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!”1
Affirmation: “Is this your partner? I’m so pleased to meet you both! 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 4 or 5 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 male/female couple. I want to have my lover be my maid of honor or best man in 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 GLBT or poly 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.

1 RE stands for Religious Education. It’s like Sunday School in many denominations.

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