Early on Friday morning, I depart for the Quaker Midwinter gathering, which bears a particularly unwieldy acronym of FLGBTQC. In this context, it means Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Concerns. This is my first time to attend. It comes highly recommended by almost everyone, including but not limited to a lesbian F/friend who has formed a series of close friendships with many regular attenders.
In Quaker speak, a concern is an a idea or prompting by the Spirit which leads a Friend to take on a particular leading or position. Each of us will have our own concerns to share. We labor together in love as a group, for our own reasons, though I'd be willing to bet that our individual motives and desires often overlap. It is for this reason that we meet together in fellowship, while hopefully drawing strength from the commonality present within our similarities.
The gathering is not closed to only queer-identified participants. Several allies will be in attendance, too, and I appreciate their presence among us. I'm going to be wading into the middle of a conference whose history dates back at least to the last couple decades, and perhaps even longer than that. I'm sure established friendships and partnerships have existed for a long time; I don't want them to be exclusionary. I'm told that 140 people have registered and plan to attend. I hope I don't get lost in the crowd.
Subconsciously and consciously, my own queer identity has taken an impressively large place in my thoughts. As part of my leadership role, I conducted a regular correspondence with the Meeting via e-mail listserve earlier this week. In it, I formally outed myself to everyone, though most people knew already. The decision was prompted by a slightly mortifying experience a couple weeks before.
I'd had a semi-awkward conversation with an openly gay member of the Meeting. He asked, more directly that I was expecting, the precise status of my sexual orientation.
So you are gay?
Caught off guard, I managed to stammer, No, bisexual. But the effect was not displayed with the confidence as I wanted desperately to project. I have been presumed to be lots of things over the years, and I find myself still fighting to not be defined on someone else's terms but my own. That being said, once the initial horror passed, he was supportive about the internal conflicts within my own life. These have only partially been resolved up to now, but maybe a supportive community will heal some long-festering wounds.
Raised a Muslim in a Middle Eastern country, the Friend who questioned me has mostly turned away from the faith of his upbringing. I was present for his wedding to a man at our Meetinghouse, whereupon I noticed that not a single family member of his own was in attendance. His now-husband, however, drew a large, demonstrative, and supportive combined crowd of relatives and nuclear family. LGBT rights still have a ways to go, as they are not yet evenly applied across the globe.
In any case, I am not going to bring my laptop with me. I intend to fully participate in group activities, workshops, and generally being social. As much as the idea of live Tweeting the event appeals to me, I think I'll give my Twitter account, Facebook account, and e-mail account a rest for the most part. Expect no substantial blog updates from me from Friday until Tuesday.
I may put the Saturday Video and Sunday Quote of the Week on auto-post, because they don't require a tremendous amount of time and pre-planning.