Thursday, January 31, 2008

Change Does Happen

As a Connecticut resident, I get to vote in the Super Tuesday primary. That's 5 days away.

And, I have to tell you I still haven't made up my mind.

But, I can tell you that I would be honored to vote for either of this candidates in the general election. And that I felt my eyes fill with tears as tonight's debate began. Yes, they are making history before our eyes.

But it's more than that. They are a concrete demonstration that change does happen...that America is a more just country than it was when I entered adulthood...and that those of us who have dedicated our lives to social justice have helped change America.

So here's your chance. Write me here or at the Religious Institute and make a case for your candidate. I don't plan on announcing who I vote for next Tuesday, but I'd love your input.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Last One...

A friend gave me a pin with those numbers as a holiday present. I've worn in on my coat lapel ever since, and it has been a wonderful conversation starter as I go about my errands. I've been asked if it's my birthday, the day I'm going to get married, even once if I was going to have a baby on that day. (The math is a little off here.)

And, when I reply that it is President Bush's last day in office, most people say some version of "Thank God." (Not all -- it has also led to some strong objections to the sentiment.)

I thought about that date alot last night as I listened to the President's final state of the union address. It was still thrilling to see Nancy Pelosi (in her fabulous purple suit!) be recognized as Madame Speaker, but it was even better to imagine a woman or an African American man giving next year's state of the union.

I'll leave it to others to comment on the rosy picture put on the war, the economy, no child left behind and others. The President, unlike past year's, did not mention either abortion or gay marriage. The possibilities of adult stem cell research brought loud applause, and the entire chamber rose when he called for a ban on human cloning. (But really -- is anyone advocating human cloning??) Any mention of supporting the troops brought sustained applause, but I couldn't help wonder why none of the uniformed servicepeople in the audience were women -- surely someone in the White House knows about gender diversity.

1-20-09 is less than a year away. I can't wait to celebrate.

Monday, January 28, 2008


Yesterday, I spent time with a high school church youth group, talking about moral, ethical sexual decision making and answering their questions about sexuality.

There were a number of questions about the information I had presented about consent laws in Connecticut, some questions about was oral sex really risk for transmission of STDS (the answer is yes), but there were even more questions about relationships. Three of the questions asked some version of "how do I know if someone is into me?"

I think what adults often forget is that for many teenagers, romance trumps sexual behaviors. First love is all encompassing; first heartbreak is devastating.

And it's not just teenagers. Last week's Time Magazine (which I just read last night) has a series of articles on love and romance that I highly recommend to you. I think my students yesterday would be surprised that middle age and elder adults still want to know, "how do you know if someone is really into you?" It only gets a little bit easier with experience.

It's not too early to start thinking about Valentine's Day -- or just this wintery Monday. What's something romantic you can do for your partner -- or yourself?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

New Orleans in April

I don't often promote events on my blog, but I've just bought my tickets to the special weekend being created by Eve Ensler and the V Day project in New Orleans April 11 & 12th , and I wanted to make sure my readers know about it.

Here's a blurb from their web site:
April 11-12, 2008 Join Salma Hayek, Oprah Winfrey, Jane Fonda, Jennifer Hudson, Glenn Close, Julia Stiles, Ashley Judd, Marisa Tomei, Calpernia Addams, Rosario Dawson, Kerry Washington, Ellen DeGeneres, and musicians Joss Stone, Common, Eve, and Charmaine Neville on Friday and Saturday, April 11 – 12, 2008 for V-Day’s mega two-day anniversary celebration in New Orleans at the New Orleans Arena and Louisiana Superdome - V TO THE TENTH.

Eve Ensler told me in December that they were holding the event at the Superdome to reclaim it as a safe and healing place for women -- and to make it for those two days the "Super Womb."

There will be healing services, workshops, poetry readings, a new play written and performed by women from New Orleans, and a celebrity performance of "The Vagina Monologues."

If you have never seen "The Vagina Monologues" this is your chance. If you have, you already know why you would want to see it performed by these amazing performers. More than any other artistic endeavor I can't think of, this play launched an international movement of women claiming the power of their bodies and their lives and fighting back against violence and abuse.

To this minister sexologist, it is a powerfully spiritual play. It celebrates God's gift of our bodies and our diverse sexualities in a most powerful way.

I can't think of any place I'd rather be that weekend. I hope you'll join us.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

35 Years of Roe v. Wade

Today is the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

It's hard to believe it's been 35 years. Now, I know that's partly because I was a freshman in college when the decision was handed down -- and it's hard to believe that was SO long ago.

But it's also because 35 years after abortion became safe and legal in the United States, it is still hotly contested rather than understood as a legitimate surgical procedure that allows women to exercise their moral agency when faced with an unplanned pregnancy or a maternal or fetal health crisis.

Last week, the Guttmacher Institute released a report that abortion rates were at their lowest level since 1974 -- but they couldn't explain if that's because abortion is increasingly difficult to obtain or because unplanned pregnancies have decreased or because...

In my experience over the past 35 years walking with women who are facing unplanned pregnancies, first as a friend, then as a counselor, and now as a minster, the reasons that women choose to have abortions or choose to carry pregnancies to term are as individual as the individual woman. Another recent Guttmacher report found that more than half of women choosing abortion already have children and don't feel they can take care of another baby.

But, what I know, deep in my core, is that women do not make these decisions lightly, whatever the outcome. And that today, I am as committed to assuring women's right to safe, legal, and accessible abortion services as I was back in 1973. I just wish I didn't have to be.

Monday, January 21, 2008

A Day to Reflect

I was in the third grade when the March on Washington happened. I was in the 8th grade in 1968 when Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were murdered.

But, like other late baby boomers I have seen the news clips so many times that sometimes I think I must have been there. (Just like it's hard to remember that I was also too young for the Moratorium or Woodstock or any number of culture events of my childhood and youth.)

I, of course, have read the sermons and the speeches, and I cry everytime I am in a group or church where people sing "We shall overcome." When Senator Obama said in Iowa "this is a day that some said would never come", I teared up in recognition.

But we are not done with racism...or sexism...or homophobia...or stupid wars. I often quote Reverend King -- "injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere." And that's as true today in 2008 as it was in the 1960's.

And that's why Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday is a day for reflection, for recommitment, or asking ourselves what we can do to create the beloved community for us all. I hope you'll ask yourself.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

If I Moderated a Candidate Debate...

Although I am not a one or two issue voter, I do want a President who supports sexuality education, sexual health services, and sexual rights. And part of my problem in choosing a candidate is that most have avoided directly addressing these issues.

This morning, the Religious Institute sent a questionnaire to the campaign managers of all of the remaining candidates. I’ll post any responses we receive here.


“In the United States, almost half of all pregnancies are unintended. Poor women are five times as likely to have an unintended birth, three times as like to have an abortion, and our times as likely to have an unintended pregnancy as women who live at 200% or more of the poverty level. Poor and low income teenagers account for 83% of teen women who have a baby and 85% of unwed teenage parents.

If you are President, what programs and policies would you support to reduce unintended pregnancies in the United States?

Will you lift the Mexico City policy that prohibits U.S. funding of international groups that counsel or advocate about abortion?

Do you support the availability of emergency contraception for poor women and victims of rape and incest?

Do you support the federal abstinence- only-until- marriage education program or comprehensive sexuality education programs that include teaching about abstinence as well as medically accurate information about pregnancy and STD prevention?


HIV/AIDS is not just an international pandemic, but continues to disproportionally affect people of color and low income communities in the United States. For example, nearly half of all new cases of HIV/AIDS in the U.S. were to African Americans last year, and the number of new cases of HIV infection among teenage men has doubled in the past five years.

What programs and policies do you support to reduce the spread of HIV in the United States?

The current US international AIDS program (PEPFAR) requires that one third of all HIV/AIDS prevention monies go to promote abstinence, although countries around the world and organizations such as the Institute of Medicine and the World Health Organization have said that this restriction interferes with their country’s ability to design population-specific programs. Do you support the bi-partisan Feinstein/Snow legislation to remove this earmark and allow countries local discretion?

LGBT Issues

Legal marriage confers 1,138 federal benefits for married heterosexual couples, than are not available to same sex couples. You have said that you do not support marriage equality. But, do you support laws that allow committed same sex couples rights such as to inherit each other’s money and property, visit each other in the hospital, or parent legally together?

Do you support hate crimes legislation and anti-employment discrimination legislation that is inclusive of gay and lesbian and transgender persons?

I'll let you know if and when we hear back.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Walk Humbly, Mike Huckabee

"I believe it's a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God. And that's what we need to do is to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than try to change God's standards so it lines with some contemporary view of how we treat each other and how we treat the family."

There are so many things wrong with this statement that I hardly know where to start. In case it somehow missed you, he's talking about constitutional amendments banning abortion and defining marriage.

I'll leave it to my friends at Americans United and the Interfaith Alliance to explain to Mr. Huckabee what the First Amendment means.

But, what I want to know is how Mr. Huckabee thinks he speaks for all Americans in his understandings of God's standards. Maybe Mr. Huckabee doesn't know that the Bible doesn't explicitly address abortion at all, and that religions (and people of faith) differ on the question of when human life begins. Maybe Mr. Huckabee doesn't know that the Bible doesn't speak to adult same sex committed consensual relationships as we understand them today.

Maybe Mr. Huckabee has forgotten that Jesus said that "Love your Neighbor as Yourself" is the second Great Comandment.

Maybe Mr. Huckabee has forgotten that no political party, no religion, no person has a monopoly on the right to seek the truth about God's wishes for us all (or the right to decide whether or not to believe in God at all.)

Perhaps Mr. Huckabee needs a reminder that the Bible teaches us to "walk humbly with your God."

Monday, January 14, 2008

AIDS: Silence Is Still Deadly

Today's New York Times reports that HIV rates have increased dramatically among men under 30 in the last five years, including doubling among teenage gay men since 2001.

Their opinion piece suggests that these young men don't remember the early scourge of the epidemic, and that they think that retrovirals mean that AIDS is manageable. I also think that it is important to remember that young people under 30 have ALWAYS lived with the HIV/AIDS epidemic -- remember that the first cases of AIDS were in the early 1980's, the HIV virus was identified in 1985, the year that today's 22 year olds were born. HIV/AIDS has always been there for today's teen and young adults, and that breeds I fear a certain level of complacency.

But, I agree with the NY TIMES editorial staff that the far larger culprit is that society has become complacent, the red AIDS ribbon seen as trite, the in your face education campaigns fewere and fewer. And I believe a real part of the culprit is the lack of comprehensive sexuality education and lectures that teach that condoms aren't foolproof which has resulted in teens NOT having the information or skills to protect themselves.

Thanks to the editors for reminding their readers that "silence is still deadly." And to this minister, immoral.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Post New Hampshire Primary Thoughts

My regular readers already know that I'm a bit of a political junkie. I was excited by the results of the New Hampshire primary because it is now clear that there is indeed a real race for the White House.

I'd still be happier though if the candidates were talking honestly and directly about sexual justice issues. In the most recent issue of Tikkun magazine, Tim Palmer and I have a column on why sexual justice should not be "buried under common ground" during the election season.

You can read it at

Next week, the Religious Institute will release a list of questions that we hope the candidates will answer on a wide range of issues affecting sexual health and sexual rights. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Iron My Shirts, redux

Well, it turns out that the protestors with the "Iron My Shirts" signs were put up to it by a radio show. See the back story here.

But, the true back story doesn't really explain why the media were so quick to pick it up -- which is that I think that sexism and racism are the 800 pound gorillas in the room this primary season, even though they are getting little thoughtful analysis. In the privacy of the voting booth (and not the very public caucus rooms) is America ready to vote for a woman or an African American for President? Have we indeed passed the time where race and sex are no longer an issue in the privacy of our souls?

The image that comes to mind is about t en years ago when for the first time I flew with a woman senior commercial pilot. When she came over the loudspeaker and welcomed us, I (yes, lifelong feminist me!) thought to myself, "I hope she's had enough training." I was used to my pilots being older white men with white hair. I was shocked by my sexist response.

I wore a t-shirt in the 1970's that read "Women belong in the house...and the Senate." The sign holders, whether pranksters or not, were probably still speaking for people who don't believe we belong in the Oval Office.

PS Just for the record, I don't ever remember "Iron My Shirts" as an anti-feminist slogan. Do you? And for the record, in my family, you buy permanent press, do your own, or send it to the dry cleaner.

Monday, January 07, 2008


The link to the teen site was a MISTAKE of typing...I've corrected this in the original post, but the teen site I like is Thank you to the reader who picked it up, and I regret the typo. It shows how easily one can end up at x-rated sites.

Sex Information at Church

I preached yesterday at Judson Memorial Church on Washington Square Park in New York City.

Judson has a long distinguished history on advocating for sexual justice. In the 1960's, their minister, Rev. Moody, set up the clergy consultation service to help women seeking abortions before they were legal. Over 1100 clergy participated before the Roe decision. In the 70's, Judson became known for its advocacy and welcome for LGT persons, and in the 80's, it was a major source of comfort and service for people with AIDS and their friends and families.

My message about sexual morality, justice, and healing was warmly received. Their senior minister, Rev. Donna Schaper said to me, "The Religious Institute represents the institutionalization of what we've been trying to do at Judson for a long time."

During the coffee hour, in addition to the usual type of questions, two people approached me with very personal questions about their own sexual functioning. I'm always struck when that happens because it reminds me how few sources there are for adult sexuality education -- and how I must be one of the only ministers anywhere who gets asked questions about orgasm, erectile dysfunction, and so on in the foyer!

I always recommend that people seek consultation with a good urologist or gynecologist. For a certified sex therapist near you, check out which has a state directory on the site.

The Internet is home to some great sex education sites. For teens, I like . For young adults, check out For adults, I like

Let me know what other sites you think are good for sexuality information. (Note please "information"...I'm guessing you can find erotica on your own.)

Friday, January 04, 2008

New Hampshire to Come...

I have been hooked on politics since I range doorbells for Eugene McCarthy when I was in the 8th grade.

And so I stayed up too late last night watching the Iowa campaign results and listening to the speeches. Regardless of whether "your" candidate won last night, I think we should all be celebrating -- the huge, historical turnout, the engagement of young people in unprecedented numbers, and yes, that Barak Obama received the most votes in almost all white Iowa. I thought his speech was terrific.

And on to New Hampshire...New Hampshire which four days ago became the fourth New England state to perform civil unions for same sex couples, with barely any protest or even much news coverage. What seemed remarkable only a few years ago is now commonplace, at least here in New England.

And so, I hope in these last few days of frantic campaigning in New Hampshire, the candidates are asked, in addition to questions about Iraq, the budget, and so on, explicit questions about their support for ENDA, marriage equality, and hate crimes legislation, and that the good people of New Hampshire vote for candidates who explicitly support full inclusion of all people, regardless of their sexual or gender identities.

I'm excited that Connecticut is one of the super February 5th primary states. Now, I just have to have one of the candidates win my heart. I'm close.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Words from Pakistan, Rest in Peace Benazir Bhutto

Goethe wrote something like "the world is a smaller place when one knows people who live and feel like us though far away." And so, for the last week, I have thought and prayed for a new friend and colleague from Pakistan, in the wake of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. And worried.

Yesterday, she sent those of us who met her in Istanbul in November an email. I asked, and received permission to share her words with you. I ask you to pray for her and all those working for peace (and fair elections) in Pakistan.

Here's what she writes:

As a new year starts, I sit here still numbed by the events, paralysed by the events that seem to have shut down our ability to think and act, unable to concentrate (like many others).

Only after her assassination have we come to realize just how many of our hopes were pinned on Benazir, her presence and leadership of the only mainstream party that consistently speaks of the federation, of the poor, the peasants, the workers; spoke of equality for all, especially the minorities and women. The one party with supporters until now across a deeply divided and troubled country, who gave us hope that, maybe – just maybe we could turn this nightmare around, if elections were held and if they were not entirely rigged, and if we received some breathing space…so many if's and still we dared to hope.

I met Asma on the 29th and thanked her for having inviting Benazir that night last month as soon as they lifted the house arrest on Asma and Benazir both. Asma said 'but no, I didn't call the meeting. Perhaps she was meant to meet us all that last time because it was she who phoned and asked for a meeting with civil society'…A meeting we were pleasantly surprised at, that left us commenting on how much she had matured. She listened to all of us with great patience and grace, answered with patience and good cheer, even some of the sillier points made/questions asked. She reserved her fire for a short passionate intervention on how the fight with the extremists was our own fight not someone else's agenda and on how precarious Pakistan's situation was, and how it was time to act.

And yes, it was important that she was a woman, a woman of great courage of defiance and of passion who led from the front foot (as they say in cricket). I am old enough to remember the day she became Prime Minister in 1988 and how immediately – and I do mean immediately – after eleven years of brutal and increasing oppression of women (and others) under Zia, the atmosphere shifted the sense of oppression in the streets lifted and women felt the burden lighten. And if she didn't always deliver (and often she didn't), as peasants said of her father, at least she made us the promises, and gave us hope.

Right now, it is difficult to foresee the future, whether and when elections will take place – what will happen during Muharram and ashura, around the corner, when nerves are ragged anyway and the menace of potential violence lurks.

We can only hope that some sense prevails somewhere, that elections are held as quickly as possible and that we find a way out of this spiral descending to madness…

Please add these people just like us to your prayers.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year 2008!

Happy New Year!

I love the illusion of new beginnings -- 365 days ahead in 2008 to fill with time with people I love, new ideas, opportunities to learn and stretch and serve. I filled half a journal the other day with my prayers, hopes, wishes, and resolutions for 2008.

Of course, I know that every day is a new beginning and a new chance to create our lives.

But, I hope that you take the time today (or tomorrow or soon) to think about the life you wish for in the next year and what are the steps that will help you create it.

I also wish for you a year of health for you and those you love -- and peace, in your hearts and in our world.

Happy New Year!