Bringing A la Familia to the Lone Star State
September 23, 2013 by Guest contributor
Post submitted by Lisbeth Melendez Rivera, A la Familia National Coordinator
Texas is a land full of contradictions. Mind blowing, head snapping, belly full of laughs, eyes full of tears contradictions. While we have seen state elected officials turn a blind eye to the needs of women, children, LGBT people and those economically disadvantaged, we have personally met individuals and communities with so much heart and compassion that it takes your breath away.
These are the folks who bring us to Texas. Parents of LGBT Latin@s who struggle to defend their children, but feel attacked, overwhelmed and discarded by unwelcoming congregations who call their children abominations. Congregations struggling to become culturally competent when said parents come to their doors seeking a more welcoming, faithfully compatible place of worship. We come to Texas because HRC’s A la Familia Project can teach parents how to respond to those people of faith who insist on using the good book as a tool of hate instead of an instrument of love We come to Texas because A la Familia can help congregations offer a more suited service to those seeking spiritual refuge. Finally, we come to Texas because we know once these congregations are free from such prejudices, they will fight for all of our freedoms. As I journeyed through Eastern Texas, all three of these situations were evident to me.
For example, I was privileged to meet a Lutheran pastor, Carl, who tenderly described locking eyes with a Catholic Priest, Luis, when he walked into an Immigration Coalition Meeting. It was love at first sight. In the 70s, such looks meant being defrocked by both denominations, and defrocked they were as they refused to give up a life of love for each other and for God in exchange for remaining men of a cloth they no longer fit. Thirty five years later, Luis passed and Carl dedicated his faith activist work to his beloved. Carl is white and Lutheran, but Luis was first generation Mexican, with roots in southeast TX. Carl still visits Luis' family as they have become his to love and cherish.
I met a San Antonio mother of a lesbian, a gay, and a bisexual child, who proudly accepts her children as gifts and loves seeing them blossom as young leaders in the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and as Latin@ youth leaders in general! All she asks is that they fulfill their potential, graduate college (the firsts in their family to do so) and go forth to fight for justice and equality for all!
Finally, I left Texas after conducting an A la Familia Dialogue in Corpus Christi where the conversations were hard as the participants explored memories of rejection and journeys into the wilderness as they ran from unwelcoming houses of worship. But participants were also filled with love as their families eventually strengthened their ties and they found new spiritual houses to call home. I was told when leaving: THE VALLEY! So back we will go further into Texas, into the Rio Grande Valley where many parents still wonder why their LGBT children left, how the church will accept them for giving birth to a gay child, and if there is any hope for making their families whole again!
Change sometimes seems to happen swiftly, but it’s only because people have seeded, fed and nurtured the change. Here's to these seedlings growing to their full potential.