This article in EDGE Boston profiles Cholene Espinoza, whose spiritual service is an excellent example for any LGBT person who really wants to create change in the minds and hearts of straight America.
After Hurricane Katrina hit, Espinoza and her partner, Ellen Ratner, traveled to the Gulf Coast to help the victims. Moved by her experience to do even more to help, Espinoza wrote Through the Eye of the Storm (Chelsea Green, 2006), a memoir of their trip that laments not only the devastation of the hurricane itself, but also the difficult path to recovery.
The publisher says, "Proceeds from Through the Eye of the Storm will build and support a community/education center that will serve the Katrina survivors of Harrison County on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. It will provide young adults with GED, computer, and other job training that will give them the skills to participate in the recovery of their community. During non-school hours, the center will serve the children of the community as the only after-school facility in the area. Eventually, routine healthcare education and services will also be provided at the center." Espinoza herself bought land the center will be built on and contributed $135,000. Her partner also is a donor. The two have raised additional commitments of $150,000.
Espinoza's courageous, compassionate, spiritually-inspired act is exactly the kind of "Voluntary Redemptive Service" I propose in Shirt of Flame (Goko Media, 2003).
The smartest LGBT activism focuses on building long-term relationships and good will--cultivating positive emotional connections with straight people in the 'moveable middle'--as opposed to protesting or demanding equal rights, respect and recognition. Those of us who want real change should all follow Espinoza's example and engage in--as Taoist as it sounds--"activism that is not activism."
Voluntary Redemptive Service like Espinoza's must genuinely come from the heart, and the positive impact on attitudes about LGBT people and relationships must be secondary to the service itself. However, like Whosoever.org's Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge says, "[this] exciting new strategy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender liberation will lead to not only a civil rights revolution, but also to a revolution of the human heart."
And isn't that the whole point?