Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Honoring Queer Heritage: A Thanksgiving Season Special Comment

Dallas, Texas – Queer tolerance is original on these American shores.  So, how do we honor our queer ancestors, and call upon them to aid our struggle for liberty here and now? That is what I thought last night, as my partner and I  watched Turner Classic Movies re-run of the mini-series, Son of the Morning Star.  First Nations people, also known as Native Americans, not only allowed gender variance and same-sex attraction, but they celebrated it–a tradition that offended the puritanical sensibilities of the first European settlers (our Pilgrim forefathers) in New England and Virginia.

As the NorthEast Two-Spirit Society tells us, of the approximately 400 First Nations tribes in North America at the time of the Pilgrims’ landing at Plymouth, no fewer than 155 of these indigenous Nations had traditions embracing Two-Spirit people as well as people whose gender variance blended male and female roles and characteristics. Two-Spirit people acted as role models of harmony and balance, living examples of the way the Great Spirit blessed all manifestations of gender.  Two-Spirits were often honored as visionaries for the people, translators of customs and traditions between men and women, and the guardians of children, making sure children of the Nation were being reared humanely and well.  NE2SS says “When a family was not properly raising their children, the Two Spirit person would intervene and assume the responsibly as the primary caretaker. Sometimes, families would ask the Two Spirit person for help rearing their children. This unique role of social worker was specific to Two Spirit people, for they had an excess of material wealth as a result of the gifts they received.” Among the Lakota (Sioux) people, prior to going out to war, a great dance was held with Two-Spirit people in the center of the hoop, to show the honor in which they were held by the people.

The religious mediation performed by Two-Spirits keep the the spiritual health of the people strong.  They were communicators between the seen world and the unseen world, bringing the blessings of the Great Spirit to the Nation in a variety of practical ways.  Among the Navajo people, Two-Spirits were great artists, philosophers, and healers, the Renaissance people of the Nation.

Balboa’s dogs set on Panamanian “sodomites,” DeBry 1594.

But Europeans reacted to Two-Spirit and gender variant traditions among the First Nations with hostility and physical violence, condemning them for being “sodomites.”  As drawings and paintings of the 16th  and 17th Century pogroms against queer life among the Native Nations show, the colonizers exterminated Two-Spirits and banned dances and ceremonies honoring them whenever possible.  A notorious example is the 1594 sketch of  Balboa’s troops setting their dogs on Panamanian Two-Spirits, tearing them to pieces. David Stannard in American Holocaust records English horrors against the Pequots that followed the Spanish example: “blood-Hounds to draw after them, and Mastives to seize them.”

Many native people eventually succumbed to the colonizers’ pressure, and forgot the old ways of their ancestors.  Many converted to the strict sexual and gender binary of Western Christianity.  The legacy of this cultural amnesia is especially grim among First Nations people today who continue to discriminate against the gender variant among them on the Reservation.  As the intolerance of the Navajo council leadership toward same-sex marriage recently demonstrated, the Two-Spirit traditions of the ancestors is on shaky ground. The hate crime murder of Two-Spirit teenager, F.C. Martinez Jr. in Cortes, Colorado is the direct result of anti-queer hostility aggravated by conservative Christian prejudices.

The good news is that queer life among our First Nations ancestors is regaining respect.  Elders of the people, and activists in the native LGBTQ community are reviving the knowledge of these practices.  As NE2SS reports, “In some nations that have revived this tradition, or brought it once again into the light, Two Spirit people are again fulfilling some of the roles and regaining the honor and respect of their communities.”

This Thanksgiving, as we move beyond and behind the mythology of the Pilgrims and Indians, it is important for us to remember that queer life was held in honor for thousands of years before the first European set foot on these shore.  Queer life in North America is original; hostility and religious intolerance towards gender variance are unwanted, illegal aliens.

November 21, 2012 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, First Nations, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, religious intolerance, Slurs and epithets, Special Comments, Texas, transgender persons, transphobia, Two-Spirit people | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Honoring Queer Heritage: A Thanksgiving Season Special Comment

Clergy Call for Passage of Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act on Capitol Hill

Unfinished Lives Project Director, Dr. Stephen Sprinkle, delivers the Opening Prayer at Clergy Call 2009

Unfinished Lives Project Director, Dr. Stephen Sprinkle, delivers the Opening Prayer at Clergy Call 2009

More than 300 LGBT Clergy and Allies hit Capitol Hill to pray and lobby for the passage of the Matthew Shepard Act and a fully trans-inclusive Employment Non-Descrimination Act.  A new breeze seemed to be blowing in the halls of government.  The Human Rights Campaign Religion and Faith Program, directed by Harry Knox and Sharon Groves, coordinated three days of events, May 4-6, 2009.  Among the speakers for the Press Conference were Dr. Tony Campolo, noted evangelical leader, and Dr. Jo Hudson, Rector and Senior Pastor of Cathedral of Hope in Dallas.  Clergy from all 50 states attended.  The Matthew Shepard Act awaits the action of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and chief sponsor Senator Ted Kennedy in order to bring the legislation (which has already passed the House of Representatives by a healthy margin) to the floor of the Senate.  President Obama has publicly indicated that he would sign the bill into law when it reaches his desk.  Federal Hate Crimes legislation was first introduced in Congress 17 years ago.  So much has happened since, and so many have needlessly died.  With the Hebrew Prophets, the ministers, rabbis, and priests meeting for Clergy Call 2009 cry out, “How long, O Lord?”

The gathering of large contingents of LGBT Clergy and Allies to lobby for passage of fully inclusive hate crimes federal legislation, first in 2007 and now, has done much to persuade fence-sitting members of Congress that the radical right does not own the religious vote on this issue.

May 14, 2009 Posted by | Hate Crimes, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Clergy Call for Passage of Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act on Capitol Hill

   

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