Stories Unspoken

When writing of those whose common experience of one another comes neither because of their race, or their economic class, or their religion, but rather from their shared experience of being emotional outcasts, then “the central problem is not emancipation but rootage.”

Walter Bruggemann, Theologian

The importance of Telling Our Stories:

(From the Introduction to the paperback edition of Gay Seattle)

In Gay Seattle, I write about the desire of every human being to “come home” – by discovering home, by being born into it, or by imagining it….

[That] “home-making” can occur through participating in a saga of stories that unfolds across several generations. It involves knowing and telling those stories about “what grandpa and grandma” did, or “uncle” this and “aunt that” experienced – or even better, being able to see and re-see that story repeated and lived and evolving in particular spaces of geography and of the mind.

“Making home” becomes an act of narration about particular people in particular spaces.

I quoted a theologian, Walter Bruggemann [who] said that when writing of those whose common experience of one another comes neither because of their race, or their economic class, or their religion, but rather from their shared experience of being emotional outcasts, then “the central problem is not emancipation but rootage.”

In other words, the issue is not simply the “freedom” to go out – or in 1970s gay rhetoric to “come out” – although that act of speech can be important. Rather, the task is “rootage.” Bruggemann elaborates: What is important is “not separation from community but location within it, not isolation from others but placement deliberately between the generation of promise and fulfillment.”

For lesbians and gays and other individuals either self- or involuntarily designated as sexually “queer,” knowing the stories that enable them to emotionally connect with being between the “generation of promise and fulfillment” can be especially difficult.

Even if they happen to be lucky enough as children and teens to have families that support them and even if they never feel “different” or bullied in schools, the prevailing re-telling of historical stories remains so relentlessly heterosexually oriented that knowing “one’s own story” as a gay man or lesbian woman often has to wait until later independence with the ability to buy books like this one.

Fortunately, in the last decade the Internet has lowered the age at which gay and lesbian youth can begin to “come home” within the safety of their own computers or smart phones….

It takes a steady fight by generation after generation of LGBT citizens to gain an equal and public voice – or, as Bruggemann suggests, to secure not just the “emancipation” that the individual act of “coming out” provides, but the “rootage” that “coming home” allows.

Go to the Advocacy section on Telling Our Stories for suggestions on getting started.

 Watch KCTS video reviewing gay Seattle history: “The History of Gay Rights in Seattle”

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Advocating LGBT justice and equality