Monday, November 4, 2013

Coming Out In Maine

But even the hairs on your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. -Luke 12:7

At the Maine Diocesan Convention there were many points of discussion. One side conversation had nothing to do with diocesan business but concern over the Gubernatorial race. In the past few years Maine has fought two hard campaigns around marriage equality and finally has secured legal safety for all Maine families. For myself, and many others who put literal sweat and blood into that striving for justice, the pain caused by the vitriol brought against us by opponents to equality is still quite fresh. We talked about the upcoming Gubernatorial race and wondered if it would be another campaign year filled with vitriol against the LGBTQ community.

We worried because we knew that the front runner, Mike Michaud, is gay. We worried because we know that many in politics are not concerned with what a person does with who they are but instead on manipulating the fears people have of those who are different from them. We worried for the fragile members of the LGBTQ community throughout Maine who might have to endure another electoral season where an aspect of their personhood was verbally abused while key issues about the health and safety of the state were ignored. We worried about when and how this issue, which should not be an issue, would break.

Earlier today Mike Michaud breached the issue and dispelled the mounting worries. He also marked himself as a model for leadership in the LGBTQ community above and beyond partisanship. His words and actions mark a new space we are entering into as a community. Our politics are no longer about Gay Men, or other members of our community, becoming elected officials but about people up for election being members of our community. His campaign will continue this shift in the entire nature of our political conversation.

We needed Harvey Milk to be the first out Gay Man to be elected to a position. His call to come out of our closets and make people aware that members of the LGBTQ are our neighbors, our coworkers, our family members was pivotal. Our genders and sexualities are essential aspects of our being that can neither be repressed nor be objects of societal shame. Naming our created selves and recognizing we are beloved is an essential aspect of becoming a whole and healthy individual. Front runners like Harvey Milk called all of society into this naming. This is, however, only the first step.

The next step is integrating what we have named into our whole story and expect society to recognize us for the entirety of who we are, not just our gender and sexuality. Many of our elected officials have been calling us to this for decades. The leadership of Tammy Baldwin, US Senator from Wisconsin, has been an essential part of this narrative. Mike Michaud now brings this narrative to Maine.

Mike Michaud is many things. He is a Mainer, a Franko-American, a mill worker from a mill working family, a democrat, a gay man, a brother, a son. There are tons of stereotypes and societal projections around each of these things... but there is only one individual, Mike Michaud, who is all these things in the specific way that Mike Michaud is. He is calling the electorate of Maine to consider what he has done with all that he is and not limit him to one projected stereotype or another. In so doing he calls each of us, LGBTQ or not, to consider the same about ourselves and all those around us.

Jesus tells us that God has counted all the hairs on our head. Mainer hairs, mill worker hairs, gay hairs, Franko-American hairs, whatever our hairiness might be it is a God counted hairiness. It is a hairiness that is more valuable than many sparrows. It is a hairiness for which God entered into all the oppression, hate, brokenness, and pain that the world can give out so that we may all find wholeness and integration for ourselves and our neighbors.

Mike Michaud is a leader modeling this integration and wholeness of self in his campaign. Let us pray that all our leaders, regardless of political affiliation, will come to lead us likewise.

-Benjamin Garren, Integrity Contributor

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