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Spirituality: Mentors
by Roberto Tijerina
2004-03-01

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I've always thought that the LGBT community is ripe for but sorely lacking in mentorship – the passing of communal wisdom to queer youth in the hopes of helping them to avoid some of the more serious pitfalls associated with accepting and living out your sexual or gender identity. Being human (read: vain), I focused on the good that could come of my sharing years of collected lessons (most learned the hard way). Last month, I had the opportunity to recognize, personally and publicly, a couple which has mentored me in the ways of long-term relationships. I'd like to share the toast that I had the honor of reciting at Lambda's Freedom to Marry Reception. Think of it as my personal plug: be a mentor, find a mentor.

"Aprende en cabeza ajena" my mother used to tell me. "Learn on a stranger's head." These were a few of the many, many words of advice my mother has dispensed throughout the years. While my usual response was to smile politely and disregard, this time I did not – and I'm glad.

Allow me to share a few thoughts on my friends Sharon and Janice. They are celebrating 13 yrs together. When I met them it had been seven. This was pre-Chicago, pre Lambda, and pre my husband James. I was immediately struck with their genuineness – they are so real. They are intelligent, deep-feeling, complicated individuals - committed to each other, to themselves, and now, to their children.

The committed way Janice and Sharon lead their lives has served as a template for building a family of my own with James. At every relationship milepost – moving in together, combining finances, getting married - I could be found on the phone or on their couch talking to one or both of them, where I would find warmth, patience, and the most un-PC lesbian sense of humor ever visited upon these ears. In those times of relationship crisis, when James and I are having our umpteenth argument about class struggle, racism, who's turn it is to clean the bathroom, and we both go into timeouts to ponder how we could have married someone so different from ourselves, it is your faces, voices that find their way into mind and whisper "It'll be OK. Not always easy - but OK if you can let the differences pass and remember why you love this man."

Your tour of duty is not over. Four years ago you generously allowed us to follow your journey to parenthood – the excitement, the worries, the joy of holding your new baby, and the extreme ill humor that comes from lack of sleep. It was a privilege to watch that transformation in your lives. As you know, James and I continue to perch on the "having children" fence. Who knows how that will end for us? I do know that IF we take that plunge, you will be there – as family, as friends – to prop us up AND slap us down. So were already ahead of the game.

Thank you, we love you, and to you both and to your family – Cheers!


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