I often forget fear as a factor of being a gay person. I don’t know that “forget” is the proper word. I am not sure that I have even felt it in that reference. That is not to say that I don't struggle with issues of fear...I do. Far too often I fear, but that comes more from a lack of faith or a constant nagging rather than a worry for my personal safety. In example, I fear our dwindling money supplies and this crazy walk in faith that is leading us into understanding just how little is “enough”.
There have been times that I knew I should be wary while being in a certain area or of little things such as holding hands with Debbie. Yet these things are merely a peripheral type of thought. Never have I been threatened because of being lesbian. I have never even received hate mail. (This is not an invitation for those who hate me to begin!)
People called me brave when I spoke up at the diocesan convention in Fort Worth in September 2003 and gave them a face to remember as they spoke so angrily against “practicing homo-sexuals”. Afterwards, I even had a lawyer press his card into my hand and tell me to call him if I had any type of problems from having publically ‘outed’ myself. I wasn’t brave because it never occurred to me that I might have placed myself in physical danger. I did what I had to do.
I am not naïve…at least not any more. I do know that there is a real hatred born of extreme fear constantly surrounding us and that some feel the need to live out this hatred in violence. Living in a land that kills its gay sons, Matthew Shepard and Larry King live in my conscious thought daily. I am well aware that no LGBT people are safe…ever…not even in our churches. Yet, through my privileged ignorance, I have lived as though I did not fully comprehend this fact.
At Lambeth, a gathering of Anglican bishops from across the globe, a place where people were meeting to pray and listen to one another, brought together by the desire to live as one in the Body of Christ…even here there existed that hatred so real that it became evidence through vandalism. The boxes set up to hold for distribution the “Lambeth Witness”, the newsletter put out by the Inclusive Church Network were vandalized time and again. Even there, in this place meant to bring people together in the name of God, a willingness to hold fast to all that is hateful lived.
With emotions running as high as these were and still are; with so much to lose at stake, there were people who risked their personal safety to be at Lambeth, to give voice to all the LGBT Christians (not just Anglican) from all over the world to a group of bishops and archbishops who profanely refused to listen to those they consider “less than”. All the folk from the Inclusive Church Network, of which Integrity was only one part, each one of them, strait, gay, bi or trans, male or female, black or white (and all colors in between) risked their lives that the united voice of all their sisters and brothers throughout God’s kin-dom might be heard. Some listened; some didn’t. Some heard and were changed. Some turned aside to see while others turned aside to keep from seeing.
And now? After all the tents come down; after all the tired bishops return to their homes; what happens to Rose Ngeri?
She is one of the people, a lesbian from Nigeria, who came to add her voice for those with ears to hear. What of her now as she returns to Nigeria, a country where it is a crime to be openly gay or lesbian? That doesn’t mean a crime to act on being gay or lesbian; rather, it means to even profess being gay or lesbian. It means to risk imprisonment to even associate with one who is known to be gay or lesbian. That includes family members, friends, clergy…anyone who sits to dine, watch a movie, hear confession from or even pass the Peace with a gay or lesbian. What fate awaits Rose?
Elizabeth Kaeton tells about Rose and the risks she took by coming to Lambeth to speak out. When asked what danger she might have placed herself in by speaking out, she told the one who asked that men are sent to rape lesbians who speak out. For gays, the punishment is torture and murder.
Do we get that? Do we understand that, people? She may go home to Nigeria to have a group of “men” ready and waiting to rape her. RAPE her.
While Lambeth was in session, Great Britain granted Davis MacIyalla political asylum due to the latest threat he received just before Lambeth began. MacIyalla has been the victim of many death threats and physical attacks.
This is serious business…So serious that people are willing to risk their lives to be heard. That is the stuff that martyrs are made of. Are we looking at future martyrs? Will there be a day in our Anglican lectionary that is devoted to the day that Rose Ngeri died? Or Davis MacIyalla? Or will there be one day set aside for all the LGBT Anglicans that have died at the idle hands of the Anglican Communion?
Is it enough that there was no “resolution”? Is it enough that it appears (from the blogging bishops) that the US church is resolute about maintaining a way forward? Not even close to being enough…
How can the Archbishop of Canterbury suggest that there be a moratorium on the election of gay or lesbian bishops or of same sex blessings by the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Church of Canada! Knowing full well how dangerous it is to be gay or lesbian in Nigeria, Uganda, and so many more African and non-African countries, he blithely stands there as though there was nothing major for anyone to lose if we just wait for a little while so that those who are not with us at this point can catch up.
Rowan (and and all others who followed his lead), I have a suggestion for you. Get down on your knees and beg forgiveness for having allowed people like Rose to have left England with no help from you. You are complicit in whatever happens to her simply because you worked so diligently (or noncommittally) for her and Gene Robinson to be sidelined.
Yes, I have been very naïve. I have pompously gone my own way, speaking out whenever I feel the urge to speak, never fully understanding that for others torture or death awaits them as they speak out against the powerful voices intent upon maintaining a status quo that conforms to their own personal agendas. I am complicit through my own ignorance.
I do not want to walk in fear each time I feel the need to speak out. Yet, if I do not acknowledge that understanding, what am I investing? I do understand that I speak from an extreme place of privilege. I can write, travel to new places to speak, rant and rave in my white, US citizen, lesbian privilege and suffer only slightly if at all.
But I will no longer be naïve about it. But for a pure accident of birth, I am here while she is there. I don’t expect to ever be a martyr for any cause but I want to remember each time I do speak or write that Rose Ngeri very possibly will be one day.
May God have mercy on us all.