Gina de Vries

Anti-queer violence & spiritual/community protection

Filed By Gina de Vries | July 24, 2008 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Living, Living
Tags: anti-queer violence, isolation, poverty, prayer, protection, resources, safety, trauma

I work part-time at a queer non-profit that does activism and outreach around issues of spirituality, religion, ministry, and LGBTQ communities. I just had a big "this is why I do the work that I do" moment.

An older, disabled queer man who lives in a poor city on the outskirts of the Bay Area just called the office. His life was threatened this weekend, in part because he is queer. He's trying to get a restraining order against the person in question, and he went to the police. He was basically told that because the threat was homophobic, the police "can't do anything." He's scared, vulnerable, and very isolated.

He used to be a seminarian, which is why he called my office. First he just said he wanted to speak with our executive director -- but when I asked why he was requesting a meeting with her (to give her more context for the meeting request) he sort of nervously rambled out his story, and ended with, "I'm scared. I need resources. I'm disabled and isolated and I try to make it out to San Francisco to welcoming church communities, but sometimes that's hard, and there's nothing where I live. I'm wondering if there's anything closer, any other resources, since the police are obviously not helping."

My organization is not an anti-violence resource organization, but I completely and totally get why he called us. I know that feeling spiritually safe and held, having a community of support when you're contending with danger and trauma, is just as important as feeling physically safe and protected.

This man and I talked for less than ten minutes. It was tricky, trying to gauge what advice to give, especially since my organization doesn't usually give personal referrals. But I didn't want to let him down. I thought on my feet. I was really glad I've spent so many years in queer non-profit and social service land and know where to direct people when my organization can't quite do what they need. I rattled off a list of anti-violence resources for queer people, and then I directed him to our resource list of lgbtq-affirming congregations. I said he could call or email back any time, and I said I'd keep him in my prayers.

Granted, this isn't much, and I'm under no illusion that our eight minute talk makes him any safer in the long run. But he sounded relieved -- like he could breath again for a minute -- and that means something. He just kept saying, "It is so nice to hear a friendly voice at the other end of the line. Thank you so much. These resources are an amazing start."


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Gina, thanks for sharing this story. You're absolutely right - this is why we do what we do. Have a fabulous weekend!

Thanks for sharing. What you did was a basic crisis response and it helped. People need three things and when they lose those three things they can slide into a crisis and if you can give them back at least one thing then you can help them. Those things are 1 a feeling that he or she knows what is going on....2 a feeling that he or she has some idea what will happen next and... 3 a feeling of having some control over the situation. When he called he had no clue what was happening, what would happen next and no idea what his next step should be. When you gave him those resources you gave him some projection of what the future may hold and some way to feel that he is partially in control and a view that he now knows more about what is going on. Good job and keep up the good work.

Wonderful Gina---and keep up the good work...

You shared good news with us, Gina. Thank you for that, and also for making a difference in that man's life. Helping others puts our own lives into perspective.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | July 25, 2008 3:32 AM

Gina for Empress of the World!

Way to go, Gina! Isn't it nice to know you helped someone? You went the extra step necessary to ensure this man could help himself too.

*big hugs*

How inspiring to read that someone hasn't turned their head. How sad it is to read the account of a tribal member, in their golden years, having to deal with the exasperation of being victimized, been there, done that. My partner and I have endured decades of harassment on all levels, simply because we refuse to kowtow to the powers that be. Gay people don't write the rules to the game. It does amaze me that this person got some results and comfort because our journey is littered with turned heads and the hopelessness of working without a net.

Good news goes along way in keeping the Faith,

Thanks for the Ray of Hope


Jerry

The use of "Queer" as a population identifier is a pejorative, and will continue to foster the continued victimization of GLBT people. If we don't respect ourselves, then we can't expect others, (police, teachers, judges, and everday people) to respect us. So, it's really time we stop trying to make a social statement, and use real acceptable terms acceptable to society if we want to be truly accepted.