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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