Comforting Words: Sharing a Reflection: Black, Woman and Gay

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Sharing a Reflection: Black, Woman and Gay

Recently, the Minister of the Church that I am a member of asked me to "Share A Reflection," at its 7th Anniversary of becoming an Affirming Congregation.

This was not the first time I was being invited to share with 'church people' my reflection on what it means to be a person of colour, a woman and a self-identified lesbian in Canada.

However, it was the first time that so many people came to me requesting a copy of my presentation. After sending quite a few emails of this Reflection and providing a copy for an upcoming publication of the Church, I decided to make it available through Comfort Foundation and Ministries.

There is a saying, "Be careful what you wish for," and it is so true! It has been my desire to speak out on behalf of women, people of colour and the LGBT community and after this sharing this Reflection I have been invited to 'speak out' on March 12, 2006 at one church on the South side of Edmonton. Before that, I will also be sharing another Reflection, this time on Black History Month, with my own congregation on February 19, 2006. We will see how that goes.

Here is an edited version of the Reflection on being Black, Woman and Gay in Canada. Invite you to read it with an open heart and spirit as the congregation did as it contains some of points that need repeated highlighting on behalf of black women (and men) who are divinely created as lesbians (and gay men).


In 2001, when my partner and I submitted our applications to the Canadian High Commission to migrate to this country as skilled workers, we wrote in the letter covering our documents that we wanted to be full members of an orderly society, paying our taxes and contributing to the continued development of the country through the talents and skills we possessed.

Why were we seeking to leave behind all that we were familiar with, a country of 12 months of sunshine, white sand beaches, a property we owned and fairly high profile careers? You might ask why did we not want to continue to use those talents and skills to the benefit of the developing nation called Jamaica? Why would we leave all that to come to Edmonton, Alberta?

Well, we choose to leave all this and more behind, including our parents, because our beloved Jamaica is a country that the international organization Human Rights Watch describes as somewhere where "violent attacks against homosexuals are common place."

By the time of our applications, we had had our share of threats to burn our house. We were tired of hiding, tired of the fear that we would be outed in a public way that would cause great damage to our daughter.

We were looking for a home where we could work, play, pray and rest as a family; one where our sexual orientation would not be the reason to maim or kill us. We were looking for a place to call home where our daughter would not be ashamed of our family, a society that is orderly, caring, compassionate and where all are treated equally regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, skin colour or faith belief.

With hope in our eyes we came to Canada in 2002, knowing full well that although this country is not free of discrimination, we thought at least we would not have to be in a closet due to our being lesbians.

I do not believe any of you could have been as happy as we were when we visited Alberta Health and found out we could register as a family. You probably would not understand how proudly we filled in those forms as a couple knowing full well that we would receive less than single parent families for Child Tax Benefit.

I would not be revealing any secrets when I say that Canada is a wonderful country and although there have been many days that I have wondered about our decision to migrate here I have never regretted it. But Canada in all its manifestations - the politics, the church and the people - still has a lot of soul searching to do about the way minorities (ethnic, racial, and sexual) are regarded and treated.

In the tension of this tolerance and arrogance, my family and I have been blessed to enter the doors of Southminster-Steinhauer United Church to find a home, a sanctuary, where all of who we are is not simply welcomed but embraced and celebrated.

I have visited other congregations, of other denominations and in the United Church, where my ethnicity was like a cold wind passing through and everyone ran for cover. I have entered churches and institutions where my accent and my gender make me a target for poor reception. I have been in classrooms where the lessons tell a tale of ignorance, condescension and disdain of anyone or anything not white or orthodox. Moreover, I have entered gay and lesbian settings where I was too ethnic.

But not here, not at Southminster-Steinhauer.

This congregation in its commitment to be Affirming of not only gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgendered people but of all people - women, men, children - who suffer discrimination and injustice in all its forms has provided me and by extension my family with not just a channel to praise and lift my voice freely and openly as a lesbian to the Divine but as a differently structured and configured family.

I can recall sitting in these front rows one Sunday morning soon after we started attending this church and our beloved Minister raised the hymn "We Shall Overcome." I barely made it through the first verse as I was so overcome with the significance and the appropriateness of the words as I, a woman of colour, a lesbian, an immigrant was in a sanctuary filled with hope, love, celebration and renewal for all.

My sincere thanks to all of you who seven years ago shared the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King and had faith that one day "we will be able to transform the jangling discords . . . into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood . . . [that] with this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day."

Thanks to you, the current congregation of Southminster-Steinhauer, who daily walk this faith in this corner of South Edmonton thereby freeing my voice and the voices of gays, lesbians, bisexual, transgender people, people of colour, immigrants and women to not only speak but to ring out in prayer and praise in these hallowed halls.


Photograph available at Yahoo Images


Blogger Diana said...

Hi Claudette,
Cathi Richardson passed on your website to me. Thank you for your inspirational words about being a lesbian in the church. Our church just voted positively to perform same gender marriages. There were many people, mostly straight, who spoke very passionately about accepting same gender marriage, many were good friends. Unfortunately, we also lost a few long time members. As a staff member of the United Church I have been blessed with many accepting friends but also some challenges.
Thank you again, I look forward to more inspirational thoughts.
Diana Wilcox, Thunder Bay

Mon. Feb. 13, 06:50:00 a.m. MST  
Blogger Claudette said...

Hi Diana,
Thank you for your kind words of encouragement. I look forward to having your company on this journey -- however long or short --and do hope that as a community we can work together to overcome some of the challenges that women and LGBTQ persons face within the church and our society.

Mon. Feb. 13, 07:26:00 a.m. MST  

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