Greater Somerville on SCATV, 4/14/15: LGBTQ folks, Religion and Wellbeing

I was invited to be a guest on Greater Somerville on Monday, 4/14/15 to discuss my experience and expertise as a member of the LGBTQ communities. I spoke to issues arising from the recent legislation in Indiana and the role that religious communities and spirituality play in the wellbeing of LGBTQ individuals.

This experience was especially significant to me because it is an example of the power of relationship in forging community and bringing about cultural change. 

KyAnn Anderson, one of the co-hosts of Greater Somerville, was inspired to cover the topic of LGBTQ folks and religious. She reached out to me from our previous relationship, from when I was guest on Greater Somerville a few years ago.  She has followed my personal and professional transformation, including my public gender transition, and she contacted me as a resource to explore this topic and inspire our fellow Somervillians. 

I welcomed her invitation and referred her to some other resources, including UCC Somerville, one of many wonderful religious communities who welcome, not just tolerate, each person who enters their doors. Sitting alongside me and KyAnn is the Reverend Jeff Mansfield from UCC. I think he and I did a good job of speaking to the complexity of being LGBTQ and living in a "liberal" city like Somerville. 

There are many ways to bring about social and cultural change. Many of my friends are committed to enacting institutional change via important legislation and other political initiatives. 

For my part, I remain focused on the tipping point we are nearing in our country.  I'm focused on inspiring all people to live authentic, fulfilling lives so they can increase their acceptance and respect for everyone else. I'm focused on building wellbeing and resilience within LGBTQ individuals with good nutrition, lifestyle habits and healthy relationships--three things we have control over, despite daily frustrations or oppression in larger society.  I'm celebrating when issues like what happened in Indiana recently happen less and less often as more cisgender, heterosexual people like Jeff, KyAnn and celebrities like Nick Offerman and Rachel Potter use their voices to bring about real cultural change.

Change takes time, and good, strong relationships help make it happen organically and sustainably. 

Please watch the video and consider sharing it with your religious community!


A Holistic Approach to Religion

This is a guest post by Victoria Ellis, Lesley University student and my intern this semester. ;-)  

Since my freshmen year at Lesley University, I have spent Easter with my teammate and fellow colleague Sarah Bassett.  This year her mom picked us up and brought us back to her house in Clifton Park, New York for the weekend.  Sarah’s family is Catholic so we went to the St. Edward the Confessor Roman Catholic Church down the street from her house on Easter Sunday.  I was raised going to a Presbyterian church but have been heard many Catholic services as well, but the homily I heard this Easter was unexpected.  I expected this Easter homily to be about the resurrection of the Lord and how all things done in the Lord’s name will be victorious, but the pastor had a different agenda.

After a few hymns, the pastor came forth and began by saying that this Easter homily will be a little different than usual.  He explained how he debated within himself for a while about what he would say on that day.  The church was packed full of people who attend church every Sunday as well as those who only go because it is Easter.  In my opinion, the pastor made a bold move and took this very busy day to explain to the church the relationship between science and religion.  He was addressing the arguments that atheists make towards religion and respectfully refuting them.

I could tell that this pastor was a very well educated and open-minded individual by the way he was making his argument.  He used Albert Einstein’s belief on religion throughout the homily.  Einstein stated that “science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind” and the pastor (and myself) agree with this assertion.  He explained that some people are not religious because their minds do not understand it.  They cannot grasp religion because it is not tangible and that is very hard for people to overcome sometimes (some people always need scientific proof).  Science needs religion as much as religion needs science.  Science is necessary for critical thinking and spirituality nourishes the soul so there must be a balance between the two for us to function.  Religion must be taken in holistically (this is not the exact word the pastor used, but I made the connection that it was basically what he was describing).

Just because one's mind cannot grasp religion does not mean that the body and soul do not.  This is where I think faith steps in.  No matter what religion you believe in (unless you are an atheist), faith is necessary.  My religion creates a feeling inside of me that I like.  It affects my thoughts and actions, but I do not fully understand it.  I cannot see it or touch it, but I feel it.  My faith comes from the feeling religion creates inside of me, not from the things that I can prove about my religion, hence why they are called beliefs not facts.

As I was listening to his homily, I felt almost as though I was in one of my Lesley classes, specifically my Holistic Psychology class.  Living holistically means that an individual is taking into account their mind, body, and soul and creating a balance in their life.  This homily was about seeing religion and science holistically as well.  Take into account ones mind, body, and soul when trying to apply to religion and science to ones life.  It does not have to be one or the other.  Religion and science work together and are necessary for balance in everyone’s lives.