. In my mind he is perpetually the age he was that day, his light brown hair cropped short except for a narrow rattail at the back of his head (because the midwest hadn’t gotten the memo that the ’80s was over). I was trying to grow my hair down to my butt—I wanted it to be as long as Ariel’s in my favorite movie, The Little Mermaid—an attempt that was tragically doomed due to how fine my wavy blond hair was. It straggled to a pitiful stop barely past my shoulders, but I wouldn’t let my mama cut the uneven end because I was so determined that it would keep growing.
I will never forget the feeling I had after yelling those words. I was sick to my stomach. I knew with every fiber of my being that what I had just done was wrong, my words the most epic lie I had ever told. It was as though the real me was stuck deep inside, shocked and hurt as some other self created the first layer of an armor that would quickly grow so thick that I’d lose touch with that small nine-year-old self, the self who was Jason’s best friend. Continue reading
Yesterday should have been Day 1. But when I got home from the pharmacy I didn’t have the heart to even open the bag with my testosterone in it. Instead of excitement, I just felt sad and exhausted.
Exactly one month prior, I had skipped through the pharmacy’s doors with my prescription in hand. (You doubt me? You don’t know me. There was skipping. And giggling. And not-so-surreptitious documenting with my iPhone camera.) But after a month-long circus act on the part of my health insurance provider, the excitement and joy were gone. I felt completely worn down, emotionally drained, my resilience on empty. Continue reading
My entire life, I have forged a path for my sense of self without clear road markers.
I wish I could say that this lack of reflection of myself out in the world meant that I learned to trust only myself and my own truth, but if I said that I’d be lying. Instead, somewhere along the way I internalized a sense of not trusting my own truth, I accepted the invalidation of my experience, I felt inherently wrong, misfit, untrue.
I am only at the beginning of the journey to reclaim myself as worthy and my truth about myself as true. Continue reading
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
I have seen and heard a lot of white liberal religious people saying All Lives Matter as a response to the Black Lives Matter movement, and it causes my heart and my soul pain.
From a spiritual place, All Lives Matter says that we need to emphasize our same-ness instead of our difference. In the context of a political moment that seeks to call attention to and rectify state violence against black people, All Lives Matter is a colorblind approach and stance. Among other things, All Lives Matter says that deep down we are all the same, so differences shouldn’t matter. It says that calling attention to difference is wrong. This is a problem. Continue reading
Categories: Faith, Identity
Tags: #AllLivesMatter, #BlackLivesMatter, Alex Kapitan, anti-racism, authenticity, colorblindness, diversity, divine, faith, inequality, racism, religion, Unitarian Universalism
I was five years old when I was taught the myth of Thanksgiving. I remember the “Pilgrim hats” and “Indian headdresses” made out of construction paper. I remember drawing turkeys using the outline of my hand.
I remember a story that Christopher Columbus discovered America and proved the Earth was round and then the Pilgrims arrived and met the Indians. Life was hard for the Pilgrims and the Indians helped them survive. They celebrated their friendship with a big feast, and ever since we give thanks for the founding of our country by celebrating Thanksgiving.
It was a long time before I put two and two together and realized there were 130 years in that story of my country’s origin that were plumb unaccounted for. I wasn’t taught about the invasion of America and the enslavement, infection, and genocide of her peoples. Continue reading
Categories: Activism, Reverance
Tags: Alex Kapitan, Christopher Columbus, genocide, Greenfield, grief, Indians, indigenous, Mohawk Trail, Native American, oppression, Pequot, Pilgrims, Pocumtuc, Thanksgiving, trauma, Wampanoag, Wissatinnewag
My name is Alex, and I am white. And for two days a part of me wanted to avoid social media so that I could avoid the heartbreak of another young black man shot to death. Feeling guilty about that desire, I was then tempted to post the first good article on the topic I saw and walk away, not thinking about it anymore. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t because it would be too easy for me to shut my eyes and ignore the pain, not wanting to take on the heartbreak today. I couldn’t because the ease with which I could post someone else’s words about racism felt like a disservice to how horrific the impacts truly are.
It would be easy because of my race. I have the privileged choice to not have to think about Michael Brown and not have his face haunt me, infect me with worry for myself, my spouse, or my children. I have the privilege to be able to avoid the heartbreak. Continue reading
Tags: Alex Kapitan, anti-racism, love, Michael Brown, oppression, police brutality, privilege, racial justice, racial profiling, racism, violence, white supremacy