MUUF is a Welcoming Congregation. So what does that mean? The Welcoming LGBTQ Congregation film and workshop series is a road map for each of us on the journey toward becoming truly welcoming of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. How can each of us be more Welcoming to LGBTQ persons not only their presence but the unique gifts and particularities of their lives as well? The workshop and film series are designed to bring an understanding of the experience of LGTBQ persons and history of LGBTQ challenges. A Welcoming Congregation seeks to nurture ongoing dialogue between people of different affectional/sexual orientations and gender identities, and to create deeper trust and sharing.

1. WORKSHOPS

WORKSHOPS

   The MUUF Welcoming Congregation Committee offered the Welcoming Congregation education and empowerment workshops from UUA. The workshops were open to Straight, Gay, Bisexual, and Trans-gendered persons both from the Fellowship and the community. The three guided workshops were:  November 11 and December 16 in 2017. In 2018 on January 27.

2. FILMS

FILM SERIES 

NOVEMBER 11,  2017

The Welcoming Movie Series was on the 2nd Saturday of each month (November through April) from 1:00 – 3:00 pm.   The first movie in November was “Passionate Pursuit by Andrea Bowen,” a multiple award-winning independent film. Viewing this was an inspiring experience for all who attended.

 

 

DECEMBER 9, 2017 

A true twentieth-century trailblazer, Harvey Milk was an outspoken human rights activist   and the first openly gay U.S. politician elected to public office; even after his assassination, in 1978, he continues to inspire disenfranchised people around the world. One of the first feature documentaries to address gay life in America, it’s a work of advocacy itself, bringing Milk’s message of hope and equality to a wider audience. This exhilarating trove of archival footage and heartfelt interviews is as much a vivid portrait of a time and place (San Francisco’s historic Castro District in the seventies) as a testament to the legacy of a political visionary.  AJ Wolff was living in San Francisco and part of the LGBTQ Community during this historical time. She was at many of the events show in this film.

 

JANUARY 13, 2018 at 1 pm

JUST SUPERB!!! History, inspiration, joy in celebration of humanity and VOICE!!!Incredible vocal talent of Sweet Honey on the Rock and the soulfulness of their lyrics. This DVD chronicles their journeys together up and through the process of their founder, Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, retiring. Very touching and inspiring. This is a teaching story from women who are now “elders” in their experience regardless of their age to all the rest of us, regardless of our own cultural heritage. They lead the way toward best shared human and earth life.

 

FEBRUARY 10, 2018 at I pm

Stonewall Uprising explores the dramatic event that   launched a worldwide rights movement. When police raided a Mafia-run gay bar in Greenwich Village, the Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969, gay men and women did something they had not done before: they fought back. As the streets of New York erupted into violent protests and street demonstrations, the collective anger announced that the gay rights movement had arrived

MARCH 10, 2018 at 1 pm

                                                    TWO documents the 12 year journey of legendary songwriter Desmond Child and his lifelong partner Curtis Shaw, and the extraordinary way they met and connected with Angel Whittaker, the woman who would carry their twin sons, Roman and Nyro, into the world – from preconception through the boys’ first 10 years. Two is the personal and powerful story of the  unique individuals whose lives become inextricably woven together in magical and unexpected ways. Two is a testament to the universal power and ultimate triumph of love—that it is love that makes a family. Affirming modern families may be modern in their making, but timelessly human at their core

 

3. GAY PRIDE EVENTS

GAY PRIDE EVENTS

March 17, 2018 – our fifth event

Rev. Dee Graham, our former minister, participated in the opening ceremonies.

Note from Valerie Fisher

Prism Youth Initiative and the Manatee Pride Committee thanks you from the bottom of our hearts for helping to make the 5th Annual Manatee Pride Festival the huge success that it was. We enjoyed perfect weather, great entertainment and great crowds, and we hope that you had a rewarding and profitable experience. We appreciate your generosity and want you to know that without you, Prism Youth Initiative could not exist in Manatee County. We appreciate your support.

Thanks again, and we look forward to seeing you at our 6th Annual Manatee Pride Fest! Until then, PRIDE ON! Valerie A. Fisher, Prism Youth Initiative Board President Manatee Pride Chair

MUUF members took turns at the booth giving away pamphlets and souvenirs, answering questions and welcoming visitors.

MUUF booth at Manatee Pride was a great success with the new little bubble machine drawing attention to the booth delighting young and old. We spent the day chatting with people of all ages, handing out 200 Welcoming brochures along with candy, bracelets with MUUF website on them and mini rainbow flags with sticker giving website site and Facebook info. It was a very well attended event and our visibility was appreciated. There were many special moments of connection like when a young person came up to us all smiles and told us how they were raised UU. There was an opening Inter Faith prayer service where Rev. Dee Graham, our former minister, was a participant along with other clergy. Thanks to the volunteers, Carol Bartz, Chuck Wolfe, Bernita Franzel, Misty Stolze, Leslie Roell, Bobbi Bordeaux, Becky Smith, Ed Kobee, and Al Usack. Thanks to Chris Mac Cormack for providing our tent bringing, setting it up and taking it down. And especially to AJ Wolff for organizing it all.

MUUF has participated in all five Gay Pride events.   Click here for pictures of all four years of Gay Pride.  

Gay Pride is sponsored by PRISM which we support by special collection each year. In 2015 we hosted PRISM for their Saturday meetings until a permanent location was found. Information about PRISM can be found at: http://www.prismyouth.org  

Here is a brief note written by AJ Wolff for our Newsletter.

“Prism Youth Initiative is a cause dear to my heart. I wish there had been such a place for my cousin in our youth when he tried to commit suicide because he was a transgender. Luckily it was a failed attempt, but a cry for help that was never really addressed. Today we talk about LGBTQ Equality but it is still very challenging to be a LGBTQ youth in these times.”

4. WEDDINGS

WEDDINGS

 

On Sunday, January 11, 2015  We celebrated Florida’s new Legal Marriages for the LGBTQ community. Rev. Dee Graham conducted the ceremonies; Bill Peruzzi, our President at time of wedding, escorted brides down the aisle and with Joan Butcher witnessed the marriage certificates. Joan also played the piano and furnished the flowers. MUUF members were joyous and glad to provide a reception for the couples. What a celebration! Here are some of the pictures from the three weddings and the one vow renewal of two of our members: Valerie and Melissa.. In July another newly legal marriage was celebrated.

 

5. PULSE COMMEMORATION

PULSE and the FIRST ANNIVERSARY MEMORIAL.

In 2017 our MUUF President wrote:  On the evening of June 12, 2017, we hosted a one-year anniversary memorial service for the forty-nine Pulse nightclub victims led by Prism, Manatee Pride, Rev. Glen Graczyk of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, and our own Rev. Dee Graham providing readings with a slide show and music honoring the victims. There were forty-nine roses in forty-nine single bud vases for all to see. Thank you to Valerie Fisher for initiating and coordinating the event which touched the hearts and minds of all 100 people in attendance and thank you to John Isham and Gary Chanco for handling the rather challenging media portion of it.

In July 2016 Bill Hayes of our Social Justice Committee wrote this for our Newsletter Update:

 An Open Conversation on the Orlando Tragedy Through the efforts of president Martha Pelletier and minister Dee Graham, MUUF was proud to host an Open Conversation on Sunday, June 19, about the tragedy at PULSE, the gay nightclub in Orlando where 49 persons were slain and many others injured by a single gunman with an assault-type weapon. The public and the press were invited. Representatives from Prism, a support group for LGBTQ youth, also attended. Prism members were at the Fellowship already for a Special Collection sponsored by our Social Justice Committee. There were about 25 persons overall in attendance. 
The Open Conversation format provided a safe zone for the release and expression of emotions. Feelings ran the gamut from anger to sadness to frustration to shock, disbelief and denial. Tears were shed. Respect was granted to each person. Everyone was given a chance to speak. The consensus was that these murders were hate crimes against the LGBTQ and Latino communities and should be handled as such. Islamaphobia and fear of terrorism did not belong in the discussion. However, gun control was an issue.
We were encouraged to speak to our legislators and tell them that gun control is needed and that there is no need for an individual to own military-type assault weapons.
With this Open Conversation, MUUF exhibited itself  as a safe community where difficult issues can be discussed, where our emotional guards can be let down and where our first UU principle of affirming and promoting the inherent worth and dignity of every person is honored

 

 in 2016 on the Sunday immediately after the June 2016 shootings, Valerie Fisher from Prism gave a eulogy for the victims and after the service a discussion open to the public was held and reported in the Bradenton Herald.

Faith, Violence and the LBGTQ Community
by Valerie Fisher, Director of Prism of Manatee County

An outpouring of thoughts and prayers and tears have been shed for the victims and survivors of the Orlando massacre. It’s been a week since we heard the terrible tragic news about the murders that occurred at Pulse.

The morning I heard the news, the sun was shining and that just felt wrong — how could the sun shine when the world as we know it was wrenched away. Later I learned, as we all did, that the shooter had a history of domestic abuse; and that he was on the FBI watch list twice, yet he was able to work as a security guard, obtain assault weapons – legal in Florida, banned in other states. That information made all of this so much more surreal. It’s been called a Terrorist attack. But we know this hate-fueled rampage was directed specifically at LGBTQ persons on Latin Night at Pulse. I call that a hate crime.

Some are encouraging us to blame Muslims and adopt the ‘them and us’ mentality which would only serve to further divide humanity. I refuse to participate in more hate. Later we learned that he previously frequented Pulse, that he had profiles on gay social/dating sites. If that’s true, then it’s also true that he felt the same oppression felt by all LGBTQ people, from religious zealots and ignorant people that proselytize hate and fear. Perhaps he felt it so much, that his own internalized homophobia drove him to commit this stone cold, premeditated massacre. I watched pastors in California and Arizona LAST SUNDAY say “too bad he didn’t get them all” and “our government should line them all up and execute them”……and by ‘them’ they mean me…. I am stunned at so-called Christian religious rhetoric that belittles, demeans and demonizes the purest of all human needs and emotions: love. The need for, and expression of love.

LGBTQ people feel oppression from our own government. Did you realize that it took Rick Scott four days to even say the word ‘gay’ and of course we know Pam Bondi is now claiming to be a champion of LGBT people, although she led a ferocious fight to deny marriage equality. Right after the massacre, congress offered thoughts and prayers for Orlando and then promptly blocked a bill that would offer protections to LGBT persons by banning discrimination by federal contractors. This week, I saw the heartwarming front page story of a survivor, wounded in the attack, surrounded by loving family showing him support. I felt encouraged. But then I remembered that all of us are not so fortunate to be loved and accepted by our family of origin. This is why LGBTQ people make our own families, why we call each other ‘family’ why we find spaces to be around other LGBTQ people, why we have Pride Festivals and places like Prism.
Because it is a very core human need to have places where we feel we belong and can celebrate our true identity and be with people who are like us and respect us. It is important to have places where we can just BE. Because last Sunday keeps us aware that it’s not always safe to be LGBT or Q in America. But I thank God, Buddha, Allah and the Universe because those who would marginalize, demonize and even kill us, are INFINITELY outnumbered by legions of rational, compassionate and kindhearted people who have united to show their support and love. Millions of dollars from people all over the world have been raised on GoFundMe, for the victims and survivors. Even some corporations are putting humanity before profit.
In our time of grieving for the victims, for ourselves, for what our community as whole has lost, we must take heart, we must resolve to continue to work for a world that recognizes each of us as valuable humans who want only to be able to live our lives loving the
persons we love without fear or shrinking from expressing ourselves.
His father said he did this because he saw two men kissing. I live for the day that his motivation is understood by NO ONE.
I hope and live and ask you to join me to honor the memory of 49 lost lives and 53 wounded sisters and brothers by resolving that we will not only survive, but thrive, that we will stand together strong, because love must win.
Valerie A. Fisher (MA, LMHC, NCC, CCMHC) is a Collaborative Divorce .Facilitator and can be reached at Fisher Counseling & Mediation