Religiosity: Deliverance

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This past Monday, as I was finishing up at the gym, I received an iMessage from my bestie that read, “This is a mess have you seen this” with a youtube link. Up to that moment, I had not seen the video but had heard a bit of buzz about it on Twitter. I clicked on the link and immediately shook my head and laughed. I SMH’d and LOL’d in amusement (if “gay” had a look, this guy was it – and prayer didn’t change *that*) and annoyance (we’re still praying the gay away? why is that still a thing?). I iMessage’d back “‘i don’t like mens no more’ lmbooo boy BYE.” When my bestie responded “Girl I can’t y they playing w that boy,” I could only think of one thing to say: “girl he know he still want the D lolol.” Because his use of “mens” told me all i needed to know about his state of being.

And, to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with this man (boy?) still potentially “wanting the D.”

Now, I’ve had this convo about homosexuality and the church with my [lesbian] bestie numerous times before. We often joke about the idea of “deliverance” from the “spirit” of homosexuality (or homodemon, if you will) because neither of us believe that homosexuality is a spirit, least of all one that requires being delivered from.

Moreover, I think it curious that dude in the video proclaims that he wants to be delivered more. As if hadn’t been delivered enough previously. Perhaps the first homodemon deliverance wasn’t enough to get him to leave the D alone or find comfort in a woman’s arms. Or perhaps he was delivered from some other affliction that left the gay behind. Oops.

Anyway… yesterday I read D. (not to be confused with *the D*) Young’s post about this very thing on VSB. He acknowledged that he, like probably most people, believed this dude was still very much gay and pointed out the ridiculousness of the whole spectacle. Essentially no one believes his gay was prayed away. But DY questioned why wouldn’t Christians, who believe in an almighty, all powerful God, believe that pray could change all things except one’s sexual orientation1.

If we believe that prayer helped an aunt battle cancer or helped our family grow closer or helped us get a new job or provided any other spiritual assist in our physical world, why wouldn’t prayer be able to change someone’s sexual orientation?

I left the following comment on the post:

ive asked this myself. to myself. as a Christian and some one who prays with regularity – with the belief that prayer does, indeed, change things. and at one point i was somewhat convicted when the subject of “praying the gay away” came up and some one said they believed in a God who answers prayer, and if prayer could heal people from sickness, prayer could deliver people from homosexuality. anything is possible with prayer. and for a moment, i thought that makes perfect sense.

and then it didnt make any sense. i dont believe that homosexuality is an affliction or a sin or a burden that *needs* to be prayed away. i dont believe homosexuality is a punishment, requiring mercy, or deserving of punishment, requiring grace.

i think one’s homosexuality is just as natural and God-given as one’s heterosexuality. or pansexuality or asexuality. its just another piece of who we are as people. and that doesnt need deliverance, healing, mercy, or grace. it just needs protection and guidance – so we arent harming ourselves or others through our sexual proclivities.

Maybe I don’t have it right. Maybe homosexuality – and any sexuality other than so-called heterosexuality – is a sin, and requires those who possess this sin to be rescued, set free. Maybe some people really can be and are delivered from their homosexuality. Maybe God really does hate the gays and other sexual deviants. It’s all possible. But I just don’t believe it. I won’t believe it. So I guess I will have to take my chances on the day I meet God and explain myself. I’m OK with that.

Praying the hate away,
~Gem, who still likes mens

Considering Why Janay Palmer Would Stay

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Much of the commentary I’ve noticed around Ray Rice starts with condemning Ray Rice’s abuse and finishes with condemning his wife Janay Palmer for staying and marrying him. Not only has Janay been forced to relive her abuse very publicly with the release of the elevator footage (something no victim should have to suffer), but she has to relive her abuse through shame and judgment in the process. Not to mention, of course, the probable domestic abuse that she still faces in the aftermath of Ray’s subsequent suspension.

It’s not altogether shocking that people – women especially – think that abused women are weak, stupid, and/or compliant if they stay with their abusers. It’s easy to pass such judgments from the outside looking in and not having a firm grasp on the reality of domestic violence. But despite it not being surprising, it’s very very very sad. It’s sad to see people – women especially – spew disgust for Janay being knocked unconscious  by Ray in one breath and then spew disgust for her marrying  him in the next. It’s sad that the onus of not being is abused rests squarely on the victims shoulders. It’s sad that women are expected to be “strong” enough to leave an abuser while their abuser is not expected to be “strong” enough not to continue the abuse.

It seems to me, the most simple Google search on domestic violence will, at the very least, reveal some basic statistics that shed some light on why someone like Janay Palmer would stay with her abuser. To be slightly knowledgeable about domestic violence is to know things like 1 in 3 women have experienced violence by an intimate partner; intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crimes; the number 1 cause of death for African American women is homicide by an intimate partner; women are 70 times more likely to be killed after leaving than any other time in the relationship. Meaning, women who leave aren’t safe from further abuse.

And what, pray tell, do these numbers tell us? That (a) there are a shit ton of women who have been abused by a person they trusted and cared for and (b) many abused women do in fact try to leave, but often end up in a pinebox as a result. Having worked closely with a domestic violence agency (and housing facility), I have learned just how difficult it is for women who have left their abusers to navigate the a myriad of legal, financial, economic, and judicial obstacles, of which is even more difficult if children are involved. Many of these women also have to deal with a lack of family support - either because they aren’t around (often due to isolation as orchestrated by the abuser) or they side with the abuser. Not to mention the emotional and psychological trauma abused women tend to combat in addition to any physical abuse.

That’s just scratching the surface of the complexity in women “just leaving” their abusers. But that’s still a whole hell of a lot to overcome!!! And yet, there are people – especially women – who think that walking away from an abuser is an easy, repercussion-less task that.

I don’t know Janay Palmer, I don’t know about her relationship with Ray, I don’t know if she’s been abused before, I don’t know if she tried to leave Ray (before or after marrying him), I don’t know what circumstances are keeping her with Ray. But I do know that she has been abused by her now husband, Ray Rice. I do know she has to relive her abuse while the public replays it over and over. I also know that there are people who are sick and disgusted that she has the audacity to be alive, living as a married woman to her abuser. And most importantly, I know that Janay Palmer is one of very many women who are in similar situations. In fact, you can read about their stories from the hashtag #WhyIStayed, that are highlighted here and here.

And to those people who assume the worst of the Janay Palmers of the world, without making the tiniest effort to understand the burden of responsibility and accountability that is placed on those who experience domestic violence and not their abusers, I say chile BYE, GTFOHWTBS, STFU, and SYAD please read, think, listen and learn.

 

Thank you for your consideration,
~Gem

Oh Ye of Fickle Humanity

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There are numerous things that are extremely disturbing about the public reveal of Ray Rice’s domestic abuse against his wife, Janay Palmer. It was disturbing 7 months ago when the news and video of Ray dragging his unconscious fiancée, Janay, out of a casino elevator was first brought to light by TMZ. It was disturbing to read the police report confirming that Ray knocked his fiancée unconscious. It was disturbing when the NFL suspended Ray for 2 games over his arrest for the attack. It was disturbing when the Baltimore Ravens gave their undying support of Ray. It was disturbing to watch Ray’s apology press conference and to hear his abused wife, Janay, say “I deeply regret the role I played in the incident.” It’s just as disturbing to now watch the video, again released by TMZ, recording the events inside of the elevator that served as visual proof of what we already knew – that Ray Rice knocked his [then] fiancée, Janay Palmer, unconscious. It was disturbing to see the Ravens release Ray and the NFL subsequently indefinitely suspend him 7 months after the incident, just hours after the visual evidence of Ray’s transgressions were available for public consumption.

Perhaps what was most disturbing, but not at all surprising, was the backlash of the consequences (joblessness) handed to Ray, the support of Ray’s (or any man’s) use of force against a “provoking” woman, the finger-wagging of Janay for marrying Ray after the elevator incident (and overall lack of support for domestic violence victims). I mean, we’re still dealing with the countless support of a police officer who shot and killed an unarmed teen and has yet to face any real consequences for his actions. So the aggressor/abuser/accused support isn’t anything new. There are certain people who are bound and determined to show compassion and sympathy for those who commit assault (or worse) against women and minorities. These men were obviously provoked to do what they did, cut them a break. Such supporters find countless reasons to excuse, dismiss, or rationalize the violent actions of the attacker. Yet, these same people can’t find a single iota of compassion or sympathy for the victims, the attacked, the abused. When you deserve your ass beating, you don’t deserve concern.

Inevitably when you see people who make egregious comments in support of abusers such as Ray Rice you hear people say, “What if that was your sister/mother/daughter?” or “Imagine if a man put his hands on your sister/mother/daughter?” or “Would you feel the same if it was your sister/mother/daughter?” And I think this line of thinking is just as disturbing as those that rationalize abuse/violence against a domestic partner. I think most people have good intentions when they try to make this connection, but it’s as if people needed a domestic violence situation to hit close to home to show some f*cking human decency towards people who are harmed and mistreated. Does one’s mother, sister or daughter need to be attacked, abused, raped, or harassed for one to think “attacking/abusing/raping/harassing women is wrong and the [people] who attack/abuse/rape/harass should not be excused from punishment”?? Do people  really need relational reasons to be compassionate, sympathetic, and concerned for the welfare of others who are wronged? Is it inconceivable to acknowledge someone else’s suffering and the wrongdoing done to them?

Come on people – as evolved, higher order thinking mammals we really gotta do better.

~Gem

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Part of my Twitter rant on the subject…

The Shack Up

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For just over 2 years, I had been in a long distance relationship. Pittsburgh to New York. New York to Portland. Portland to DC. But now, as of 36 days ago, I am in a short distance relationship!!!

It’s weird to not have to make a trip to the airport to see the love of my life for only a few days at a time. I get to see him every single day. I even get to see him multiple times throughout the work day because his office is just across the hall from mine. Not to mention I see him every night before I go to sleep, and every morning when I wake up.

That’s right folks: the beau and I are shacking up. Living in sin.

I never thought I’d live with a man (other than maybe a relative) before I was married. Maybe during an engagement but not before. I’ve had numerous friends that have lived with their significant others outside of marriage and always thought to myself, “I don’t think I could ever do that.” Though today it seems pretty acceptable to cohabitate out of wedlock, I always felt I would be judged – by my parents and society. And even me, to be honest. Why should I live with a man who hasn’t committed himself in matrimony (or at least the official intention of matrimony) to me? Translation: Why would I draw attention to the fact that I’m not chaste and pure, and I’m giving a man “the milk for free”. Admitting to living with a significant other just seemed like an unintentional confession. And yes, I tend to concern myself about what others know/think.

I felt very differently when it came time to think about Dr. T moving to Portland. There were a myriad of positive reasons to live together – it just made dollars and *sense*. It’s still a little weird to admit that we’re living together. Especially to my parents, who probably don’t care but it’s still makes me feel like I’m doing something that would be frowned upon. Even to coworkers – most of whom live with their significant others. It’s weird to be writing a post about shacking up.

Nonetheless, I wouldn’t have things any other way. I enjoy having Dr. T as a roommate. He cooks, cleans, irons, and does laundry. He even folds! He’s neat and extremely considerate. Sometimes he’s too perfect and I can’t help but think that he’s getting the short end of the stick with having to live with *me* lol. Not that living together hasn’t taken some getting used to, but it doesn’t feel like “work.” It’s just different.

I also can’t help but think at what point will we get tired of being around each other so much. Granted, we’ve spent over 2 years living in different states, and on different coasts. But still – we spend an absurd amount of time together. We’re together at home. We commute together to and from work. Though we work in different research labs, we often take breaks and eat lunch together. And we go to the gym together 3-5 times a week. The few times we are apart is when I’m at a meeting or if he’s off playing basketball.I actually felt guilty for spending my entire Saturday this weekend apart from my other half due to previous commitments that didn’t include him. Usually, I’m carting him from one place to another to do this or that and meet various people.

Today on the bus, we were discussing our workout plans for the evening. I was going to the gym for a fitness class and to run, he was going to the community center for basketball and then out for a run. He said to me, “Damn, that means we won’t see each other tonight.” Despite the fact that we were both coming home to the same place. My soul smiled in that moment – I felt loved and adored. This man is my companion and our time together is valuable. Most importantly, he isn’t sick of me yet.

In time, once Dr. T gets his footing in his new city of residence, he will be spending much more time apart from me with new friends and activities. Just as I will continue to have my own set of friends and happenings apart from him. But for now, I’m enjoying this cherished time together. Even if it simply consists of us both burying our heads in our computers, in the same room, at the same time, listening to the same orchestra of crickets through the screen door.

Many of my friends who live with their significant others warned me that the lovey-dovey honeymoon of living together would soon end and that I would soon grow tired and irritated. I guess I’ll have to report back in a few months of sh*t goes down hill and we’re ready to go back to maintaining separate households. But I think we’ll be just fine…

Do you, or have you ever, lived with a significant other outside of marriage? If so, what do/did you like most and least about it?  Do you have a preference one way or the other?

Shacking up unashamed (kind of),
~Gem

The Quintessential Birthday Post

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Go Gemmie, it’s ya birfday!

I spent this past holiday weekend with 3 of my closest friends in Milwaukee, WI. The 4 of us met in Pittsburgh – 3 of us working on our PhDs, 1 doing her post-PhD training – and over the last 2 years we have each moved away and started new jobs. It was our first time all being together in about a year. So naturally we did it BIG – the turn up was mad real lol. And we were all reminded just how old we were getting – partying hard one night kept us pretty low key the rest of the weekend lol. It was a wonderful reunion, filled with lots of laughs, shenanigans, Lime and Strawberitas (aka “thot juice”), shots of Peach Ciroc, twerking, and brunching. We’re ratchet bougie Black girls, what can I say?

Though we did not gather to celebrate my birthday, or even the birth of our nation’s independence (we’re Black intellectuals – we can only get so excited about so-called “independence” in this b*tch), I still technically falls under my bday month-long celebration of life. We’re half way through 2014, I’m another year older, and traveling more to spend time with friends was part of my list for things to do this year.

And I figure my born day is as good as any to  revisit my 2014 resolutions and do a half-year-in-review.

  • Lose 15lbs before 31 ~ Since last year, I’ve lost about 20lbs. 10 of those lbs were shed since the beginning of 2014. Thanks to #SexyShred Cycle V (Feminista Jones is brilliant for starting this!!) I have been on my nutrition and fitness grind! I workout about 4 times a week and try to eat pretty balanced, well portioned meals. I’m definitely leaner (went down a size in pants), stronger, and more motivated to live an active, healthy life with few excuses. I still slack off every now and then, but I don’t go longer than a week before getting it back together. I’m doing it for the abs! #SummerTimeFine
  • F*ck b*tches, get money ~ I technically didn’t f*ck b*tches, but I did get the smallest of raises at work. So, check!
  • Run a 10k~ Almost. Ran an 8k in March. A 10k is in the works before the end of this year.
  • Get my mile down to 10 or less ~ Done! Again, thanks to #SexyShred I pushed myself like never before. Though I still run about a 10min mile outside, I can get it to 9min on the treadmill. I’m like a frikkin hamster going ham on a wheel!
  • Reduce my cc debt by 50% ~ Uhhhhh skip…
  • Incorporate more prayer and bible study into my daily/weekly routine ~ I’m definitely struggling with this. I go long periods of time avoiding personal prayer/bible study time. Not sure why but I need to fix this.
  • Take 3 “fun” trips ~ I’m 2 fun trips in! One to ATL for a good friend’s wedding, the other this past weekend in MKE. I’m on track to take 2 more (at least) before the end of the year.
  • Blog once a month about my “progress” ~ Yeeeeaaaaah about that… 1 per 6months is almost the same right?
  • Make more lists ~ I’m kind of doing this. Sometimes I make list and forget them. But I’m definitely more on top of getting tasks done and not forgetting.  Still a work in progress.
  • Spend Christmas and New Year’s Eve (for 2015) with the love of my life ~ Still TBD ;-)
  • Live out “Partition” – the lyrics or video, either or ~ Nunya.

In terms of other updates NOT on my 2014 To Do List, I bought a new car (praise the Lord for amazing parents who helped a sista out!) a few weeks ago and the love of my life “moved” (at least himself and clothes for now lol) to Portland yesterday!!!!! 2014 is shaping up to be as grand as I’d hoped! I am in a good place. Things aren’t perfect but I’m content and eager to see what the rest of the year has to offer.

How was your 4th of July weekend? Now that we’re in the 2nd half of the year, how are you feeling? Are things going like you planned/hoped? Do you need to do some reevaluating? Any good news to share?

Happy Monday!

Older & wiser,
~Gem

Having It All

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*Author’s note: This good ol blog recently turned 4 years old! OMG time flies. Especially when you don’t write blog posts regularly lol. Nonetheless, I thank everyone who was with me since day one and all those who I have picked up along the way.*

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I don’t think women can have it all. I just don’t think so. We pretend we have it all. We pretend we can have it all. My husband and I have been married for 34 years. And we have two daughters. And every day you have to make a decision about whether you are going to be a wife or a mother, in fact many times during the day you have to make those decisions.

I read this candid statement by PepsiCo’s CEO, Indra K. Nooyi, in a recent interview at the Aspen Ideas Festival, and thought, “More women should need to hear this and say this.”

I am currently in the infant stages of my career. I am not yet a wife or a mother, but I aspire to be. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted a career (in what? IDK!), a husband, and children. In the same lifetime. I haven’t actively pursued one over the other. Meaning, I didn’t avoid committed relationships in order to pursue my education and a career (let’s be real – I avoided committed relationships because [redacted] ain’t [redacted]). I didn’t give up dreams of a career to start a family. I never ranked these priorities in order of importance because they were all equally important. And my plan was to have all of these things – the order in which they were obtained was up to God.

To have each of these things – career, spouse, children – individually is hard work. Starting and advancing a career requires a lot of work, dedication and sacrifice. Joining your with another person requires a lot of work, dedication, and sacrifice. Being a parent requires a lot of work, dedication and sacrifice. Having all three situations at once can’t possibly be easy. Especially in a world where womanhood is constantly challenged (damned if you do, damned if you don’t). Nor is it likely one can do all of these things well and give the proper attention to each. Something has to give. Something will give. And someone(s) will suffer the consequences.

I think what it boils down to is you can “have” it all, but you aren’t going to have it all well, the way you want it, or without having some resentment or guilt in the process. And I appreciate that Indra was so honest about her experience and her struggles with being a mother, a wife, a daughter, and a CEO.

I also appreciate what Indra’s mother said.

You might be president of PepsiCo. You might be on the board of directors. But when you enter this house, you’re the wife, you’re the daughter, you’re the daughter-in-law, you’re the mother. You’re all of that. Nobody else can take that place.

What I took from that was (whether this was the intention or not, ha!) if you’re going to take on all these titles, there have to be boundaries. When you’re home, you’re these things. When you’re at work, you’re these other things. Everything has its appropriate time and place. That makes sense to me.

I have no idea what life will bring my way, but I think I’m up for the challenge. I know trying to have it all will be hard to balance – there will always be things in constant flux – and I wouldn’t expect anything else. Hearing a woman like Indra say she feels guilt and is always looking for ways to cope inspires me. Sure, it’s scary and unnerving to know that you won’t be good at everything all the time, but what’s the alternative? Not being fulfilled or regretting never trying to have it all? That almost seems worse.

What the hell are you supposed to do? Can you have your cake and eat it too?

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Wanting it all… kinda,
~Gem

A Love Letter

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A looooooong time ago my dear friend Amy Juicebox tarted a social media campaign called “Love Letters to Black Men” – a way for Black women to show support during a sensitive time when Black men were increasingly under attack (quite literally, in many cases). She asked me (and countless other Black women) to write a love letter to Black men. And well, I never completed the task. I just didn’t know where to start. It’s such a huge task to sum up my love of the men who raised me, taught me, inspire me, motivate me, and most importantly love me. I didn’t revisit this task until my aunt asked members of my family to contribute to a memory book that will be given to my Father on his next birthday (in a few weeks – the day after mine). It took many hours, many tears, and many laughs to complete my contribution for my Dad’s memory book. It’s a love letter. I love Black men because of the love and respect I have for my Dad. Everything he is encompasses a rich Black history, Black experiences, Black thought, Black pride, Black beauty. I love Black people because my Black father loved me and I love my Black self.

For many who follow me on Twitter, you may have heard me discuss the hilarious antics of Papa Gem. My Father’s larger than life persona is quite legendary (among his circle of family/friends, my mom’s circles, my brother’s circles, and certainly my circles) and yet he’s a complete mystery to me, wrapped in an enigma, encased in a riddle. Locked in a cryptex. He’s a constant, finite force, while altogether surprising and unpredictable. And since my Father can’t be confined to the type of simple linear regression models (i.e. a straight line) he solves in his spare time “for fun”, neither should my love letter to him. So here it goes…*

Dad, it’s easy to say “I love you” but hard to say what that means or how that feels. Defining words with more words is more an exercise of flipping through a hard-covered dictionary (and though I much prefer dictionary.com these days, I still have the dictionary you bought me when I went off to college) than of defining feelings in a manner someone else can understand. You taught me that what you say and how you say it, is of utmost importance. Whether reciting timeless verses of Robert Frost (voice inflections, the right emphasis on the right words, and hand/face gestures are important details) or supporting an argument for why rap music will not rot one’s brain (it won’t, trust me, I’m a doctor), expression of words requires thoughtfulness, animus, and grit. And a dictionary. So when I tell you I love you, I’m telling you my mind is replaying our time together because loving you is directly tied to our journey through life together.

School shoe shopping (I blame/thank you for my sensible over fashionable shoe purchases). Hospital nurses’ stations. MLK tennis courts. Jazz. Car Talk Radio. What you did to that glovebox. Trips to see “the little people” (especially when playing Santa’s Helper). Amateur boxing matches. Poinsettia and Holiday Bowls. Aztec, Padre, and Charger games. Battle of the Bands. You being present at every single swim meet and band performance (parade, field, concert) – with thousands upon thousands of photos to show for it. Video footage of my childhood. Trips to Hawaii, Vegas, Disneyworld. Pilgrimages to Howard Universi-tay. Witnessing incomparable friendships with Dan Gaither and John Golding. Being exposed to a positive, intelligent, assiduous, flourishing community of Black professionals. The ambiguity of your so-called time spent in China. Made-up Spanish. Story telling. Driving lessons. “We didn’t get you perfume for Christmas, Mommy.” Wrapping presents. Teaching you how to use features on your computer. Grade school projects (the Mission, the Indian village, Andrew Johnson, Emperor penguins). Not learning how to play chess. The father-daughter waltz at my debutante ball. Thinking of the right song for us to dance to at my wedding. Telling Jesus on you. Playing the trumpet as a wake up call at my birthday sleepover. Singing at my door and pretending Mom is playing the radio too loud. “What it is? What it was? What it will be? What it could be? What it should be? [Etc…].” Ninety second phone conversations. Batman movies. Calling me George (or mistakenly Patricia, Shari, or Delilah). Watching you be a grandfather to my nieces and nephews, and eagerly awaiting the day you meet my future kids. Always challenging me to think harder, smarter, and wiser. Brutal honesty. Your love of knowledge (even your geeky obsession of words and math). Being the funniest, smartest, most generous person I know. Setting a standard for the main man in my life.

These are a few of my favorite memories. This love letter will never quite be complete because there are so many more reasons that you will give me to love you for the rest of my life. Happy Father’s Day, Daddy!

With Love,
Papa Gemmie’s Little Girl


* This letter is slightly modified from the one that will be in his memory book. Because you always think of something else after you’ve finished your “final” draft. And it’s Father’s Day :)