20131217

"Unhinging the Closet Door" Panel

Unhinging the Closet Door: If America has come so far, why is coming out still so hard, KPCC 89.3 Southern California

A diverse LGBT panel shares how culture, class, and faith affect coming out, and sheds light on why some decide to stay in the closet despite recent LGBT milestones.



Moderator: Leo Duran"Take Two" producer/reporter 

Panelists: 

  • Joe Levy: Korean War veteran, native New Yorker/longtime L.A. resident; active member of Gays and Lesbians Initiating Dialogue for Equality (GLIDE SoCal).  Joe is an eighty-something gay American man.
  • Drian Juarez: Program manager, Transgender Economic Empowerment Project at the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center;  consultant, workplace transgender issues; certified LAPD trainer. Drian is a Latina Transgender immigrant.
  • Elisa Oh: Associate producer, The Ken Fong Project (in-progress documentary film); M.Div., Fuller Theological Seminary. Elisa is a gay/lesbian Asian American.
  • Yolo Akili: Writer (Huffington Post, The Good Men Project, Everyday Feminisms); educator, artist, counselor/group facilitator (African American and Latino LGBTQ youth). Yolo is a queer/gay African American man.
First of all, I'm so glad that I'm online so much. I discover live-streaming panels like this, and get to listen into events and happenings that I feel that I'm missing out on, not being in LA. 

I felt this panel was very informative, as well as reiterating many conversations I've had with friends and collegues, I was surprised to see that my friend from undergrad Elisa Oh was on the panel. While I know that Elisa has been doing commendable work within the LGBT Christian network, I haven't yet had the opportunity to hear her personal take on how her lesbian identity plays into her seminary work, as well as her long history with the APIA church. 

Elisa's comments at the end of the panel really resonate with me, in how she personally understands and deals with the lack of understanding of her identity as a lesbian from her parents and the Korean American church:
"I think something that Jean Robinson who is the first gay bishop of the Episcopal denomination said really stuck with me for a really long time. My parents aren't supportive, they still consider [being gay] a sin, and they are aggressive about it at times. The only reason that I can weather those interactions is something he said about what it means to look like family, Christ-like as a church as a family, when you cling together even more tightly when you disagree. And what it means to hold fiercely to each other in disagreement, that's what it means to represent this Christ-like identity. And spoke to me because even though I disagree with my parents, even though I disagree with my church, I'm willing to navigate the reconciliation process because I believe there is a process and that's the end goal. I think its going to happen, but its a long way to go, but if you are willing to take it, you should. And you should always walk together with people even if you disagree."
What a challenge this is to continue to walk alongside people that may vehemently disagree with the way in which you self-identify, be in sexual or gender identity. It breaks my heart that there is such an on-going battle in terms of how the Christian church is responding to its congregants. I've had many a crying, fighting, anger-fueled conversation because of how grossly misunderstood and misinterpreted I've felt over this issues. As Elisa spoke these words, I felt that it was water over wounds, a sincere cry for healing within the body of Christ. To hold hands as believers despite disagreement. WHEW! Perhaps I am not there yet, because I am still seeking to understand the other side, the side that refuses to accept individuals who are LGBTQ...For me it's about loving one another, and embracing the whole person, for we are all broken creatures. But at least now I know that there is hope within the process. That someday the church may come to know and embrace the queer community that worships alongside them, and there may be unity in a way that we may not be able to imagine quite yet. 

Jeremiah 17:14
Heal me, Lord, and I will be healed...

Heal us, Lord, and we will be healed.

Much love and peace,
A'misa

Side note: As a female-identified Asian American married woman, it was been interesting to unpack my own sexuality. Being married to a flexible and understanding man has allowed me to continue my own personal journey in questioning and discovering past experiences, and accept that sexuality doesn't have to be either or, this or that. Probably being Christian further complicates my own exploration to understand how one can identify as queer and yet be within a heterosexual marriage. The thing is we are all growing into ourselves, and a part of questioning is to be okay with the flux. A part of me knows that I am bisexual, and yet another part of me knows that I have found my life partner. So where or not I live out that side of myself is not up for you to know, but for me to understand and grow from. 

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