New Blog for SameSides!

theBestIsYetToComeIt’s just time.  Time to start a new blog for SameSides.

And it’s really exciting.

We aren’t closing shop on this one.  But we feel like we’ve exhausted all of the topics we can come up with, so we are branching out to focus on the topic that first got us to the place of our amicable divorce:  Devon coming out as a gay man to me, his straight wife.

I didn’t know that I had been living in a Mixed Orientation Marriage (MOM), but it was 10 years of marriage and 3 kids later that I found that out.  And it was a shock, to say the very least.

But we worked through it.  Sometimes I still find myself working through issues that stem from it, but it is so much easier now compared to the day of Devon’s Big Reveal.

There is a need in today’s world for people to find support and encouragement when they discover that their spouse is gay.  Even though more resources exist now than nearly a decade ago, it is still one of the most under-served populations of people involved in the lives of LGBTQIA communities.

Our personal story has a bigger layer to it than some others.  We had the added burden/issue of the Church’s view on homosexuality.

And the group of straight spouses that the Church affects is truly under-served in their Church communities.  Lots of hurt, lots of burdens laid, and more than their fair share of judgement can occur from the very people who claim to love them.

So, our new blog, called SameSides: Your Spouse is Gay. What Now? is meant to be a place of safety, love, support and encouragement for the straight spouse in a Mixed Orientation Marriage.  Come and join me and many others who have traveled that road and have turned something seemingly tragic into something that bloomed into beauty.

You’re going to be okay.  Move along your unique road at whatever pace you need to, but keep in mind that the best really is yet to come.

Love, Emily with The Reese’s and Their Pieces

Faith in the Church Slightly Restored

OnceUponATimeEvery few months or so, I take the time to re-read all of my writings on this blog.  From a selfish standpoint, I like to see how my writing has morphed and improved.  It has been exactly 2 years since the inception of this blog, when Devon and I were interviewed in Reuters regarding mistakes divorced people make.  After we were interviewed a few attorney friends of ours, who had been bugging me to start a blog about amicable divorce so they could link their clients to it, absolutely insisted that I do it.  So I did.  And it came together nicely with very little effort.

And then the Universe started taking glitter dumps on us.  Published articles, interviews, speaking engagements and people seeking a little advice from time to time.  It’s really cool to see bitter lemons being made into refreshing lemonade.

As I look back at our writings (Devon has contributed, too), I think that we have exhausted all the topics we can regarding amicable divorce and getting along with your ex.  Our blog has started to reflect more of our personal story regarding the LGBT community, exes coming out of the closet (known as Mixed Orientation Marriage or MOM), and the Church’s handling of these topics.  Getting through that stuff in our own personal lives shows the added layer of divorce, coming out and how the Church can really make heart-wrenching issues even more insurmountable.

I am preparing myself to start a new blog that is dedicated solely to the LGBT community, Mixed Orientation Marriages and the Church.  I need to stretch myself by tackling my own faith issues with the debris that was caused when my world crumbled, as many of those who were close to us (not all) simply let both Devon and me go from their lives who claimed to love as Jesus commanded us to do.  It was ugly.  It was hurtful.  And I’m not alone.

The inspiration behind me finally deciding to branch out from this blog came in the form of some information I received last night.  I have been waiting with bated breath for a few months for this news.DannysSonIsGayandtheChurchPastor Danny, whose teenage son came out of the closet, sought with all the strength he could muster to find a new way of handling homosexuality in the church.  And you know what?  So did his entire congregation, who were Southern Baptist affiliated.  It was scary.  It was stressful.  It caused factions.  I’m sure that relationships were severed, which can be heartbreaking.  But they chose to seek to understand as much as they could from both the and A and B sides.

And Love prevailed.

It is the first true example of change happening (that I have seen anyway) within the church body by listening, waiting, praying and truly grappling with the idea that being gay is NOT a choice, that scripture has been taken out of context, and that the command to love without strings attached cannot happen through ex-gay therapy or staying married to help the gay person go straight.

Score one for Love.

And now there is an excellent example for other churches to follow!

Who knows?  Maybe someday I will feel comfortable enough to step inside a Church again.  I’m not ready yet, but as people from within the walls of the Church decide to face their paradigms of thinking instead of rejecting anything that doesn’t jive with their ideas, there will rise a healthier Church;  one that Jesus would be proud of.

Kudos to you, Pastor Danny, your family, your son and your congregation for not allowing FEAR to lead you.  There is no place for fear in Love.  Facing the truth by looking through the monocle of Love produces beauty and healing.

There is no fear where love exists. Rather, perfect love banishes fear, for fear involves punishment, and the person who lives in fear has not been perfected in love.  1 John 4:18

thereisnofearinloveGotta love Love!  Change is possible.  It is happening now.

Here is the link to Pastor Danny’s open letter of explanation and the decision of his church.  You can also view a few videos pertaining to their process at that link.

Be on the lookout for my new blog site.  I think I’m gonna call it “SameSides:  Your Spouse is Gay.  What now?”

Love To You and Welcoming Change,

The Reese’s and Their Pieces

I wish I could somehow photoshop Felipe's head into this.  Hmm... Maybe it's time for a Rainbow Family Photo shoot?

I wish I could somehow photoshop Felipe’s head into this. Hmm… Maybe it’s time for a Rainbow Family Photo shoot?

 

Emily Spills the Deets

On stage for the Risk! Live Storytelling show in Reno

On stage for the Risk! Live Storytelling show in Reno.

I was given the privilege and honor of being chosen to tell my side of the story with Devon coming out.  We have written about some of the details of it through the Reno Tahoe Tonight magazine, through HuffPost and through this website.

When Devon first came out about 9 years ago, there was nothing as far as help for me, the spouse of a husband coming out.  Really, there still is very little help.  While I am currently writing a book about our lives during that time, the only thing I can do to help the spouse of the Mixed Orientation Marriage, is to encourage the other side that they WILL be okay.  It’s a tough burden to carry and by facing it head on in all of its intricacies, a person can and will come out on the other side to a Samesides life.

Below is the link to the recording of my experience on stage through “Risk! Live Storytelling”, which you can actually download for FREE through iTunes on their website.  My portion of the story is under “Live From Reno 2!” at about the 19:30 minute mark.  My segment has been moved since it came out on their website to the “Listen” menu option.  Click on the Live From Reno 2! link and forward to the 19:30 minute mark.

Much love and encouragement to all of you.  Life is good… now… because I chose to face the deep seeded paradigm that we lived our lives under.  Devon, thank you for coming out to me.  My kids, me… the WORLD is better for it.

Click here for Risk! Live Storytelling Website and the page where my episode is.  Don’t forget to forward to the 19:30 minute mark.

Love, The Reese’s and Their Pieces

Going All Papa Bear

This post is a follow up to my previous post titled Going All Momma Bear.

Polar bear (Ursus maritimus), Alaska.To sum it up, my middle daughter Kate did a wonderfully superb, intensely researched project for the National History Day Project.  Her project was titled AIDS: A Catalyst for the Human Rights Movement.  While the board and her research included a heavy mention of the gay community and how they were unfairly treated (including stellar interviews of big guns during the time of the pandemic), it in no way reflected JUST the gay community.  It included all people affected by AIDS: those who suffered through the disease, those who were in control and effected the spread and treatment of the disease, straight people who contracted HIV and those who helped ease the suffering of those dying from the pandemic.

She won the school competition.  She did not, however, win at the district GT level.  In fact, she got a 24 out of 40 which was absolutely ridiculous.  I need to stress that it isn’t that she lost.

It is the blatant bias and unprofessional attitudes and review from the two judges (one a teacher in the district and the other an attorney).  I will continue to keep them unnamed, for important reasons.  They simply serve as an example of the uninformed and willfully ignorant people out there who continue to exacerbate the lack of help PLWHIV/AIDS receive and those who still see the disease as a “gay” disease.

They needed to be called out and called to account, which we did.  Kate’s school, teachers and administration have been supportive, and we chose to directly address the judges instead of passing it off to the staff at her school.

Thank you to all of you for giving so much encouragement to Kate.  She has been on cloud nine since we got the word out!ThankYouPostItsThe judge’s response, particularly the male judge, completely missed the point of all of our legitimate concerns, nor did he address them.  He expressed his utter surprise at our letter.  He decided to point out how hard he works during the day and still takes the time to volunteer at events as a gesture of goodness (which we fully acknowledged and thanked him for in our original email to him).  He denied being biased in anyway, and instead used his profession as a way to tout that he knows his stuff and how to be unbiased.

And that was it.  Seriously.

So, while we could have dropped it, his response was not satisfactory at all.  Not even a little.

I am going to post here the email that we sent today as a way to hopefully educate those who might happen across this blog who may need a clearer picture of AIDS, the LGBTQ community and how bias, prejudice and injustice still rules the roost today.  Devon, you did such a wonderful job writing this, and there’s a good reason you are an excellent father and attorney.  Much love to you.

You go, Papa Bear!

youveGotMail

           Dear Mr. and Mrs. xxxxx,
 
Thank you for taking the time to respond to the concerns raised by Emily Reese’s earlier email.  Emily and I both apologize for any confusion about Mrs. xxxxx’s direct involvement in judging the participants; however, I am not confident that the email you sent, including xxxxx’s statement, was responsive.  I write in order to clarify several points and to make certain that you both understand the importance of Kate’s advocacy and our own response to xxxxx’s comments.
 
Bias is a difficult and complex issue.  Rarely do those with bias acknowledge that such exists.  Bias is an issue that both affects and effects multiple facets of our individual world views and how we interact with one another as human beings.  xxxxx’s response fails to meaningfully address this point and instead attempts to justify his criticisms of Kate’s project by arguing that he works as a public defender and was volunteering after putting in a full day at work.  This is non-responsive and analogous to those who say, “I’m not a racist, I have black friends”.  This is silly.
 
Kate’s topic was “AIDS: A Catalyst in the Human Rights Movement.” The topic you wrote down was “Aids and Gay Rights.”  This was the starting point for your comments.  This statement alone proves your bias.  There is a difference between those two topic statements.  HIV/AIDS does not, and has never, discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation.  HIV/AIDS is not a “Gay Rights” issue as you wrote.  HIV/AIDS is a human rights issue.  It is perhaps the most devastating health crisis in the past 30 years.  Kate’s board clearly stated the importance of this topic (recall that the NHD topic this year is “Rights and Responsibilities in History”) and its relevance to today:
 
“The AIDS epidemic is NOT over.  Today over 34 million people worldwide are infected with HIV/AIDS.  The same fight being fought in the 1980′s is still be waged today as many people lack adequate access to prevention, education, and medical treatment.  Worldwide efforts are lagging because their is still stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.  In spite of the decades of protests and medical advancements we are still looking for a cure.  Sometimes to win a battle you have to start a war.  ‘The condition is medical.  The solution is political.  AIDS is essentially a crisis of governance, of what governments do and do not do with their people.’”
 
From your comments and from your attempts to justify your actions you have proven your thinly disguised bias and have missed the point of Kate’s presentation in its entirety.  On a positive note, you have directly proven to Kate the importance of her project and her advocacy.  As parents and as citizens it is our responsibility to challenge your obvious bias and to educate others about the harm that such bias inflicts.  I recognize that judges for academic competitions are sometimes scarce; however, I would prefer judges who are not intellectually dishonest about their own obvious bias.  Subtle and ignored bias is often the most insidious form of intolerance.
 
Next, you wrote, “to (sic) dependent on interviews, need more primary research”.  A few things are worth noting in response.  First, Kate used nearly 50 different primary sources.  Can you seriously posit that she needed more research?  I challenge you to produce a student who offered more compelling and diverse research than Kate performed.  A primary source is defined as a document or physical object which was written or created during the time under study. These sources were present during an experience or time period and offer an inside view of a particular event. Some types of primary sources include:
  • ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS (excerpts or translations acceptable): Diaries, speeches, manuscripts, letters, interviews, news film footage, autobiographies, official records
  • CREATIVE WORKS: Poetry, drama, novels, music, art
  • RELICS OR ARTIFACTS: Pottery, furniture, clothing, buildings
Here, Kate explored books, magazines, medical journals, motion pictures, documentaries, music, internet based research and a number of other resources.  She did emphasize the three interviews she personally sought out, arranged, and recorded.  This is because the National History Day Project provides the following directive in regards to a thoughtful approach to the process:  “Every year National History Day frames students’ research within a historical theme. The theme is chosen for the broad application to world, national or state history and its relevance to ancient history or to the more recent past. This year’s theme is Rights and Responsibilities in History. The intentional selection of the theme for National History Day is to provide an opportunity for students to push past the antiquated view of history as mere facts and dates and drill down into historical content to develop perspective and understanding.”  Kate interviewed people because she knows that history is not “mere facts and dates”.  History is a living and breathing thing which requires more than a trip to the library in order to “drill down” and truly understand history.  As a fellow lawyer, I would have expected you to know the importance of interviews as a primary source and that you not rely on the “limited pre-event training” you received as your only means to evaluate the project participants.
 
In summary, I find your reply non-responsive and a further attempt to justify your obvious bias.  I do not expect or require a response.  I will discuss my concerns with the administrators and educators involved and leave it at that.  Our school, administrators, and teachers have been incredibly supportive and their efforts are to be applauded.
 
Sincerely,
Devon T. Reese, Esq.
We love you, Kate.  Momma and Papa Bear have your back!
KatesFinalBoard

Going All Momma Bear

Kate’s National History Day Project has become the catalyst behind a “strongly written letter” that I sent to her teacher to pass along to those who need to be corrected. Her teacher rocks. All of her teachers do. But the competition on the district level was completely unfair and biased for Kate.mommabear2

Should she have won? Maybe. The other board she was competing against was good, so I don’t want to take anything away from the winner. The fact that she didn’t win isn’t the issue. It was the blatant bias that was used to judge her board that caused Devon and I to stand up for our wonderful middle child.

Kate’s topic was how AIDS affected the Human Rights Movement. She interviewed three people. One was a gay man who was around during the pandemic in the early ’80s. He actually helped start ACT UP! as an advocacy group. The other gentleman was one of the original videographers of the actual Dallas Buyer’s Club that was recently made into a movie. The third person was my friend Kelly Frizzell, who saw first hand the death and discrimination as it unfolded. She helped those dying from AIDS through home hospice care. Kate sought after the Big Guns of the time. Very few students did that.

She also had a plethora of primary sources, besides her interviews. She addressed the theme of the competition and exceeded standards set forth for the project.

KateNHD

This was her project before it was totally finished. The stuff she added on top of what she already had was incredible!

And then the judging occurred last week at Mendive. I will not reveal the names of the two judges who scored her project. But I know them. So does Devon. They are what I would label as “fundamentalist Christians.” Also, as a related side note, their daughter was in the competition. I have NO problem with any of these things.

But I do now.

After finding out the questions they asked during the judging of the project with Kate, I knew she was not judged fairly, and this momma bear isn’t going to let it slide.

The first question one of the judges asked was: “Doesn’t this have more to do with a lifestyle than a human rights issue?”

Go ahead and guess my thoughts on this. “Lifestyle?” ONLY Christians use this term, which insinuates that being gay is a choice and a sin. They were unable to make the connection between AIDS and Human Rights because of their beliefs. Kate didn’t stand a chance.

The other two issues with the judging were simply icing on the cake. “Too many interviews… not enough variety of primary sources.” (Not true. Obviously they didn’t read her annotated bibliography nor looked at the board.) I’m sorry? First hand accounts through interviews are THE top primary source a person can use. She had others, but getting DOCKED for this? B.S. The last and final straw was when they asked: “What does this have to do with today?” Well, they didn’t read the board. (See the picture below.) She got docked on her evaluation because they DIDN’T read the board. Here’s what they wrote on the eval: “She could answer the questions – but information was not included on the board.”

She ended up getting a 24 out of 40. B. Friggin’. S.

Kate knew exactly where they were coming from. She is smart. And sensitive. She took a few of her anonymous peer evaluations in stride, knowing that their comments were coming from immature students who were likely spouting what their parents say at home (example: “Homos deserve to get AIDS!”). What is reprehensible is that two ADULTS showed Kate very clearly that her life, her family, her project, her caring about how AIDS affected the Human Rights Movement… was dismissed and unfairly judged. Kate knew that these two adults were biased from the git go, and that this topic affects her on a personal level.

These judges KNOW that Kate has two gay dads and me, her staunchest ally.

She gets to enter the state competition anyway. We have to pay an entry fee. No big deal. But I will NOT allow to have someone with such an obvious bias be a judge of her board. They can have their beliefs. But they need to check them at the door and be FAIR when judging. Period.

I want those two adults to apologize for marginalizing Kate’s topic. Kate is a great kid with a huge heart and knows injustice when she sees it. She KNEW why they gave her low marks.

I let things slide all the time. I pick my battles. This is one that I am willing to fight.

Love, Momma BearwhyitmatterstodayApril 6, 2014… Update regarding Kate’s project and how it was judged:

We finally received a reply to the email that we sent to the judges regarding their poor and biased judging.

I was wrong on ONE thing. The woman that judged the board. It was not the woman I remember. For that I humbly apologize. But the man who judged the board… I was correct about. However, the woman who DID judge the board was also a teacher and should have judged Kate’s board better… therefore, all of my core objections still stand.

The response was exactly what I thought they would say: “I judged fairly, non-biased and according to the rubric.” He puffed himself up with his professional qualifications and made it seem as though he was a gift to the community for volunteering his time.

Whatever.

As in, his question to Kate, the judges inability to read her friggin’ board and their inability to understand what a primary source is still stands.

I don’t know if we’re even going to respond back. I need to think about if it is worth it. Someone like that male judge will never think he was wrong. But the fact still stands that there is no way his bias didn’t come into play when the first question out of his mouth was: “Isn’t this more of a lifestyle issue than Human Rights issue?”

He shouldn’t have asked that question. Period.

This learning experience is a bunch of stuff. Here are the main things that I think are most important: 1) Don’t be afraid to call someone out when there is injustice and 2) Just because we call someone out does not mean they will change… and most of the time we simply have to accept it. 3) People can be mean and stupid and ignorant and so prideful that they can’t admit they are wrong or their whole world will crumble… which is just too difficult for them to face. We did what we needed to do and we’re letting it go. And it’s okay to do that sometimes.
Hopefully at the state level her NHD project will be judged fairly and thoroughly. If she is meant to win, she will. If not, Kate is going to look back on this time in her life and know that it played an important part in who she becomes… both professionally and personally.
Our lives do NOT suck.
Love, Momma Bear
Further UPDATE:  Read the latest post after this one titled Going All Papa Bear to see our response.  It needed to be done and now the Big Gun, Devon, confronts the judge because his reply was so insulting to Kate and all people who are affected by HIV/AIDS.  Go Papa Bear, go!

Fred Phelps and The Sorry Buts

I have said some pretty harsh things about Fred Phelps in the last several years.

Some of those words may have been deserved.Westboro Baptist Church Case to be Heard by Supreme CourtWhile I can’t take them back, and I don’t really want to, because he represented to me the opposite of my own experience with Devon coming out of the closet and the injustice done in God’s name toward lovely LGBT people, I find myself thinking a little differently this morning.

My initial reaction to all of the reports about his impending death and possibly unconfirmed details spoken by one of the many estranged offspring he had, was understandably:  “Good Riddance!”  However a good night’s sleep before commenting on it has led me to feel that this is not what I know I should be thinking.  I have to choose to think differently… and maybe my heart will follow.

I used to think somewhat like him myself, though not quite as harsh.  But the slippery slope of his thinking was real.  I could have been just like him.  Seriously.

What I want to say is that my hope for him during this time is that he can find some peace.  Everyone deserves the chance to change hate to love.  I was given that chance in the most awkward of circumstances that changed my life forever, and I am profoundly grateful for it.beAtPeaceWithEveryoneWill he change?  I don’t know.  I have my doubts, but I know that God works through a humble and contrite heart.  Even if this change happens with his last breath, I will take it.  I will forgive.  And you know what?  I need to work at forgiving anyway, even if he does not change.  That is REALLY tough.  I know he cannot undo all that he has done, but none of us can.  We cannot change our mistakes.  We cannot make amends for everything.  We can try, but asking someone to forgive us puts our lives at the mercy of others.  It takes our choice of asking for forgiveness and places our very lives into the hands of another.  But we must do it anyway, even if they don’t forgive.  I am reminded of one of my favorite verses often when I find myself having to ask for someone’s forgiveness: If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18).

It’s a beautiful verse.  I have shared this with others in conversation, but never in writing.  When Devon and I first had babies, I remember us deciding that we would use the words “Will you forgive me for _____” instead of the words “I’m sorry.”  The reason for this is because “sorry” is used so flippantly by many, and it really doesn’t help us to own the very thing that we did to wrong another person. I'mSorryWillYouForgiveMeSo, when my own kids were little, they learned quickly that saying “sorry” was not in our vocabulary.  We trained them early on to say:  “Will you forgive me for [being disrespectful, being deceitful, being... whatever the specific behavior was]?”  This helped us to not have the “I’m sorry, but…” which really doesn’t make us own our hurt toward another, but shows that we have some sort of excuse.  That’s not being sorry.  That’s not having a contrite and humble heart.

Every once in awhile, our kids would say the right words, but we knew their hearts weren’t humble.  It’s pretty easy to tell when your kids are sincere or not.  So, we would say, “I know you want to ask for forgiveness, but I can tell your heart isn’t in it.  Go ahead and come and find me when your heart is truly humble.”

It worked every time.

I chose to also do this with my students.  Let me tell you, the first few times they have me explain to them this concept, each of them felt VERY uncomfortable.  But as they bought into it, you could really see a change in their future behaviors.  I’m telling you, saying “Will you forgive me for ____” causes a person to own their stuff for REALS.

So, I’m hoping that my own heart will change toward Fred Phelps.  I was given the chance at being forgiven 70 times 7 times.  Even if he doesn’t say:  “Will you forgive me for all of the hurt and devastation I caused the LGBT community for the last several decades?” I still need to do my best at being at peace with everyone.  Fred must face his own demons.  I hope that he, with his last breath, will say the words that I had my children say.  I hope that he hears the verse “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

It’s a great verse to live by.  I am thankful that I had the opportunity to change.  I must afford Fred the same, even if my feelings don’t match my actions and desires.broken-heartI must forgive.  If I do not, I am simply carrying around bitterness that does me no good.  And it will spill onto others, like my own children and my students.

I will have none of the “Sorry Buts” floating around in my heart, mind and spirit.  Life is good, people.  While I understand the feelings toward Fred that are flying around out there, I must choose to look forward and forgive, and wait for my feelings to match my actions.

A contrite heart.  May we all experience it for ourselves and forgive those who ask for forgiveness with humility.

Love, Emily

SorryHurtInEyes

March: A Month of Awesomeness

marchmadnessMarch is quite a doozy of a month in my world.  Here’s the cool stuff that March entails:

1) It’s my birthday on March 12th and this year I turned 40.  The funny thing about birthdays is that I’m TERRIBLE at remembering other people’s birthdays.  I’ve been known to almost forget my kids’ birthdays, and have completely blown off my best friend’s birthday before.  However, when it comes to mine, I expect a month of celebrations.  Selfish?  Yep.  Shameless?  Absolutely.happybirthdaycupcakes2)  March is National Women’s History Month.  I love empowering women. WeCanDoItWonderwoman

3)  March Madness is in full swing.  Love me some basketball!basketball_hoop-9774) March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month.  Hey, I have Colon Cancer for a second time and I’m all about spreading awareness.  Get your bums checked, people!  The procedure is no big deal at all and early detection is the best way to prevent Colon Cancer.  Don’t wait ’til you’re 50.  That’s ridiculous.  Colon Cancer is on the rise and I got diagnosed at 37… With no real high risk of family history.Blue-ribbon25)  Sunday, March 23rd, is my big Wig Out! event.  It is an event that will help raise funds for my Three Little Birds and me during my time of being laid off from work due to chemo treatments.  It’s going to be a blast and I want all of my friends and family to attend.  The following website is a way for you to participate if you aren’t in the Reno area but would like to help out: Emily’s Gofundme Page.  On the site, you can catch up on my story and what our needs are.  Please spread the word.  To everyone.  Cancer does not discriminate and the disease can really cause hardship.  I am confident that my needs will be met, but I’m not afraid to ask for help.  The need is real and I intend, like I always do, to help others in the future.catinwigMarch rocks.  I love my life.  I hope you love yours, too.

Live Life, Love Life, Impact Others,

Emily and My Three Little BirdsEMILY'S FLYER-1