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Zig zagging our way across America … literally and figuratively
Aug 17, 2006

  You can't hate someone whose story you know.
Dare to know the story of those who are different.

“The tiniest story in your life can deeply touch another. You cannot know the effect your story might have.”--Sark



We are convinced that each zig zagging detour, whether in connection with others, one another, or a destination along the way, holds a lesson uniquely designed to prepare us for our greater destiny, if we are only courageous enough to learn. We remind ourselves that life expresses itself more vividly in the journey, not in the final destination.  Our past and where we come from is not nearly as important as our present moments and where we are going.  We continue to believe that, “Life is a journey…enjoy the ride!”


People wrote and said, “Is ‘Ancora Imparo’ Italian?”  The answer is yes!  In fact, Kathy Kiefer, who used the line at the end of her email, wrote saying, 

“I love your journey, your stories and the way you live your lives.  I am glad “Ancora Imparo” has become vocabulary for your journey.  The words actually translate as:  I am still learning - a statement attributed to and associated with Michelangelo.”


Blessings to you both and Rylee Joy.  Love, Kathy 

So, there you have it!  Kathy then used these words to translate for herself, “I am always learning.”  Either way, it works!  It sets an intention for how we want to be in our lives and on this journey.  Some of the circumstances of our learning would not have been our chosen path. How many of you can identify with that in your life?


Even Rylee Joy wants to always learn!  And when she does, she teaches us.  Her constant reminders, as she crawls into the front seat, to embrace conflict and move through it, rather than stuffing it, is a constant.  She has been busy typing out her most recent "Lesson by Rylee Joy."  Click here to read Lesson # 8 from Rylee!



Rylee writing her new lesson


Kathy’s saying was not the only good one we recently received.  The one below was at the bottom of an email we received from our friend Val Vaganek: 

"Every happening, great and small, is a parable whereby God speaks to us, and the art of life is to get the message."   --Malcolm Muggeridge

Rylee Joy has new friends (though she has not met them).  Betsy (who she will soon meet in Medford, Oregon) and Princess (a kitty from Lexington, Kentucky).






Princess...learning about the Bible


PFLAG meetings continue to offer us diverse opportunities.  They also confirm what we felt might be true before we began our journey…and that is that many in our own community (including allies) often wrestle with how to live authentically in the space of their daily lives.


We spoke at three PFLAG meetings this past week.  One in Omaha, Nebraska…one in Ft. Collins, Colorado…one in Albuquerque, New Mexico. As well, we also spoke at a wonderful bookstore, The Reading Grounds, in Omaha, Nebraska.


Omaha, Nebraska turned out to be a warm and welcoming city.  PLFAG Omaha meets at First United Methodist Church, where Jimmy Creech was pastor when he was brought before a church trial (that took place in Grand Island, Nebraska) and defrocked.  As we have previously mentioned, he is Executive Director of Faith in America. Carrie Spencer arranged our visit and she and her partner, Susie, offered their hospitality while feeding us and hosting us. They also treated us to nine holes of golf, a first for us in two years.  The last time we played was the day after our July 31, 2004, wedding at Semiahmoo Resort.

Carrie, Susie (holding Rylee Joy), Roby & Dotti

Forty-five people attended the PFLAG meeting, more than doubling their usual attendance, with many there for the first time.


Some of the PFLAG Omaha group

It was also great to reunite with Soulforce friends, as well as PFLAG parents, Betty and Bob Dorr.  They treated us to dinner on Friday evening.  We received a sad email from them on Sunday.  Their son, a gay man who was bipolar, was found dead in his Chicago apartment.  Our hearts and thoughts and prayers go out to them at this difficult time. 


Roby, Dotti, and Rylee Joy with Adam

A young man named Adam came up to us after the PFLAG meeting in Omaha, and asked if he could take a stack of the Stand UP Speak OUT Wind Changer handouts back to Lincoln with him.  He told us he was very inspired by our talk, and that he felt he had new ways in which to talk with people.  Dotti asked, "What brought you to PFLAG from Lincoln, Nebraska?"  He said, "My mother is here and has a gay brother, and wants to know how to be more supportive.  That's my uncle."

At The Reading Grounds bookstore, there were 63 people in attendance.  The energizing questions ran the gamut.  Afterwards, we met Jim, the publisher of Jimmy Creech’s first book about his church trial in the United Methodist Church.  We had great conversations with a diverse group of people afterwards, such as Dominique, a transwoman and a local minister who had been a UCC pastor, and is now a Disciples of Christ minister. 

(L-R) Angie & Cindy (owners of The Reading Grounds) Dotti, Rylee Joy & Roby

We received the following email from Cindy, President and co-owner of The Reading Grounds: 

I have told three of your stories to various people, and they have said that it made them think about how they see others who are different.  I just cannot imagine the difference you are making out there on your year-long journey, Roby & Dotti. If you’ve made this much of an impact on us – I know that surely you are making an impact on many, many others. THANK YOU. Thank you for taking your time and money and doing this. It IS making a difference. Hopefully, others like me will be passing along your words about engaging with others, and the benefits of your journey will continue to grow well after you’ve gone home.


And, funny, but the bracelet is quite the symbol on my wrist! I proudly wear it to remind me to be authentic about who I am. I just had to tell you this, because I cannot stop thinking about what I’ve learned as a result of your visit…hmmmm, and I didn’t think that I would be the one to gain so much—I thought it would be the “questioning” audience!


You’ve awakened the activist in me that has been just under the surface. Thank you.

From Nebraska, we headed to Ft. Collins, where PFLAG welcomed us to their annual picnic.  All all-time high of 51 people attended this meeting. 

Afterwards, Forrest and Donna Swal wrote, saying...

Great program in Ft. Colins. Our daughter, Maria, managed our trip to the west coast so that we would have her back in Ft. Collins for the PFLAG program---for her and for us! We are among the organizers of the Lawrence-Topeka PFLAG chapter. The Ft. Colins PFLAG program with the two of you was the highlight of our three weeks! Bless you both!

Julie and Craig Wilson, proud parents of a gay son, Jerod, as well as a heterosexual son, Brett, provided their wonderful home as refuge from the road. 


Some of the Ft. Collins PFLAG group

Julie reminds us of Lib Rumfelt, co-president of PFLAG Atlanta, in that both have an EXTENSIVE GLBT library of books in their home.  These two ladies should meet and have a book exchange!  It is so heart warming to meet allies who are doing such intense study in order to learn more about people who have a different sexual orientation than them.


(L-R) Craig, Julie, Dotti, Roby & Rylee Joy

We met Tim Sagen and Ken Hoole at this meeting.  They just celebrated their 39th anniversary.  They defy several myths about male couples.  #1, they have a long term relationship, and #2, they met in a bar in Seattle, proving that you can meet a good partner in a bar.  After two years together, Tim was relocated to Ft. Collins, and Ken followed.  

(L-R) Ken & Tim

Dotti asked them their secret for a lasting relationship.  They replied, “Just caring for one another.”  How simple and how true.  If our genuine care and concern for one another is the foundation for each action in our relationship, our actions will match our words.

Ken and Tim remind us a lot of Gary & Frank, who we stayed with in Winston-Salem, NC.  Gary and Frank have been together for 42 years.  They also offered us a nugget, an insight into what makes long term relationship work.

Gary & Frank

They said their agreement is that if one of them ever develops a friendship with a third person and that friendship begins to interfere with their relationship, which is their priority, then the relationship with that third person is severed.  They realize that another person’s negative impact is not worth risking their relationship.

These couples defy another myth, the one that says gay men are promiscuous. Ken and Tim & Gary and Frank inspire us!  They are like the older individuals/couples and/or ministers, such as Bernie and Rosalind Turner, Roberta and Harold Kreider, Eva, & Lucille and Melvin Wheatley, who defy the myth about people who are older and/or ministers not being supportive and celebratory of GLBT persons. 

That is the problem with myths and caricatures, whether it is about our community, or about others with whom we differ.  When we meet one person that fits into the stereotype, or justifies a certain myth, we sometimes paint caricatures of the individual and lump them into a category, rather than seeing them as “one person,” and not a representative for an entire group.

In one of the Page-A-Day excerpts in Lars Clausen's book, Straight Into Gay America, some poignant words were spoken…

"I'm finally who I am," Danielle says, and words echo in my ears, God's self-introduction to Moses. "I am who I am."

"Death and resurrection?" I hate to use this tired language anymore, but Danielle nods; she knows what these words mean.

"It really is death and resurrection. I lost myself completely to become who I was all along."

These words resonate with us at this point in our journey.   Proceeding from Ft. Collins on our way to Albuquerque, we pushed past our resistance and stopped in Colorado Springs for the night, parking at the Hilton Garden Hotel across the street from Focus on the Family. 


In the three weeks since we were in Colorado Springs with Soulforce, we have had time to come face to face with death and resurrection within our own personal relationship, confirming what we have said all along…this journey is about our own transformation.  We didn’t know what course that transformation would take, just as we didn’t know what our journey would look like.  What we did know was our intention…we were taking this journey, and we knew that our lives would never be the same. 


Dotti: Parking in the back of the hotel, I viewed the parking area as “Holy ground,” because it represents bringing Roby and me back to wholeness.  That is the essence of death and resurrection that can be offered on a daily basis…this “holy spirit” restores our souls, even as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. My minds reels as I grasp for spiritual presence…I fear no evil, for God is with me.


Melvin Wheatley, a former United Methodist Bishop, wrote in Beyond Acceptance, offering words that examine the crux of sexual orientation as a mysterious gift, and how that gift can either empower us or be abused by us. 

"I am an enthusiastically heterosexual male.  Is my heterosexuality a virtue?  A sign of righteousness?  Either an accomplishment or a victory of some kind on my part?  Of course not.  I had nothing whatsoever to do with my being heterosexual.  It is a mysterious gift of God's grace communicated through an exceedingly complex set of chemical, biological, chromosomal, hormonal, environmental factors--totally outside of my control.  My heterosexuality is a gift--neither a virtue nor a sin.


What I do with my heterosexuality, however, is my personal, moral, and spiritual responsibility.  My behavior as a heterosexual, may therefore, be very sinful--brutal, exploitative, selfish, promiscuous, superficial.  My behavior as a heterosexual, on the other hand, may be beautiful--tender, considerate, loyal, other-centered, profound.


Precisely the same distinction between being a heterosexual and behaving as a heterosexual applies to homosexual persons, unless you and I are to be guilty of that lowest blow of all, and that is to work by double standards. 


Homosexuality, quite like heterosexuality, is neither a virtue nor an accomplishment.  It is a mysterious gift of God's grace communicated through an exceedingly complex set of chemical, biological, chromosomal, hormonal, environmental factors--totally outside of my homosexual friend's control.  His or her homosexuality is a gift--neither a virtue nor a sin.  What one does with one's homosexuality, however, is one's personal, moral, and spiritual responsibility. 


Behavior as a homosexual, may therefore, be very sinful--brutal, exploitative, selfish, promiscuous, superficial.  Behavior as a homosexual, on the other hand, may be beautiful--tender, considerate, loyal, other-centered, profound.


With this interpretation of the mystery that must be attributed to sexual orientation, both heterosexual and homosexual, I clearly do not believe that homosexuality is a sin." 

Thanks for the reminder, Melvin!   As a minister, Melvin (age 91) and his wife, Lucile (age 89) are people of faith who were way ahead of their time.  We relish Melvin's words, and re-commit to living out the gift of our sexual orientation in tender, considerate, loyal, other-centered, and profound ways.  You have allowed us to rekindle the essence of our relationship through your wisdom.


We don't have a picture of Melvin, but here's one of Lucile with us
(L-R) Dotti, Lucile & Roby


We have named Melvin and Lucile our most recent Stand UP Speak OUT Wind Changers.  They have been creating the wind for those who hold up their finger, checking the wind before deciding how they think, for over 30 years.  Their modeling should never be forgotten, for it took place in a time when there were few clear voices speaking on our behalf.


Melvin’s words remind us that our marriage ceremony was only a symbol of our marriage commitment, but is not to be mistaken for our commitment.


The analogy is that if you go to a restaurant, receive a menu, and then proceed to eat the menu rather than ordering your meal, your dining experience will be rather hollow.  Why?  You will not have engaged all of your senses through the seeing, smelling, and tasting of the actual meal that offers nutrition and sustenance. 


In other words, only the two of us can live out the commitment that our marriage ceremony represents.  We have the opportunity to offer the gift of who we are through all of our senses…those of hearing & listening, seeing, smelling, touching and tasting the fruit of one another. 


Our hope and dream is that we share our senses that can daily lead to a deepening of intimacy, of opening ourselves up to risks, of being vulnerable with one another, and of learning to live with undefended love.


In looking for a picture of Melvin, Roby came across a fantastic article, "Is Homosexuality a Sin," on the PFLAG Atlanta website. It began this way...


Many families have difficulty accepting the sexual orientation of their gay, lesbian and bisexual members. They believe that homosexuality - loving someone of the same gender - is contrary to God's will. This article intends to collect answers from authoritative sources to questions most commonly asked by parents.

Our purpose: 

  1. To learn how religious experts in the field answer questions frequently asked by families and friends of gays and lesbians.   
  2. To share these answers with gays and lesbians, their parents and friends, with religious leaders, policy makers, teachers, counselors, judges, physicians, and with all those who interact with our gay and lesbian family members. 
  3. To serve as a resource for those who would like to read more about this topic or wish to join a religious group for gays and lesbians in their area.

What questions did we ask?

  1. In your personal opinion, does God regard homosexuality as a sin?
  2. In your personal opinion, do the Scriptures object to homosexuality?
  3. In your personal opinion, does God approve of two gay or lesbian individuals pledging their love to each other in a religious ceremony and raising children who may be born or adopted by them.

Whom did we survey?
To find answers to these questions, we contacted prominent religious leaders across the country. We are aware that the three questions we asked are controversial. Where discussing homosexuality, the views of priests, ministers, rabbis, and theology scholars may differ widely even among those who belong to the same faith, denomination, parish or synagogue.


Click here to find out the results of this article from this diverse panel.  Bishop Melvin Wheatly and Rev. Dr. Bill Stayton (one of our spiritual advisors) are two people on that panel.


Roby: Having come from a Christian background, I don’t NEED the affirmation of ministers, but it sure feels good when it is there.  When the predominant message I received was that homosexuality is a sin and that you can’t be both gay and Christian, the words of a minister like Melvin Wheatley and Bill Stayton would have offered me hope.

My experience in attending Torchbearer Bible School in Holsby Brunn, Sweden, as well as Torchbearer Bible School in England, only reinforced those teachings.  After speaking we Ft. Collins, we traveled from Loveland, CO (where our hosts live) to Estes Park, to visit Ravencrest Chalet, another branch of Torchbearer Bible School.  Having heard so much about the center, and knowing that The Major lives there with his wife, Joan (Major Ian Thomas is founder of the school), I wanted to visit.  



Ravencrest Chalet


It was 1988-89 that I attended Torchbearer Bible School in both Holsbybrunn, Sweden, and Carnforth, Lancashire, England.  In 1991-92, I went back to work on staff at Holsbybrunn.  During my time on staff, I met with a Christian counselor who was also a teacher in the Torchbearer system.  I met with him about my sexual orientation, feeling conflicted due to the teachings of the church.  This man, who I have a lot of admiration for, asked about my relationship with my father, and my childhood, and suggested that parental involvement or lack thereof, influences one’s “choice” to be gay.  He also encouraged me to do whatever it takes to walk away from homosexuality and to make a conscious choice to be heterosexual.  I took his advice, and tried to be heterosexual, dating men occasionally, only to be left feeling more and more miserable and disconnected.  I now know that, contrary to what this counselor suggested, and Dr. James Dobson teaches through Love Won Out Conferences (click here for our synopsis of going inside a conference in Seattle in June, 2005), our parents don’t make us gay, and in fact, pressuring one to try and change one’s sexual orientation is toxic and psychologically destructive.  The attempt by Torchbearer Bible School and James Dobson, Focus on the Family, and their Love Won Out Conference was to make me "ex-gay." 


I wrote Ravencrest before visiting to see if there were any lectures taking place which we could attend, joining the students and staff. We didn't hear from the registrar, Dianne Sharman, until the day after we visited.  I wrote back to her, saying that we had met David in the office, and shared my story with her.  I have written several emails to staff people with whom I worked while in Sweden with Torchbearer Bible School. Thus far, I have received no response once I have shared my truth.


When I wrote Diane, I ended it like this...