Tolerance, Acceptance, and Affirmation

Originally posted 22 November 2002 on LiveJournal.

This is a post I sent to the UUPoly list several months back during a discussion of what we as polyamorous Unitarian Universalists really want from the UUA.

The minister in our old congregation, Heather Collins, spoke on this a few years ago. I wish I had the text of her sermon. It was Father’s Day and she’d caused some serious waves in our (not Welcoming) congregation by having a quartet from the Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus there to perform. She addressed the difference between tolerating, accepting, and affirming something or someone. She used queer people as an example.

Tolerance: “You can be here, but I don’t really want to know that you’re queer.”
Acceptance: “You can be here and be openly gay, but I’m not really going to get close to you. And don’t even THINK about teaching RE!1RE stands for Religious Education. It’s like Sunday School in many denominations. Affirmation: “Is this your partner? I’m so pleased to meet you all! Oh, you’re teaching RE? Which grade? My son’s in that class! Do you remember him—tall kid with wild black hair?”

I haven’t said this nearly as well as Heather did, but it was a marvelous sermon.

I want affirmation of polyamory in the UUA. I want to be treated precisely the same as a monogamous couple would be in terms of how much of my relationships can be shared with my spiritual community. I want to be able to stand up during Joys & Concerns and say “This is our lover J, who is here to visit us for a week. We only get to see her every couple of months, so this is a very joyous time for us.” I want to see four or five parents with their infant at a child dedication service. I want to see commitment ceremonies announced and greeted with the same sharing of joy we usually see reserved for weddings. I want the minister to actually be prepared to do commitment ceremonies and do the same kind of premarital counseling he or she would do with a monogamous couple. I want to have my lover be my maid of honor or best man at my wedding and not hide the relationship. I want responsible non-monogamy included in the Our Whole Lives curriculum and addressed just as fully and affirmingly as monogamous relationships or celibacy. I don’t want to have any question of whether a particular UUA congregation is going to be fully affirming of GLBTQ or polyamorous people and relationships. And I do not honestly think that’s too much to ask, even if it will take a long time to get there.

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