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All of Me

by Gail S. Bernstein, Ph.D.

"...All of me has been invited. I have not had to leave one inch of my existence outside the door to come to this Feast."
-- Sawnie E. Morris

When we are different in a way that is devalued by the world we live in, we learn to compartmentalize. We learn where we are safe, whether from physical assault or from verbal condemnation, and where we are not safe.

We learn where we are not allowed to be visible, and where we are not allowed to be at all. It may be okay to be out at work but not at church. It may be safe to come out to a friend but not to the boss.

If we feel excluded, Ellen Goodman observed recently, we count where and how often we appear and work to correct that omission. Her point was that when we are included, we stop counting. She reminded us how we used to attend to whether Italians or Jews or Catholics were elected or appointed to high positions in our government. We rarely do that anymore.

That is my goal. I want to be included. I want to be able to stop counting. I want all of me to be included. The scientist and the lover, the psychologist and the baker, the Jew and the writer, the graying middle-aged woman, the teacher, the lesbian.

Jewell Gomez wrote of Audre Lorde, that her "genius resided in her insistence on bringing her whole self to whatever she was doing." That is what I want to do, to bring my whole self to whatever I do.

I heard Romanovsky and Phillips sing earlier this year. One of their encores was a song that has been part of my life for a long time. I must have been in my teens the first time I heard it. It was a rallying cry, a call to arms, for the generation that came of age under the shadow of VietNam.

While I cared about the war and the young men who were at risk, there was a way in which I was not completely engaged, not emotionally drawn by the cause. I realize now, hindsight being the clear form of vision it is, that no matter where you stood on the issue, women were excluded from the important arenas.

We were not eligible for the draft. We did not play a decision-making role in the debate about the war, not in government and not in the anti-war movement.

Coming out as a led me to an even greater appreciation of how much my country excludes me, an exclusion highlighted and underlined by the passage of Amendment 2 in Colorado and the debate about whether I should be allowed to serve in our military.

The good news, of course, is that many people in this country are no longer willing to be excluded, whether for gender, race, disability or orientation; no longer willing to let others make decisions for us. When I first heard the song Romanovsky and Phillips sang, I was unformed, unaware of who I was.

I had a sense that the world needed changing, but I lacked clarity about why change was important for me. I lacked clarity about how I fit in to a social change movement. I hardly remember that unformed young woman anymore. She's become a woman who knows who she is, and knows she wants to live in a world where all of her is invited.

So, when they sang that night in January, when we sang along,

"Come senators, congressmen,
Please heed the call,
Don't stand in the doorways,
Don't block up the hall,"

I saw Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms being replaced by the likes of Barbara Mikulski, Carol Mosely Brown, and Pat Schroeder. When we sang:

"The order is rapidly fadin'
And the first one now will later be last"

I saw Phyliss Schafly and Ronald Reagan being replaced by the likes of Harvey Milk and Gerry Studds and Roberta Achtenberg. When we sang:

"Please get out of the new one If you can't lend a hand"

I was engaged in it in a way Dylan never dreamed of, in a way I didn't know then that I needed. When we sang:

"The times they are a-changing,"

It was not just for my straight friends. It was not just for the men in the room. It was for me. It was with hope for the day that I can stop counting because I am included, hope for the day that all of me is invited to the feast.

Gay Marriage Update, 2008 by Marlene M. Maheu, Ph.D.

A decade has passed since Dr. Bernstein wrote the popular article about visibility and equality you see above.

Since then, much has happened to galvanize the community, and much more is in play since the gay marriage issue has surfaced in more visible ways.

It is now November 19, 2008. The Arizona, California and Florida voters have chosen to place a ban on gay marriage in their states. Massachusetts and Connecticut have passed laws directly permitting gay marriage.

More people are talking about gay people and gay rights than ever before. The Internet and TV are a-buzz with daily news.
How current are you?

In keeping with the spirit of the article above, I am attaching this update to give you links to show the breadth of the PRO gay marriage resources, and also issue a warning for those of you who might be tad overzealous and forget to protect your privacy online.

I encourage you to respond through our SelfhelpMagazine GLBT Community Forum, where hopefully, you will bring yet other resources to help in this fight for civil rights.

Let me start with the more personal perspective of a black lesbian, to the California Supreme Court's decision today to review Prop 8 and related issues, to a complaint to be sent to the IRS against the Mormon Church; to a word about writing to your local government politicians who have supported your perspective.
(The basic psychology principle of rewarding desired behavior still holds.)

  • Jasmyne A. Cannick has a slant on things that as refreshing as it is eye-opening. In response to the recent vote against same-gender marriage in California, which is attributed by many to the large turnout of African American voters, she speaks out in this blog post.
  • And on another front, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is being accused of using church funds tin a lobbying campaign against gay marriage in November 2008's vote in California. They're also being accused of using funds for the campaigns and constitutional amendments banning same-gender marriages in Arizona and Florida. In 2000, the LDS Church was found guilty for participating in political campaigns for the very same thing in California. Their success amended the California Constitution to exclude same-gender partners from the right to marry.
    People are being encouraged to file complaints asking for an investigation with the IRS of recent LDS activity by printing out this pre-filled document and mailing it in to the IRS (address is on the document). The proponents of this action hopem the IRS will investigate these complaints about the misappropriation of funds, thereby endangering the LDS Church's tax-exempt status.
    They also stress that churches who claim tax-exempt status are legally prohibited from participating in political activities and lobbying. They state that the LDS sent approximately $20,000,000 dollars to various states for these very purposes, that is, political activities and lobbying.
  • Other websites list donors to the "Yes on Prop 8" campaign, and the public is encouraged to not support those businesses who have donated. One such website is Seach the Prop 8 Supporters.
  • Yet other groups encourage a direct approach to support the Governor of California, Governor Schwarzenegger, and the 44 members of the California Legislature who signed a friend of the court brief to support gay marriage rights.
    Wherever you live, you may want to consider running a search online for your local government officials who support gay marriage, and send them supportive mail.
    You will find websites who offer to collect your personal information and forward email for you to various government officials. This groups are the ones I want to warn you about. If you go this route, you may want to investigate the group and see if they've been around for a while.
    Many such websites could easily spring up all over the internet, so users might want to exercise caution about entering their personal information into websites for groups that are unknown.

WARNING: Lists of gay/lesbian/bi/trans people are extremely valuable monetarily when re-sold to spammers, online marketers, and possibly evil-doers. Gay/lesbian/bi/trans people do not tend to openly identify themselves as a group, and justifiably so.

Having authored several books and lectured internationally about technology in health care, in addition to personally witnessing how the Internet is used to hurt people, I'd advise caution. Common practice with email lists is frightening, even among "professionals" who should know better.

Be cautious when putting your name on any online list, particularly if they ask for your street address, phone number, and other personal information. It could easily be that unscrupulous people will take advantage of political causes to perpetrate their own crimes in violating your privacy in the guise of helping the "cause."

Be visible, be strong and be smart about it!

About the Authors:

Gail S. Bernstein, Ph.D. is an author and psychologist. She has a psychotherapy practice in Denver, Colorado. Dr. Bernstein speaks and writes about gay, lesbian and bisexual people for both general and professional audiences, and is the author of the audiotape, NOT HETEROSEXUAL: An Educational Program About Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual People.

Marlene M. Maheu, Ph.D. is the Editor-in-Chief of SelfhelpMagazine.

Originally published 5/28/98
Revised 11/12/08 by Marlene M. Maheu, Ph.D.
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