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Beyond Boxes

Sunday, October 3 @ 10:30 am - 11:30 am

Beyond Boxes

Details

Date:
Sunday, October 3
Time:
10:30 am - 11:30 am
Event Categories:
,
Join Us:
https://tinyurl.com/ESUCSunday

Venue

Online Event

Bias is an inescapable part of the human experience, but what we do with, and how we react to our biases is very much in our control. While our natural instinct  may be to put things into categories and boxes , there is a space that can enrich our interactions with everyone around us, the space beyond boxes. This Sunday, please join us as our Beyond Categorical Thinking facilitator, Amanda Schuber, talks about the ways that identity and bias impact our relationships with each other and the wider world.

how to attend

Bulletin

• To virtually attend, please Zoom in using room number 989 3107 9078, passcode: chalice.
• To phone into the service, call 669-900-6833, Meeting ID: 989 3107 9078.

For those joining, please mute as soon as you enter the room, so everyone can hear. Please note, the services will be recorded, but at this time, there are no plans to share the recording.

More Information

If you don’t have a chalice, but want to light one, check out our Making a Chalice at Home page.

Service is followed by Coffee Hour.

Children’s Story

Sermon Audio

Sermon Text

​**Please do not publish without authors written consent**

“I have two mommies” she proudly exclaimed in the resounding voice only a toddler can master.  The kind of voice that demands attention and seems to have a  permanently broken volume control.  There, standing in the grocery check out line early on a Saturday morning, my then 2 year old daughter Adaline , had once again decided that the friendly cashier who had innocently asked how old she was obviously really asking if this cherub-faced toddler had a mommy and a daddy.  This scene had played out several times over the preceding weeks, in the bank line, at the shoe store, in the doctor’s office.  Adaline seemed to be wholly possessed by this fact of her life, and felt inclined to share the news with anyone and everyone who dared venture within 30 feet of her. As every time before, this scene proceeded  much like a scripted play; the cashier’s smile skewed a bit and she looked at me searching, with confusion written all over her face, “What did you say honey?”.  And like every time before I quickly jumped in, “Oh you know toddlers, who knows what she says, I swear I can barely understand half of what she says…my what a unique ring…”

Only this time was different, this time, my precious daughter sat in the cart in front of me at eye level.  This time I couldn’t help but catch her gaze and see the confusion and shame starting to take root.  This time I felt the anguish of a parent realizing that I had just taught my child a lesson that I instantly wished I could take back. In that moment of rapid diversion, the verbal slight of hand, the redirection of a potentially uncomfortable confrontation  I had taught my daughter to be ashamed of our family.  I had taught her fear.  I had taught her the beginning steps of a dance I swore to protect her from. I had made a quick decision to neatly pack up the moment in a box, and tie it with a pretty ribbon, one that made my existence as both a parent and a lesbian easier for the world to digest or better yet just ignore.

From the earliest of ages, we are taught to put things into categories. Any Sesame Street fan or parent of a Sesame Street fan probably knows the famous song “one of these things is not like the other…one of these things just does not belong”. At one year of age, children are able to distinguish “difference”.  Those categories provide our lives with order, structure, understanding and often comfort.  They let us know where things or people “belong”. I, as I imagine most people do, have spent a great deal of time thinking about where I belong, and we are with you today to help you think about who belongs here with you in this community, in this pulpit. We are here to help you unpack your boxes and to see what is held, and what may be  hiding inside of them.

First, you should know a little bit about me.  I grew up in Alabama, the first grandchild in a large and proper southern family. I was brought up to be attentive to all the best Southern Graces, and I can still set a formal table with my eyes closed. I attended college, I was active in my community, and I performed in voice, theater and concert symphony. I was the apple of my family’s eye, and I sat on a pedestal that was not only high but  precariously grounded in my ability to do no wrong, and for God’s sake not embarrass the family in any way. Needless to say, my fall from that pedestal was a long but quick descent. I was 22 years old when I came out as a lesbian and a gay rights activist on CNN! Yes, you heard me right, CNN your source for up to the minute news.

I will admit that the decision to give an interview to a local TV station at the annual Gay Pride Festival in Birmingham was not one of my brightest ideas, admittedly I had no way of knowing that CNN would pick up the feed and furthermore, how was I to know that some aunt three times removed would happen to be watching at that very moment, and promptly pick up the phone to all my very conservative grandmother? The fallout was not pretty. My mother had known my secret for awhile and being the loving woman that she is, she was only concerned with my happiness and well-being. I wish I could say the same for the rest of my family, who for nearly 12 years felt betrayed, ashamed and horribly embarrassed. I’m happy to say that after time, and great grandchildren things have greatly improved and my family now accepts and loves my partner and our children with open arms.

I had only unpacked my identity in a very limited way for my family.  I had allowed them to see only the pieces of me I thought they could handle. They only saw the proper, well-mannered, always amenable and eager to please side of me. It could be argued that if they had dug deeper and looked harder, and quite possibly if I had felt just a little bit safer, the other sides of my life would have shown through. They would have found another side of me, another aspect of my life that makes me uniquely who I am. But once they were allowed to see the parts of my life that identify me as a lesbian, all other accomplishments and identities were lost in the background of what was seen as my glaring difference from them.  Gone were all the accomplishments in theater.  Gone were the hundreds of volunteer hours that earned me a scholarship to college.  Gone was my identity as the beloved grandchild…all were replaced by “otherness” and an inability to see me as a whole person.

Emerson, wrote, “People only see what they are prepared to see”.  It is a sad reality that our lives very seldom prepare us to challenge what we think we know.

On New Years Eve 2000 I came out to my former roommate from college and for the next year she would introduce me as, “This is my lesbian friend, Amanda”.  I could never decide if this pronouncement was a badge of honor or a tidy warning label.  Believing that fair is fair,  I ventured to introduce her by saying, “This is my Jewish friend, Ghais”. She was clearly confused and after a few minutes she started to understand the problem. So I’m sure you see the point here. Even though she had known me for years prior to my coming out, by labeling me she had created a social short-hand, boxing me up neatly to give social cues to the rest of the world. She had also, unintentionally stripped me of all other identities.

I’m confident that there is not one person sitting here today is one dimensional.  We have all spent our lives trying on new identities, casting off those which we outgrow and, evolving into who we are today, in this moment, in this space. We have learned how to package up our identities and when it is necessary, and far too often only when it is safe to unpack those identities for the rest of the world.

There was a man in my life for a time, Eli, who  taught me a great deal about the fluid nature of categories and identity. When I met Eli in college I knew him as Sara.  Over the course of several years, Sara  started to fade away and Eli  emerged. Now identifying as a transgender-man, Eli walks through the world on the cusp of identity. Many of the people he comes in contact with remain confused by his sometimes murky gender presentation which often challenges the social constraints of male and female. People are often afraid of what his identity means to their own understanding of self. Eli spends a great deal of time looking for a workable balance constantly navigating boxes that are far to small.

In standing as witness to this transition of identity, I can still see in Eli the person I came to know so long ago. There remains a passion for music and an unparalleled love of Alabama football, a quirky sense of humor and an uncanny ability to remember one-liners from really bad movies. Regardless of what pieces of his life remain unchanged, the need to simplify his gender identity and put himself in a box that others can handle consumes much of his energy. Although our lives have long since gone in separate directions, during the many years that we dated, his physical transition from female to male caused great concern among people who know me as a lesbian. The inevitable question varied in form, but was searching for the same thing, “So are you straight now?” To this day, I remain confounded by that need to label me, and the first question that springs to my mind is, “does it really matter?”

What I’ve share with you this morning are mere fragments of my story, small snapshots of a lifetime. My identity has shaped me, has hindered me at times and has compelled me to become a Beyond Categorical Thinking Trainer. My experiences with identity consistently reaffirm my belief that it is essential to hear each others stories and to understand each others truths, to meet people where they are, lest we fall into the trap of boxing people up for our own comfort.

As I buckled her in her carseat, Adaline spoke for the first time since I had hurriedly redirected the cashier’s attention, “I have two mommies.” She said in a near whisper.  As I looked at those sapphire blue eyes I couldn’t help but feel the tears well up in my own.  I shook my head in affirmation afraid my voice would betray me and layed my forehead to hers, our shared gesture of affection since her birth. “My mommies love me very much.” she said with the assured confidence of one who will not be swayed.  “Yes” I said, “very much”.  From the heart of a child demanding to be acknowledged for her story, for her identity separate from my own, I was reminded again that this work never ends.  The boxes we pull behind us, the boxes we struggle to break out of, the boxes where we seek refuge must never be allowed to be the sole measure of our identity. There is not a box big enough to contain our messy lives and our ever changing identities.

This weekend, I have asked  you to look inside of your boxes, to dig deep into the dark and scary places, to stretch and possibly bust a few seams here and there. I  asked you to share some of your stories, to witness the transformative power of really knowing someone, beyond labels, beyond categories and most certainly beyond boxes. It is my prayer that you will continue these conversations and build a beloved community that can’t be contained in boxes. -Amen and Blessed Be

**Please do not publish without authors written consent**

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Beyond Boxes
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Details

Date:
Sunday, October 3
Time:
10:30 am - 11:30 am
Event Categories:
,
Join Us:
https://tinyurl.com/ESUCSunday

Venue

Online Event