Hearing Stories: Silenced Voices and Add the Words

“to hear the voices of peoples long silenced”

This blog post is part of a continuing series on the Holy Spirit section of the Brief Statement of Faith of the Presbyterian Church (USA), but also connects with a larger justice issue in my home state of Idaho (and throughout all our communities around the world).  I am grateful for Ty Carson’s willingness to add a “silenced voice” to this post.  Ty’s full story is heart breaking; Ty’s courage is inspiring.

“to hear the voices of peoples long silenced”

This line tugs at my heart.  Power pervades our lives.  The power of government, power of privilege, power of personality, power of physical presence, power of role and status… so many power dynamics.  All of these power dynamics silence people who lack that power, sometimes very intentionally, sometimes without thought, and sometimes entirely unintended.  And yet the silence is still forced, the hurt is real, injustice is still done.  We ignore power dynamics to our detriment, but even more so the detriment of those silenced and cast aside.  When we ignore those voices we become complicit in the hurt… we join the ranks of perpetrators.

Just as we unmask idols; we must hear the silenced, we must unmute their voices and open our ears and hearts to their pain.

Hearing the voices of people’s long silence has long been our calling – prophets speak on behalf of “the widows and orphans,” and God pays particular attention to how we treat “the least of these.” And yet the Church can struggle with its own power problems… and cause much hurt.  Think of all those the Church, intentionally and unintentionally silence out of fear or control or to for our comfort’s sake.  We silence prophets as well as Israel ever did.  We must listen to the voices we have cast aside.  We must set aside our defensive responses to truly hear those voices, and not just listen to them.  And we must strengthen them and lift up the voices that society casts aside.  We do not simply hear them for changes in our hearts – but we hear them and lift them up for the transformation of our communal heart.  We are in the business of building up people… all people.  This is the heart of “good news” in Jesus Christ, and the love of God which casts out all fear.

And there are so many silenced voices

  • People who don’t think like us, people with different truths.  Conversation across faith beliefs, and political ideology grows harder every year as we choose to listen to only those who will reinforce our own truth.
  • Minority populations in faith, culture, race, and origin who have had to learn the hard way that “freedom” is quite a bit more free to those who fit the look, feel, and expectations of our normal.
  • Outsiders to our institutions who we may profess to invite in but who we do not welcome enough to change who we are so they have a place at the table.
  • Recent events in Santa Barbara remind us that women’s voices as equal to men is still not a reality.  Women are still treated as objects on our streets, and machismo definitions of what it means to be male and the entitlements therein continue to silence and degrade gender relations.

This list could go on at great length, but in the midst of these silenced voices I am immediately drawn to a particular population that has quite visibly been silenced.  I have become involved with advocacy on behalf of Idaho’s LGBTQ population who desires to have their rights protected as equal under our constitution.  The Add the Words campaign has sought for 8 years to get the four words (sexual orientation and gender identity) added to Idaho’s Human Rights Act.  For 8 years the legislature has been unwilling to even have a hearing on the idea.  Voices silenced.  So silenced that this year the protestors advocating for these changes did so by covering their mouths in mute testimony to our silenced friends.  This change isn’t about granting our LGBTQ friends and neighbors special rights – but the same rights that the majority of us take for granted.  This is a protecting people with the basic right to freedom and safety from abuse.  This is about ensuring that they can be who they are in their gender identity and/or sexual preference without fear of being kicked out of housing or losing their job – in other words that they can be free in a nation that claims to hold freedom among the highest of virtues.  This is about helping to create a tomorrow in which no more youth seeking to be who they are in their own hearts feel so silenced by an unloving and unaccepting and unsafe society that they take their own life.

This isn’t an issue.  These are peoples… long silenced.  So let me introduce you for a moment to one such voice, Ty Carson.  I met Ty through the Add the Words movement.  Ty spoke a moving testimony at our Service of Healing and Hope through the Interfaith Equality Coalition and when I saw that I was to write today on, “hearing the voices of people’s long silenced” it met up perfectly with Ty’s continued work.  So without further ado.  Meet my friend Ty.

My name is Ty Carson. I am a parent of 3 beautiful children. I was born in Silverton, Idaho. Growing up in the Boise Schools I experienced bullying, physical violence and fear daily, while teachers and administrators stood silent. These classroom and playground experiences instilled a fear and shame inside me that still haunts me today. As an adult I have been verbally attacked in bathrooms, locker rooms, and local restaurants, just because I entered the room. I believe that adding these four words (sexual orientation and gender identity to the Idaho Human Rights Act) will be the beginning to changing the para-dime that ignoring discrimination is okay in schools and businesses. Being silent in our families, in our schools, in our communities and in our government is toxic and it hurts. Until the Governor and the Idaho State Legislature say that it is wrong, the message they are sending is that it is ok to discriminate in our state.

81% of Idahoans believe it is wrong to discriminate against gay and transgender people in Idaho. 81!  And yet still our government is silent and will do nothing – still our voices are silenced. To these wonderful friends and very important allies that make up that 81% I invite you to come see a new documentary film of the Add the Words struggle; see the film and be inspired by a chance to really see and “hear” the gay and transgender community!

Filmmakers Cammie Pavesic and Michael D Gough have teamed up with Sean Small, MDG films and Quicksand Productions to produce their second film together, Add The Words. This documentary has 2 intentions; 1. To tell the story of this epic 8 year long battle of adding the words sexual orientation and gender identity to Idaho’s Human Rights Act; and 2. To tell individual stories of those directly affected by Idaho lawmakers not including the four words. Idaho ranks at the top for suicides in the 50 states and many of these can be linked to “Gay bullying”.

I believe that this film has the ability to touch everyone who takes time to go see it. So EVERYONE grab a friend, inspire a neighbor, invite someone who makes you nervous and go see a film about WHO we did this for and WHY we did it!!!

Silence in the face of injustice hurts.  End the hurt, end the silence, listen – and hear – your neighbor’s story.

“hear the voices of peoples long silenced”

 

For more information about these events you can go to these places or “inquire within”:

Add the Words Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/addthewords

Add the Words Website: http://www.addthewords.org/

Add the Words Documentary News Story and Video: http://www.boiseweekly.com/CityDesk/archives/2014/05/30/watch-a-trailer-for-documentary-on-idahos-add-the-words-movement

Add the Words Screening at Egyptian Theater, buy tickets here: http://sa1.seatadvisor.com/sabo/servlets/TicketRequest?eventId=896285&presenter=EGYPTIAN&venue=&event=

Interfaith Equality Coalition (faith communities dedicated to support equality for LGBTQ neighbors) Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/interfaithequalitycoalitionidaho

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About Andrew Kukla

I am the proud father of four wonderful children, loving husband to Caroline, brother to three mostly wonderful sisters, and son of two parents that gifted me with a foundation of love and freedom. I also am a Presbyterian pastor and former philosophy major with a love of too many words (written with many grammatical errors and parenthetic thoughts), Soren Kierkegaard, and reflections on living a life of discipleship that is open to all the challenges, ups and downs, brokenness and grace, of a chaotic and wonderful life founded upon the love of God for all of creation.

Posted on June 2, 2014, in Brief Statement of Faith, lgbt rights and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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