Proud to be an ally; not proud that it is necessary

It’s Pride Week in Helsinki. My husband and I will be there to march and show our support and allegiance with not just Finnish but all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) individuals during a week we’d rather be celebrating marriage equality for all. Alas, Finland has yet to adopt a measure which would allow all couples regardless of their genders to marry legally.

Now, more than ever, it seems crucial that we do something, anything, to show our solidarity with all LGBTI communities.

We unequivocally support everyone’s right to love who they want and to show that love for one another openly and without fear of being persecuted. Love is love. It’s a thing of beauty in its many varied forms, shades and expressions. And, the world and all of us could benefit immensely from a bit more love and a lot less contention and hate.

But, as we in much of Western Europe and North America works towards marriage equality, LGBTI communities in places like Uganda, Jamaica and Russia among far too many others face situations much worse and far more dangerous. The reality in these contexts for individuals suspected let alone known to be gay, lesbian or transgender is akin to what I’d imagine is hell on earth. There is an element of extreme hatred towards LGBTI communities, where violence and criminal prosecution for simply existing are daily realities. And, yes, LGBTI individuals fear for their lives.

What does this have to do with me? Well, my fellow countrymen are complicit in creating these realities. It goes without saying that I do not support their actions nor their efforts and will do what I can to call them to account.

God Loves Uganda tells the story of how American evangelicals, primarily those affiliated with the International House of Prayer (a more sinister use of the acronym IHOP), work to ‘spread the good news’ to Ugandans (and others further afield). Unfortunately, rather than spreading messages of loving they neighbour, the growth of evangelicalism in Uganda seems to be fanning the flames of hatred and bigotry.

Essentially, interpretations of Biblical dogma legitamize and grant licence to allow hate, violence and in extreme cases death to individuals identified as LGBTI or their allies. During a two-conference lead by Americans in Kampala in 2009, my fellow countrymen provided justification and fodder which ultimately resulted in a law which would make homosexuality a criminal offence.

It’s sick. And, quite frankly, the worst sort of application of religion possible. In all honesty, I’m struggling to describe the film in a way that isn’t just as hate-filled as the rhetoric it captures.

Perhaps it is because it is Pride Week here that we feel compelled to act and even more motivated to voice our allegiance. As an American and as an American who grew up in a relatively conservative Christian household, I find myself particularly proud to be an ally. I am not, however, proud that it is necessary.



Random rabbit

A random rabbit found in a shop doorway on Midsummer's Eve

A random rabbit perched on a shop’s door knob on Midsummer’s Eve

It is hard to walk anywhere in the Helsinki area and not find a random object propped up in a way that it’s owner will find it. Each of these items inspires its own story and I often wonder how it got there and whether it will be found by whomever lost it.

Throughout the winter months, these items mostly consist of random mittens and gloves positioned on tree branches and other pointy objects along the various pathways for easy spotting. In summer, objects tend to be a bit more unusual—pacifiers, eye glasses and sun glasses, umbrellas, etc—and harder to spot. But, not this wonderfully bright and cheerful guy.

Yesterday, as we made our way through an eerily deserted city centre, we spied this random rabbit. Propped up on the door handle of one of the many closed-up and empty stores, he looked rather cheerful and oddly protective. In some ways, it was as if he completely belonged there.

Perched in the doorway, I imagined him greeting passersby as he watched what little foot traffic there was, reminding everyone that, despite the dark clouds and brisk temps, it was indeed Midsummer’s Eve. ‘Yes, yes. We are closed until Monday. But, have a lovely holiday weekend! It’s all downhill from here, folks!’

Who knows if he belongs to someone attached to the store. Most likely, some child chucked him from their stroller and will be gutted to have lost his/her beloved bunnie. Perhaps, later that evening, the frazzled parent of the distraught child retraced their steps and delightfully found him. Child will be happy and consoled and parents will be relieved. I hope this was the case, for the sake of both the parent and the child, as well as for the bunnie.

If not, here’s hoping that this lovely creature remained protected in his little doorway, and eventually finds his way back to his family and home. Should he be adopted by another family, may they all be even more delighted than those who lost him.

I’d love it even more if next time I’m in that neighbourhood, he’s still sat there, silently, cheerfully and brightly watching the world pass him by. Wouldn’t that be something?


The persistence of remembrance

It’s been a long, long while. My silence on the page has not equated with a silence in the mind.

This April marked 10 years since my last visit to my homeland and what was once home in that most abstract sense. So, so much has happened in that time on both sides of the pond and in both of the worlds my life now straddles. In short, life happened, both for me and for those who remained ‘there’.

Whilst, physically, I occupy a space far removed from what was once and in some ephemeral sense will always be my home, the persistence of that life and all the various actors in it pulls and tugs and in some ways torments me. As much as I have come to love my European life, I long for the quiet familiar of people and things I’ve known in the way you know a crack in the ceiling which has existed for as long as you can remember. Mostly, I miss individuals and the moments shared with them.

The wonder that is the virtual world, which is all too real today as technology outpaces our comprehension of it, has made connecting with and communicating vastly easier and instantaneous. Yet, face-to-face sit downs over coffee, tea, wine, bourbon and beer (not all at once, mind — the particular bevie depends on the person, circumstance and time of day, naturally), coupled with cuisine that is thoroughly representative of a country known for its adolescent gluttony are what I miss most. Seeing the gentle (and perhaps glaring) reality checks that time has indeed passed up close and personal feels somehow necessary. Being able to hear and feel an old friend’s voice and silent breath seems priceless at the moment. And, yes, perhaps finally and definitively laying to rest a few ghosts from days’ past has weighed (at times, heavily) on my mind.

Perhaps this longing and need have made finding my voice and putting down those thoughts in some sort of coherent mess so tedious as of late. Sure, life and with that I mean work has occupied much of that mental space normally reserved for the cathartic purging of the mind. But, carving out time to process the beauty, joy, mind-bendingly absurd, action-inducing rage and mundane helps clarify where I need to go next, what I need to ‘focus’ on and where most of my energy should be spent. It helps highlight what is important and what is essentially trivial non-sense. And, it reminds me of just how far I’ve come and how much I want to still accomplish on this crazy journey.

Still, memory is a funny thing.

I think it was my first trip to the UK when I learned of the Remembrance Poppy. When I see poppies now, I remember. I remember those who I cannot be with for whatever reason. Lately, I am remembering the home that was, whilst also realising how fortunate I am to have found a new one. I wonder if that persistent tug of war between the two will ever ease.

In many ways, I hope it doesn’t.

The peace of a poppy

The peace of a poppy