James Dean - Rebel

PTHC 2012

It is the last day of the Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference for 2012. So far I have co-facilitated a few rituals using drums and the elements of the earth; I have talked about church politics, church policies, and church activism; I have given lots of hugs; and eaten good food. Today I lead 2 workshops - they both have to do with sharing stories. That's one of the things I do most. Tell stories and encourage people to share their stories. We are all so much more complicated than we give ourselves credit for. Not complicated in the, "Geesch, that person is waaaay to complicated." But complicated in that our lives are not simple and contained neatly in pretty little boxes. We have stuff ... and the stuff of our stuff sometimes never gets told. We invalidate ourselves too often and it keeps us from being whole and fully living. Today I hope and pray that there is some breaking open of lives for the sake of wholeness.
James Dean - Rebel

In the throes

Somewhere in my adult life I became reasonable. I'm stubborn, but I listen to reason. I think about the big picture. I make my choices based not just on how they will affect me, but how they will affect my family, friends ... my congregations.

Today I do not want to be reasonable. I do not want to measure my emotions. I do not want to find my center and breathe into a peaceful place. I don't even care if I used the right word above (affect? effect? I couldn't care less) I want to rage. I want to howl. I want to throw things ... break things ... and hurl my body through space. I want my body to express these unreasonable feelings and angry thoughts. I want to stomp my feet and thrown myself on the floor of the grocery store.

My friend may die tonight. He has been struggling with cancer for a few years. His faith in God is strong. He has been ready to die every time there has been a complication. His sense of humour has remained. But his struggle has been intense. There has been nothing that I can do for him, but some that I could do with him. I have been sharing his journey through simple friendship - dinner, laughs, sharing of faith. Since I moved away we have had to resort to email and phone calls.

But today ... today I am reaching out in the spirit to him and selfishly letting anger and grief wash over me.

One of my most sacred duties is to accompany people on their journey toward death. Some people are young, some are middle age (like my friend), and some are older. Some I barely know at all. All of them deserve the dignity and respect of a good death. Tomorrow I am visiting a dying congregant in a nursing home. I cannot visit my friend. We live too far apart. And yet, I will hopefully make time to go to his funeral, should he die this time as they expect. It doesn't make sense to me, but that's how it will likely go.

I don't know if I will let myself unleash. I don't know if I will go into my basement and dance hard and wild. I don't know if I will get on my bicycle and ride as fast as I can. I don't know how I will let myself be unreasonable. I do know that however I do it I will own it, remember it, and offer it up as a sacred moment.
James Dean - Rebel

a poem

If I could be all of who I am
I wonder how many people I would offend
How many people and in what way
Who would go
Who would stay

If I could be all of who I am
Would the line be drawn
Would there be people who contend
That I’ve gone too far
Stepped over the line
Made this shit up
Should have stayed undefined
Not spilled over the cup

If I could be all of who I am
Would I recognize myself over and against
Who I portray from day to day
Night to night
Scene to scene
And does anyone know what I even mean
When I say that I can’t
Begin to trust the world
Or who is in it
Or how friendships unfurl

What if my words weren’t so carefully chosen
Would you still listen or stand there all frozen
As if what I think is beyond extreme
Would you want to point out
This is why people scream that
People like me should remain concealed
That someday perhaps I can finally wield
My true self from my core
But today … not today

Would your soul be abhorred by my
Interests, my skill, my abandon, my pleasures
Would you walk way around me
Tell me the measure
Of fear you would have if I finally let out
The truth of my truth
My dance and my shout
James Dean - Rebel


I smile at people. Sometimes they look at me strange. Sometimes they smile back in utter shock. I did an experiment once. I walked around not smiling and not looking at anyone. I got "sir'd" all over the place. Loved being "sir'd". Felt empty inside though - not looking at anyone - not smiling - not vibrating with life. My girlfriend asked me if it was worth it. No. No, it wasn't. I hate being "ma'am'd", but even more, I hate not vibrating with life. I'd rather be "ma'am'd" than cut out my soul. The more I smile at people, the more I get "ma'am'd." Crazy world ... when a person by their smile, is gendered. I know, if I had surgery and took T I wouldn't get "sir'd." But I'm not there. I'll still smile at people. It's worth it.
James Dean - Rebel

I'm not a dad

Dec 5, 2011
The last couple of days I have spent doing a little holiday decorating. I don't have much and I'm thinking I might get lights to put around a few windows. But it is festive enough for me for now. When I started seeing other houses looking festive and my churches looking advent/christmasy I decided I would go in the basement to retrieve my box of Christmas cheer. So I went down there. I looked at the box. And I turned around and walked away. Who am I kidding? It's just me here. Who cares if it is decorated? I have plenty of places where I can get my Christmas cheer on. Why spend the time to decorate just for me?


I stopped walking away from the little room with the box of red and green. Why? Because I want to. Because it makes me happy to see Christmas in my house. Because I'm here. "It's only me" is so negative. "I'm here" is much more positive. So I have my little tree and my tree wall hangings up. It's good. Still, as I decorated I wondered, "Will anyone come over to enjoy this little bit of my personal cheer?" And then I reminded myself that I would come over quite often.

It took awhile but I finally figured out at least part of the reason this is hitting me this year. It is something that I have been feeling for most of the year. It is the realization that ... I'm not a dad.

This year I have noticed my friends with their children and grandchildren. The exciting times. The heartbreaks. Fast times. Slow times. I have no idea what that feels like. I have nieces and nephews. They are really cool. I love them lots. One of them is graduating from high school this year. Yeah ... that gets to me. And once again I realize ... I'm not a dad.

I am embracing the sadness of this realization. I'm not devastated.

Dec 16th
I have been embracing the sadness ... and I have been very busy with holiday stuff. This post got away from me. I came back to it a few times and realized that I had nothing yet to add. Not sure I really have anything now, but I don't want to keep it in the cue.

I still don't have the lights around the window. Maybe later. I very much want to put them up. (tangent)

I'm not a dad. Why does this keep coming back to me? It isn't like I lived my life in such a way as to become a dad. I didn't leave room for kids and some of the decisions that I made I couldn't have made - like quitting jobs for ethical/soul reasons. Still ...

So here I am feeling kind of removed from life. Removed from what so many know as normal. Removed from the kind of connections that are all around me.

That's all I got right now. Just letting my mind wander and my soul feel. No conclusions and no real seeking for answers. It isn't about the answers. There's barely a question. Just a realization. I'm not a dad.
James Dean - Rebel

World AIDS Day

Somehow this didn't get posted when I wrote it Dec 1st. sigh. Have I forgotten how to use the internets??? Well, here it is


I have spent much of the day reflecting on those I love who have HIV/AIDS. Some are dead and some are alive. I have gone through many emotions. Now, at the end of the day, after a wonderful vigil at my church ... I am left with being pissed off. I am so angry at this disease. Enough already. God, seriously ...
James Dean - Rebel

Miss me?

So ... I've been away. Mostly I've been preaching. Good stuff. But I'm in a place where I have to be more careful about what I say and how I say it. Where I live right now I don't wear shorts or sleeveless shirts. Too much hair going on there than they will want to see. Maybe I should be more bold. I'm out as queer not because of what I say but because of who I am. And by reputation. And the shoes I wear. Apparently they speak louder than my words.

I'm learning how to negotiate this new world ... or maybe this familiar kinda scary world as my new self. This is a temporary gig, I can temper myself for the short term or I can decide to be bold since it's for a short term. But whatever I do, I have to remember that this gig isn't really about me. I'm here, in it, but it's about the people that I serve. It's about following the call ... you know ... "the call."

I'm getting to know some wonderful people. I can be totally myself with a few folks. In general life is good.
James Dean - Rebel

Welcoming Christ In Our Midst

Acts 4:1-10 & Matthew 10:40-42

Earlier in the 10th chapter of Matthew, Jesus told his disciples to go into the nearby villages and towns. He gave them authority to cast out unclean spirits and to cure every disease and every sickness. He also warned them that they would not always be welcome. Jesus told them, "See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them..." He warned them that they would be "dragged before governors and kings" because of him. But they were not to worry what they were to say, because the Spirit would speak through them.

Peter and John found out that Jesus was not kidding. After Pentecost the disciples stepped up their game and began going out to heal and preach just as they had been doing when Jesus was still with them. Lo and behold, they were dragged into jail and questioned just as promised. "Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit" gave their defense, again, just as promised.

As the story in Acts unfolds we find those who accused the disciples in a quandary. It says, "when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus. When they saw the man who had been cured standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition." Later we find out that the disciples were warned to stop speaking and teaching in the name of Jesus. Peter and John's reply? "Whether it is right in God's sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard."

Peter and John had good news in their souls and they were not about to hold that inside of them. If healing a person of a disease got them into trouble, it was worth it. Jesus said, "whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple — truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward." In the name of a disciple ... or maybe better put, if you give even a cup of cold water because you name yourself as being a disciple. If because you follow Jesus you do even the smallest act of kindness to someone else, you will not lose your reward.

If because you follow Jesus you welcome and are welcomed, you will not lose your reward. We like to be rewarded, don't we? We like to know that someone notices the good things that we do. Jesus is saying that these good things will be noticed – they will be noticed by everyone. Not everyone will respond the same way though. Some will look at our love and compassion on others as being offensive. Whether we receive love and compassion in time of need or give love and compassion, some people will be offended even to the point of being angry and wanting to make us stop. Isn't that dumbfounding?

Jesus tells us to welcome people anyway. Jesus tells us to help people anyway. He isn't real clear about what the reward will be, just that there will be a reward. If you receive a prophet you will receive the reward of the prophet. If someone welcomes you on account of you being a person of faith, they are welcoming Jesus. If you do a small act of kindness for someone, like giving a cup of cold water to someone who thirsts, you will not lose your reward.

This reward ... I don't think it's the reason we are to welcome and to accept being welcomed. Instead I think we should tuck this promise inside our hearts for the day when people express their dissatisfaction because we are generous and welcoming, and in case we are ever brought into the courts because we heal and teach the hope of Christ. Remembering these words of Jesus will give us strength and courage. Even if those around you criticize your good deeds and think you should be more selfish, you will remember that you are generous because you are a disciple. You are welcoming because you have been welcomed.

When we are welcomed, Christ is welcomed. When we welcome others, Christ is welcomed. Jesus says, "Whoever welcomes you welcomes me." Who is the "you" that Jesus is referring too? Specifically in that moment Jesus was talking to his 12 disciples. But in the larger teaching, Jesus is talking to everyone who loves him. Some of those people go to church and some don't. Some of those people look like us and some don't. When Jesus tells us to give even a cup of cold water to the little ones, I think he is saying, don't try to figure out who is a prophet and who is righteous. Don't decide who you should welcome ... just welcome people. Love people. If someone is thirsty, give them something to drink. And if someone else doesn't think that thirsty person deserves a drink, give them a drink too.

This week we held the funeral service for Casey Jones. I had already chosen the scriptures for this week before I found out that I was officiating at his funeral. When I began to talk to people about Casey, I heard many of the stories that he used to tell. But one story I heard twice. It was the story of when he was a little boy and he was playing with his friends. It was a hot summer day and the boys were playing hard. They were tired and got very thirsty. They went to the back door of the house of one of the boys where they were greeted by the child's mother who said, "You can all come in and have drink of water ... except for the Jones boy." Casey's family was poor. That was the only reason he could think of that this mom didn't let him in the house or give him a drink of water. At that young age he decided that he would make something of himself. Which he did. However, once he began to make money he did not forget what it was like to be excluded. From the stories I hear he was a generous man and genuinely interested in how things were going in people's lives.

Casey was not a church-going man. One might say that it wasn't because of Jesus that he was generous and welcoming. I say that we do not know. I also wonder about the mother who refused him a drink of water. I wonder if she would have given him that drink if she had known who he was to become.

We don't need to know who someone will become, where they have come from, or what they believe. Peter and John healed a lame man who was begging at the gate of the temple. They did not ask him what he believed. The story tells us that "Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, 'Look at us.' And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, 'I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.' And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong."

The leaders were offended that Peter and John healed this man. But Peter and John regarded him as if he were Jesus. Inspiration was tucked in their hearts. When they were arrested and then the next morning questioned, their answer was that they did it in the name of Jesus. They did it for the sake of Jesus, to welcome Christ and the one who sent Christ.

Tuck this in your hearts. When you welcome others you are welcoming Jesus. When you help others, you are helping Jesus. It is a simple principle, but difficult sometimes. We want our reward to be more immediate or more apparent. We want our good deeds to be noticed here and now. Sometimes that doesn't happen. Sometimes our reward is deep inside our spirit. It might take prayer and faith to accept it. Truly, I tell you, keep doing good deeds for the sake of welcoming Jesus in our midst and you will not lose your reward.