Friday, January 25, 2008

The Calling

I've been in prayer about quite a few things lately. For a while though, I've been really meditating on something that I feel God has called me to, but I just haven't been able to figure out how to respond to it.

I am in my last 8 months here in Merced, California (I'll be going to California State Polytechnic University-Pomona). Which is both a blessing and a mildly sad thing for me. It would be a blessing because I have planned most of my high school career to leave Merced and do my best to never return--that plan didn't exactly work out well. But mildly sad, since I know I won't live in Merced again after this (well that is my plan at least).

Since I've come out of the closet and became an activist that actively seeks to bring communities together and bring about human equality and social justice, I have to admit that I have done very little within my own community of Merced. Which brings me to what I feel God has been calling me to: until I leave in August/September, I plan to dedicate myself to working in the area and giving something back to the Merced and surrounding LGBTQ communities.

Because the LGBTQ community is somewhat underground in this overstimulated conservative former "cow-town," I know it is going to be a partial challenge as to finding the needs of the queer community. The route I'm looking at, would be working towards getting a community center that would serve as a resource center for education, information, outreach, and support. Given that I will only be here until August/September, I don't know if I will have a full up-and-running center by then, but I would like to have things on the roll and ready to hand over to someone to keep the dream going.

This is going to involve working heavily with the LGBTQ community and surrounding Pride centers (ie. Stanislaus Pride Center). I will need help! I don't exactly know where to begin, as I have never done this before. I can use support and prayer! Shoot me an email at vdcervantes@gmail.com if you have some advice or anything.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Queer Sex Education 101

I recently posted a blog on QueerMerced.com about my frustration with the school systems. It becomes more and more apparent to me the way many of our schools are dictated by conservative fundamentalist perspectives. In California, that's shocking usually. But after looking around online, I discovered that there are very few schools that accommodate LGBTQ topics in their curriculum.
There is a lack of recognition of the LGBTQ community within the school systems. When it comes to Health class, gay and lesbian students are being left out of the picture when instructors teach about safe-sex practices, STD/STIs, and family structures. Is this just not surprising and should be ignored? Or is time for change? Read More.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Remembering Heath Ledger

I never write about celebrities, nor write huge memorial blogs about them when they die, because I didn't ever really know them personally or anything--although I did cry when Anna Nicole Smith passed though, because I was ready for her to make her big come back.

But I would like to spend sometime to reflect on the life of Heath Ledger. As many of you have heard, Heath Ledger was found dead in his New York apartment today by police over a suspected drug overdose--which is tragic, because I find that to be a terrible way to go.

I offer remembrance to Ledger though, because I personally found him to be an important person to the gay community. Although he was straight, he definitely raised lots of awareness of the gay and lesbian community. With his role in the infamous Brokeback Mountain, where Ledger played an "in-the-closet" gay cowboy who fell in love with his partner (played by Jake Gyllenhaal). Brokeback wasn't important just because it was a movie about gay stuff. It was important because for once, people were able to see the emotions, affection, and truth to a same-gender relationship. It gave people an opportunity to see the oppression that the LGBT community faces on a day-to-day basis. People were able to see how many married men struggle with their sexual identity and how suppressing such things affects your family and yourself. It's so much more than just having sex in the wild. It's a real love story that has become a beautiful resource.

Heath Ledger will be remembered.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Dream of the King

Today in the United States we celebrate the life of the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I remember in elementary school they would gives us Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. portraits we could color with the 35 brown crayons they distributed. As many of us may know already, Hillary Clinton was recently criticized for her suggestion that president Lyndon B. Johnson helped to make Dr. King's dream a reality with the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. While I am a republican proponent of Clinton (on most issues) I do have to disagree with her on this subject.

While I was on the Equality Ride, my friend Robin Reynolds presented a valuable question: What stopped lynching? Was it Lyndon B. Johnson? Was it the Civil Rights Act of 1964? No. No. And no. What stopped lynching was the fact that it became wrong and inhumane to do such a thing. It required the change of hearts and minds to come to the realization that dehumanizing and murdering another human being because of the color of their skin was unacceptable and wrong.

We owe these understandings to the work of Dr. King and many other civil rights leaders. Sure, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 contributed a little bit, but it the end it became a change of hearts that stopped lynching.

40 years later though....is Dr. King's dream still being heard? Are we living in a country where
"all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, 'Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!'"
We are in a decade of new oppression and new injustices, but in the words of the King family: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice every where."

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Update and "For The Bible Tells Me So"

I haven't neglected the blog! I swear! I've only been trying to get used to the schedule I have now with classes starting again and work adding some new shifts for me.

Just as a small update for you all. I will be finishing (finally) my general education at the junior college and then I am actually transferring to California State Polytechnic University-Pomona. I really felt that God was pulling me towards Pomona and the whole area that surrounds it (which will include Azusa Pacific University since it is 10 minutes away). I'll start there in the Fall and graduate soon there after.

There will be a screening of "For The Bible Tells Me So" in Pasadena on January 31st. I highly, highly recommend seeing it. It is a fantastic film and if you come to the screening in Pasadena, then you should stay after for the panel discussion. I was asked by Faith/Activism Collective (the hosts of the screening) to be a panelist, so I definitely look forward to being down there and being apart of that experience.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet

So after a very long flight to New York City, I was finally there. I woke up bright and early to head to the studio of Fox News. The segment was "Teen Confessions on the Web" focusing on teenagers who share their intimate secrets online and their parents usually have no idea.

My story was basically I came out of the closet initially online and that's how my family essentially figured out my sexual orientation. My mom and I were both on the show with Mike and Juliet, it was a great experience overall I must say. Although it would have been great if the entire segment was on coming out. But I understand where my story fits in with this segment.

To watch the show online just go to the show's website at this link http://www.mandjshow.com/videos/teen-web-confessions/

Friday, January 4, 2008

On The Morning Show This Week

I got confirmation today that I will be a guest on The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet this Monday. It airs on the Fox network, so be sure to check your local listings.

I will be flying to New York City on Sunday and will be on the show first thing Monday morning. I'll keep you all posted on what's to come.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

I attended "Jesus Camp"

"Jesus Camp" is an intensely great movie to watch. This isn't going to be a movie review, because I couldn't share half of what I felt watching and thought while watching the movie. But I will share a little information about the movie--with a little help from Wikipedia.
Jesus Camp is a 2006 documentary directed by Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing about a Pentecostal summer camp for children who spend their summers learning and practicing their "prophetic gifts" and being taught that they can "take back American for Christ." According to the distributor, it "doesn't come with any prepackaged point of view" and tries to be "an honest and impartial depiction of one faction of the evangelical Christian community."
I've watched "Jesus Camp" many times! I sort of just can't get enough of it. Because every time I watch it I walk away with something new. Last night, as I was watching I caught myself saying the "Pledge to the Christian Flag" and the "Pledge to the Bible" with the children, Vince told me that I do that every time I watch it--I was unaware of this. But it made me remember what it was like for me to be a part of a pentecostal setting.

Although my mother's side of the family is really Catholic (and I am an active Catholic) my father's family is very much into the Assemblies of God (AG) faith. Throughout my childhood I was very involved in the AG church. Which I don't necessarily see as a bad thing. I was a committed member of our church's Royal Rangers outpost--which is like an AG version of Boy Scouts, I was in this Bible Quiz Challenge team, I was in choir (which is where I learned how to sing like no other), and I was on the drama team.

At a young age, I was taught that there were two types of people: those who loved Jesus and those who didn't. Those who didn't would go straight to hell and those who loved Jesus should actively show it. I did.

There is one scene in the beginning of the movie that brings me to tears. It is when the children's minister is preaching and then all the children begin to speak in tongues and "fall in the Spirit." I am brought to tears because it reminds me of a time when I was 10 years old. We had this amazing speaker at our church who worked primarily with youth. He did a 4 consecutive day series of just offering God's word and letting the Spirit pour out. Every night was filled with teenagers and children speaking in tongues and falling in the Spirit. On the third night, I spoke in tongues for my first time and "fell in the Spirit." It was an amazing feeling as I laid there on the ground with words coming out of my mouth that I couldn't understand. I think back now and I think that at age 10 I didn't know what was going on--not to say that the experience wasn't genuine and real, but I'm sure I didn't understand why I was speaking in tongues or why I was "falling in the Spirit."

The next night a young woman was exorcised at the altar. It was the first exorcism I had ever scene. I was horrified at age 10 at what I saw. It was like nothing I had seen before. Little did I know that 8 years later I would be getting an exorcism...at the same church, by the same pastor.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Queer Merced

I was recently contacted on my MySpace by Queer Networks of the Central Valley.  They recently purchased QueerMerced.com which is online blog that focuses on queer topics and issues of Merced.  They asked if I would be willing to write for them.  It sounded like a great opportunity to do some outreach and ministry here in Merced.  So I've been praying about it for the last week and made a decision finally.
I wrote my first post for Queer Merced today.  I decided to talk about the transgender community in my first posting as there are many transgender and gender variant individuals here in Merced, it's amazing.  Please check out my post and I will keep everyone updated on how it's going writing for them.

It seems that I have discovered the untapped transgender fountain here in Merced! Everywhere I go now, I am encountering more and more gender variant people and it's beautiful. Many of us within the LGB community often forget about our "T" family members, nor do many queer people truly know how to be an ally to a trans person. Here are some tips and information that has helped me in being a huge trans ally.  Read More.