To my beloved Friends and Family,
Wishing you a beautiful holiday season, and all that is good and joyful in 2017! I’m grateful for each of you. I write this on the day that the Electoral College voted, and I know that on my letter list are many who are mourning, and some who are glad. But we are all part of the human family together, and even if we disagree, I’m glad we are connected.
One of the reasons I decided to write a Christmas letter again this year is because I think it is important for us to stay connected – to tell our stories, find common ground, and build up our communities. We are all in this life together. So I’m going to tell a little of my story of the last year, and would love to hear your stories too. I’d love a letter, or email, or maybe a chance to catch up over coffee or drinks.
This year, I really enjoyed diving into some of my passions. I have continued to take trapeze classes. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I am 41 and half my class is half my age, and many are bendier, stronger, and bounce back more quickly. But no matter if I ever advance to the next level of classes, trapeze is a great joy in my life. I love growing stronger, being in the air, facing my fears, and getting to know fabulous people, including my teachers and classmates. If folks in town are ever interested in checking it out, I love Night Flight, where I attend: nightflightaerial.com
Another passion of mine is advocacy for those affected by HIV, and busting stigma. I just started my third year serving on the Board of Directors at Cascade AIDS Project and am learning so much and meeting tons of great people! I really enjoy getting to dress up for events like the Art Auction (pictured on my card, with my friend Darren picking me up), and hitting the town with a big team for AIDS Walk Portland. I’m fired up to get an even bigger team for AIDS Walk in 2017! Many of you on this list have volunteered, walked with me or donated, and I’m forever grateful! AND it is thrilling that we are going to broaden our services as we open an LGBTQ health clinic! (LGBTQ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer or Questioning). If you’re interested, you can read more about our future clinic and services at www.cascadeaids.org I have met so many amazing people volunteering for CAP, and made some lifelong friends.
Oh – a news item! In September, I moved again! But this time I bought a place, so I won’t be moving again any time soon. Finally! This is probably of great relief to the friends who have helped me move multiple times over the past few years, including Mark (pictured on my card with me celebrating batman) and Darren, who took time off of work to fight commute traffic and safe spots for my moving truck, since I didn’t have enough notice to get a permit. Now that’s friendship!
One of the things that keeps me hopping is my volunteer work for ReconcilingWorks, the non-profit that helps Lutheran churches welcome include, and celebrate LGBTQ people. This is truly rewarding work, and I love getting to go to different churches and provide trainings and get to know people in different parts of the country. This year I was able to fly to Orlando to co-lead a large training of churches who wanted to take action after the Pulse shooting. It was a little intimidating for me because I knew that the people in the class were impacted by the violence against LGBT and Latino community members. I was deeply moved by their participation.
At any of my trainings, I come out to people in presentations as a bisexual trans man, and speak to my experience, while also training them on concepts of hospitality and gender identity. This leads to many interesting questions and great discussions. I love this work, and all of the people I meet. And I find it interesting that I’m happy to do public speaking and train large groups, but afraid of other things, like driving in snow and ice, or rain, or curvy roads. You get the picture. J If you’re intrigued about a group that works for welcome in churches, we’re at www.reconcilingworks.org
I’m also excited to work on an event that our local ReconcilingWorks chapter is throwing: a huge community wide service of welcome: January 29th, West Linn Lutheran Church, 5pm. Our theme is “Building the Beloved Community,” which you may recognize from Martin Luther King Jr’s philosophy. The music is again going to be awesome, and the service will be followed by a potluck dinner. Food+music+community = winning. It is one of my favorite events of the year and you’re all invited. Unless you don’t want to come because it’s church, and that’s totally cool too. J
But the most exciting news didn’t make it until page 2?!! I had to build the suspense for this one. J The Lutheran church in Oregon hired me to be an advocate for the LGBTQ community, to listen to people’s stories and hear their experiences with church, and in general. One of the outcomes is that we have a new little start-up church that meets (for now) in my living room every week. We named our church “The Flame”. It is a pretty small group for now, primarily LGBTQ folks and allies. We meet at 6pm, so we don’t compete with the Sunday brunch hour! J
Even though I started a church, I still will never try to convert anyone. It’s not my business what any of you believe. We don’t have to agree. Truly. I think differing opinions and a variety of experiences is beautiful, and I love y’all.
There is so much of my church nerd self that now has expression, it is really pretty fun. We even got a domain name and are working on our website! www.theflamepdx.org is our little baby (thank you, Evan!). See, I had to list those other links, so that I could casually slip into the letter the web address of our little creation. J
One of our members, Adam Page, painted a logo for our church, pictured to the left, and I love it! Our vision was that each person, no matter the color, body type, ability, sexual orientation or gender identity, could contribute to the community, and the flame. Plus, I love rainbows!
Part of this new role with the Lutheran church is that I am on my way (again), to becoming a pastor! I have 3 classes to do through a distance learning program, one of which I am in now – World Religions. I have a few other requirements, and then maybe someday in the next year or so, I will be Pastor Leo of The Flame. Whoa.
You know the little white tab at the neck on the pastor or priest’s shirt? If I get ordained, I’m totally going to glitterize or bedazzle some of those for the right occasions. It’s going to be great! I’ll definitely invite all of you to the ordination.
But wait, you say, aren’t I in tech support? Indeed, it’s true. I am! I will continue to work both jobs. I’m very grateful for my fun job solving problems and working with a great team on software used in the Medical Records department of hospitals at Nuance Communications, and I’m not going to give up a good thing there. Oh yah – for consistency – that’s at www.nuance.com.
The best part about my day job is the people, and all of the cat pictures that we send to one another. I’ve included an example to the right. (not my actual cat….) (nuance.com doesn’t actually contain cat pictures) (should I have # these?)
For whatever 2017 brings, may we all hug our loved ones tighter and more often, reach out to help a stranger, reconnect with old friends, and listen to each other’s stories.
I wish you and yours the very best, and may we all find love, joy, peace, and hope.
~ Leo ~