Come. Be present. Deepen the conversation.
Every 4th Sunday, 3-5pm
Berkeley Methodist United Church
(1710 Carleton St, Berkeley, CA)
Please email email@example.com for upcoming times and venue.
As API, LGBT community activists of faith, we often maintain busy schedules full of meetings and events. In order for us to discern how to best bring about justice for our community and sustain our spirits in the struggle, it is important for us to have a space for spiritual reflection. But as API LGBT people of faith, many of us experience isolation and alienation from our families, home churches, and communities. For many NRJizers, NRJ meetings are one of the few spaces in which we can be all of ourselves in our complex and multi-layered sexual and political identities.
The NRJ Talking Circle provides a sacred time and space for API LGBT people of faith to share feelings and thoughts about important issues in and affecting our lives with other API LGBTQ people of faith in a safe and structured way. In the NRJ Talking Circle, we sit in a circle together and meditate, talk, listen, sing, and reflect with each other.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is the NRJ Talking Circle?
A: The NRJ Talking Circle is a rare safe place to be all of your fabulous API LGBT person of faith self with other API LGBT people of faith. It is a place for activists to not act, but to just be and reflect -- no agenda, no brainstorming, no decision-making.
"Refreshingly, it was just talking!"
~ Rev. John Oda
Q: What exactly do you do in the NRJ Talking Circle?
A: We sit in a circle around a candle, sing a couple of songs, and talk about what is on our hearts at this point in time.
"I am grateful for the opportunity to talk about things that would be difficult to talk about in the classroom, at home, and in church."
~ Lai Shan
Q: What do you talk about?
A: We talk about things that are relevant in the lives and communities of API LGBT people of faith. Past topics have included leadership and spirituality; and the community-wide call to come out. The conversations have grown into conversations about the particular experiences of API LGBT people of faith, what we have to offer to queer social justice movements. You don't have to stay on topic - just talk about what is true to you or on your heart at the moment.
Q: How many people will be there?
A: Recent NRJ Talking Circles have ranged from 4-12 people. Small groups allow space for everyone who wants to talk to talk.
Q: Do I have to talk?
A: No, there are many ways to participate. You may participate by listening to others, meditating on your own thoughts, or talking.
How the NRJ Talking Circle Began
The fall leading up to the November 2008 elections was an emotional roller-coaster for many Asian American and Pacific Islander LGBT community activists in California. As the hope that Barack Obama would be elected president filled the air, the campaigns for and against the Proposition 8: Ban on Same-Sex Marriage raged an assault on LGBTs.
It seemed like almost every other commercial on the radio and on primetime television was about Proposition 8. Yes on Prop 8 ads in English, Spanish, and Chinese implied that same-sex relationships were akin to beastiality, incest, and pedophelia. No on Prop 8 ads featured White parents and friends of LGBT people and big-name White politicians talking about how LGBT couples should have the same rights as heterosexual couples, but didn't feature any LGBT people, much less any APIs or people of color. Other No on Prop 8 ads had no people at all - just black, white, and red pictures of the state constitution, gavels, and government buildings. Not only was our humanity as LGBT people the subject of public discourse, but API LGBT people were not a visible part of the discourse.
Behind the scenes of the mainstream ad campaign, many worked tirelessly, educating our families, friends, and communities about the issue and encouraging them to vote No on Prop 8. At the same time, many of us felt conflicted about the statewide and national LGBT movement focusing almost solely on same-sex marriage rights.
In the midst of all this, the Network on Religion and Justice for Asian Pacific Islander LGBT people felt compelled to create a sacred space of spiritual reflection and renewal for API LGBT people of faith, activists, and community members. Long alienated from our API families, communities, and congregations because of our queerness and alienated from the queer community because of our ethnicity, we realized that we had to create the space that we needed for ourselves and for our community.
In November 2008, we initiated a new NRJ program: the NRJ Talking Circle. Since then, we have met once each month to light a candle, be together in the company of other API LGBT people of faith, sing a few songs, and just talk. Unlike most activist meetings, there is no agenda and no business decisions are made. It is a space for us to just be - a rare space where it is safe to be all of who we are: queer Asian Pacific Islander people of faith.
December 23, 2008: The Community-Wide Call to Come Out
During the No on Proposition 8 campaign, organizations urged LGBTs to call and email our friends, family, and co-workers to ask them to vote No on Prop 8. After the passage of the Proposition 8 Ban of Same-Sex Marriage in California in the November 2008 election, community leaders have called for LGBT people to come out to their families, friends, neighbors, and co-workers.
The theory is that if we LGBT people come out to our families, friends, neighbors, and co-workers, they will personally know us and they will think of us (and not the negative stereotypes of LGBTs) the next time same-sex marriage and other LGBT rights are up for a vote. The theory is that through the act of coming out, we can win the next election.
This community-wide call to come out has put pressure on LGBT people to come out. In doing so, this call to come out has also raised anxieties in LGBTs who have not come out for a number of reasons -- many of us do not come out for fear of losing important relationships or because the risk to their careers is too high.
- Do we have to be out to be good API LGBT activists? Or is coming out just a White thing?
- Is coming out to homophobes and having dialogue with them about marriage equality what we need to do for our community right now?
- What do we need as API LGBT communities right now?
- What API cultural strengths do we have to contribute to the LGBT movement at this particular point in history?
February 3, 2009: What would you do with the $45 million that was spent on the No on Prop 8 Campaign? (or What does the API LGBT people of faith community need right now?)
Many national and statewide LGBT organizations are focused on winning same-sex marriage rights and marriage equality. Forty-five million dollars went into the No on Prop 8 campaign and because we lost, people are still trying to figure out how we’re going to win the next campaign and the campaign in the next state. So from the outside, it looks like this is the most important thing for LGBT people right now… but is it really what’s most important to us or the only thing that’s important to us?
- What do you think are the things the LGBT movement today needs to be about?
- How would you use that $45 million dollars?
- What’s really important to us and going on in our lives as Asian American and Pacific Islander LGBT people?
February 24, 2009: What's your API coming out story?
Though coming out is a common bond that most people in the LGBTQ community share, everybody has different coming out stories. The mainstream White coming out story is that an LGBTQ person comes out to their parents and their parents disown them and throw them out of the house. Is coming out different for APIs?
March 24, 2009: Why are ethnic churches important to ethnic people?
Some people question why API LGBT Christians who have felt excluded by their API churches don't just go to a Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) or another church that is reconciling or open & affirming. It is important for many API LGBTs that their church is an API church. Why is this? Why don't API LGBT folks just go to White MCCs or other reconciling or open & affirming churches? Why is it important for us to create LGBT-affirming API churches?
April 28, 2009: The Heteronormative Path Versus Our Queer API Realities
Before you came out to yourself...
- Who did you think you would partner with?
- Who did you think would be your support system?
- What were your life goals?
- What did you see as your vocation or role in society?
- After coming out to yourself, did these things change?
- What is prescribed by our heteronormative society? What is our actual lived realities?
May 26, 2009: The CA Supreme Court Ruling on Prop 8, Marriage, and Critiques of Marriage
On the morning of Tuesday, May 26, 2009, the CA Supreme Court announced its ruling on Prop 8. We used this opportunity to be in community with each other after the ruling. We also used this opportunity to share our feelings about marriage and our critiques of the institution of marriage, in general.
- How do you feel about the ruling? What does the ruling mean for you and your relationship(s), future plans, and dreams?
- Do you want to get married? Are you theoretically opposed to marriage, but in a monogamous long-term relationship?
- Do you see same-sex marriage as symbolic of gays and lesbians assimilating into straight society? Or do you see same-sex marriage as revolutionizing and totally flipping the script on marriage?
- What purpose does marriage serve/what purpose has marriage served in your life? What alternatives to marriage/other sustainable family structures have historically existed in our API cultures? What alternatives to marriage currently exist in our communities?