Friday, April 14, 2017

Good Friday Meditation

Willamette River, 2017

The following is the meditation I shared at St. Andrew Lutheran tonight at the Good Friday service.  We did the seven last words of Jesus, and my passage was the Luke 23:32-34 below.
Luke 23:32-34 (NRSV): Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing. And they cast lots to divide his clothing.
Today I took a walk and strode past sleeping bodies on park benches and in doorways. I averted my eyes, ashamed and overwhelmed by the sheer number of people who need help. I saw one man from the other side of the street while he wiped away several tears.

Today I read the headlines of cruelty against so many people here and around the world. More than I can count. More than I can handle. I don’t even know what to do with my outrage and powerlessness, my fatigue and my broken hearted-ness.

Today, in this service, we hear about the death of a man who, in his ministry, really saw people. Jesus looked into the eyes of each one, whether they lay on the street begging, or sat in a house of power counting money and influence. He fully saw all of their joys and hopes, their sins and their sorrows. And he loved them all. Even those he confronted. He loved them all, and they crucified him for it.

Today I think about all of the people I don’t see, don’t want to see, or don’t want to forgive. I haven’t forgiven those who drive the wheel that generates the conditions of poverty and homelessness, those who seek war instead of peace, those who say a harsh word, or those who are cruel bullies. I don’t even want to forgive myself for, without a word, sliding past the homeless man hiding from the rain in my doorway the other day.

I am so angry and heartbroken with our world, which continues to crucify to this day. Yet, even as Jesus was crucified with criminals, Jesus forgives. He sees, and he loves those who called for his death. Our God is compassionate. Our God forgives, restoring relationships and wholeness, even to my enemies, even to me.

May God forgive us all, for we don’t know all of the ways we participate in the violence and sin of the world. Forgive us, restore us, and guide us. Amen.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Letter, 2017

To my beloved Friends and Family,

Wishing you a beautiful holiday season, and all that is good and joyful in 2017! I’m grateful for each of you.  I write this on the day that the Electoral College voted, and I know that on my letter list are many who are mourning, and some who are glad.  But we are all part of the human family together, and even if we disagree, I’m glad we are connected.

One of the reasons I decided to write a Christmas letter again this year is because I think it is important for us to stay connected – to tell our stories, find common ground, and build up our communities.  We are all in this life together.  So I’m going to tell a little of my story of the last year, and would love to hear your stories too.  I’d love a letter, or email, or maybe a chance to catch up over coffee or drinks. 

This year, I really enjoyed diving into some of my passions.  I have continued to take trapeze classes.  Sometimes I have to remind myself that I am 41 and half my class is half my age, and many are bendier, stronger, and bounce back more quickly. But no matter if I ever advance to the next level of classes, trapeze is a great joy in my life.  I love growing stronger, being in the air, facing my fears, and getting to know fabulous people, including my teachers and classmates.  If folks in town are ever interested in checking it out, I love Night Flight, where I attend:

Another passion of mine is advocacy for those affected by HIV, and busting stigma.  I just started my third year serving on the Board of Directors at Cascade AIDS Project and am learning so much and meeting tons of great people! I really enjoy getting to dress up for events like the Art Auction (pictured on my card, with my friend Darren picking me up), and hitting the town with a big team for AIDS Walk Portland.  I’m fired up to get an even bigger team for AIDS Walk in 2017!  Many of you on this list have volunteered, walked with me or donated, and I’m forever grateful!  AND it is thrilling that we are going to broaden our services as we open an LGBTQ health clinic! (LGBTQ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer or Questioning). If you’re interested, you can read more about our future clinic and services at  I have met so many amazing people volunteering for CAP, and made some lifelong friends.

Oh – a news item! In September, I moved again!  But this time I bought a place, so I won’t be moving again any time soon.  Finally! This is probably of great relief to the friends who have helped me move multiple times over the past few years, including Mark (pictured on my card with me celebrating batman) and Darren, who took time off of work to fight commute traffic and safe spots for my moving truck, since I didn’t have enough notice to get a permit.  Now that’s friendship!

One of the things that keeps me hopping is my volunteer work for ReconcilingWorks, the non-profit that helps Lutheran churches welcome include, and celebrate LGBTQ people.  This is truly rewarding work, and I love getting to go to different churches and provide trainings and get to know people in different parts of the country.  This year I was able to fly to Orlando to co-lead a large training of churches who wanted to take action after the Pulse shooting.  It was a little intimidating for me because I knew that the people in the class were impacted by the violence against LGBT and Latino community members. I was deeply moved by their participation. 

At any of my trainings, I come out to people in presentations as a bisexual trans man, and speak to my experience, while also training them on concepts of hospitality and gender identity. This leads to many interesting questions and great discussions.  I love this work, and all of the people I meet.  And I find it interesting that I’m happy to do public speaking and train large groups, but afraid of other things, like driving in snow and ice, or rain, or curvy roads.  You get the picture. J   If you’re intrigued about a group that works for welcome in churches, we’re at

I’m also excited to work on an event that our local ReconcilingWorks chapter is throwing:  a huge community wide service of welcome: January 29th, West Linn Lutheran Church, 5pm. Our theme is “Building the Beloved Community,” which you may recognize from Martin Luther King Jr’s philosophy.  The music is again going to be awesome, and the service will be followed by a potluck dinner. Food+music+community = winning.  It is one of my favorite events of the year and you’re all invited.  Unless you don’t want to come because it’s church, and that’s totally cool too. J

But the most exciting news didn’t make it until page 2?!!  I had to build the suspense for this one. J  The Lutheran church in Oregon hired me to be an advocate for the LGBTQ community, to listen to people’s stories and hear their experiences with church, and in general.  One of the outcomes is that we have a new little start-up church that meets (for now) in my living room every week.  We named our church “The Flame”.  It is a pretty small group for now, primarily LGBTQ folks and allies.   We meet at 6pm, so we don’t compete with the Sunday brunch hour! J 

Even though I started a church, I still will never try to convert anyone.  It’s not my business what any of you believe.  We don’t have to agree.  Truly.  I think differing opinions and a variety of experiences is beautiful, and I love y’all.

There is so much of my church nerd self that now has expression, it is really pretty fun.  We even got a domain name and are working on our website!  is our little baby (thank you, Evan!).  See, I had to list those other links, so that I could casually slip into the letter the web address of our little creation. J

One of our members, Adam Page, painted a logo for our church, pictured to the left, and I love it!  Our vision was that each person, no matter the color, body type, ability, sexual orientation or gender identity, could contribute to the community, and the flame.  Plus, I love rainbows!

Part of this new role with the Lutheran church is that I am on my way (again), to becoming a pastor!  I have 3 classes to do through a distance learning program, one of which I am in now – World Religions.  I have a few other requirements, and then maybe someday in the next year or so, I will be Pastor Leo of The Flame.  Whoa.

You know the little white tab at the neck on the pastor or priest’s shirt?  If I get ordained, I’m totally going to glitterize or bedazzle some of those for the right occasions.  It’s going to be great! I’ll definitely invite all of you to the ordination.

But wait, you say, aren’t I in tech support?  Indeed, it’s true.  I am! I will continue to  work both jobs.  I’m very grateful for my fun job solving problems and working with a great team on software used in the Medical Records department of hospitals at Nuance Communications, and I’m not going to give up a good thing there.  Oh yah – for consistency – that’s at

The best part about my day job is the people, and all of the cat pictures that we send to one another. I’ve included an example to the right.  (not my actual cat….) ( doesn’t actually contain cat pictures) (should I have # these?)

For whatever 2017 brings, may we all hug our loved ones tighter and more often, reach out to help a stranger, reconnect with old friends, and listen to each other’s stories.

I wish you and yours the very best, and may we all find love, joy, peace, and hope.

In gratitude,

~ Leo ~

Monday, June 13, 2016

Thank You Oregon Lutherans!

Rainbow Cross by Adam Page
I'm not sure if this is the right time to post this or not, but here it is.

On June 1st, I started a quarter time position with the Lutheran church to do advocacy for and ministry with the LGBTQIA community.

In the midst of our sorrow and anger, and so much frustration over the silence or bigotry we in the LGBTQIA community often experience from some church people, I wanted to share this small bit of good news.

In this ministry by the Oregon Synod of the Lutheran church (ELCA), I'll be doing some of what I already do now, but with more local focus and support. It is a quarter time position, and I'm on track to be ordained as a pastor after I complete my training. I'm also still working full time in my tech job.

So what will I be doing?

  • Exploring the idea of creating a new worshiping community based on inclusion, diversity, justice, and healing,  We will start having one-to-one conversations and small group gatherings to explore the idea of what faith and community mean to us.
  • Helping Lutheran churches in Oregon become Reconciling In Christ, which means to be explicitly and publicly welcoming towards people of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions.
  • Helping Lutheran churches that have already voted to become Reconciling in Christ live out that welcome in real, tangible ways.
  • Connecting with and building up the community of leaders to share in this work.  
I am thrilled that the Lutheran church is putting resources into making a real difference in the lives of the LGBTQIA community, especially when our hearts are aching and our faces are wet with tears.  

Have questions, want to be involved, or just chat?  I'd love to hear from you.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38-39

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Finding Leo: Of Love and Pride

My Mom and Me, Pride 2015

This month's PQ Monthly column is posted.

You can see my full list of columns here.

Thank you for reading!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Finding Leo: The Holes In My Heart

Brianna, Merissa, Tosha, and Sheena in 2009

This month's PQ Monthly column is posted:

You can see my full list of my columns here.

Thank you for reading!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Hate Will Not Have The Final Word

photo from Holden Village, 2006

Republican lawmakers in North Carolina on Wednesday pushed through a broad sweeping anti-LGBT bill, removing local ordinances for equal rights based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and mandating that government controlled multi-user bathrooms be restricted to a single sex based on the gender assigned at birth.

It is distressing to have people debate my genitalia and my worth, when all I have to do is pee. More importantly, this law makes the trans community, trans women in particular, even more vulnerable to violence and harassment.

Lawmakers rushed the bill through during Holy Week, when we prepare for Easter Sunday. In multiple states and cities around the country, people are rushing to deny rights to the LGBTQ community, while waving the flag of Christianity.

It makes me sick, and it is not my religion.

On Good Friday, I remembered Jesus, the Son of God, who came to share a message of good news to the poor, release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, freedom for those oppressed, and the year of the Lord’s favor. This is how he kicked off his ministry in the gospel of Luke (4:14-21). He spoke against those in power who had set up laws based on ritual purity. Those laws drove people into isolation and onto the margins. Jesus spoke against those laws, and brought people back in who had been made outsiders. He restored relationships by healing individuals and communities.

On Good Friday, Jesus was crucified by those in power because of the threat he presented with his ministry.

On Easter Sunday, we celebrated that death and hate did not have the final word.

On Easter Sunday, we remembered that Jesus preached a message of love, and care for one another, especially for those who are most vulnerable.

Many of us in the LGBTQ community have personally experienced abuse and cruelty at the hands of the church, or Christian family members and friends. Many of us have seen the hate and vitriol come out of our political system in the name of Christian values. Countless members of the LGBT community and our allies have left the church, because it was healthier and safer to leave.

Why would I expect anyone to be a Christian? Why would I even want to admit I am a Christian?

On Easter Sunday, we celebrate that death and hate will not have the final word.

The opponents of Jesus’ message of love, inclusion, and freedom for the oppressed, thought they had won when they nailed him to the cross.

They did not count on the expansiveness of God’s love.

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

The resurrection of Jesus is a way for us to celebrate this truth. Not even death can separate us from the love of God. Not even a rash of discriminatory legislation. Not even an abusive church, or having left church altogether, will make God stop loving us.

So what does this have to do with North Carolina?

The lawmakers who are governing out of fear and ignorance will not have the last word. Jesus stands in solidarity with the oppressed. Jesus would stand with a sign at the governor’s residence proclaiming, “God loves all LGBTQ peeps.” Jesus would wear a button that says, #Illgowithyou and make sure that trans people have an ally to go to the bathroom in safety. God’s Spirit is active in igniting our hearts to stand with those who face violence, discrimination, and rejection.

We will not let hate win, because God has said “No!” to hate.

This is what I celebrate on Easter Sunday.

Wishing you all a Blessed spring, with a resounding Alleluia that God says “Yes!” to love.

I’m praying you may know love, safety, and the confidence that you are a wonderful child of God.
I’m praying for the freedom to pee, and an end to anti-LGBTQ legislation.
I’m praying for an end to violence against our LGBTQ community, particularly against trans women and people of color.
I’m praying for all who have been kicked out of church, and out of their homes.
I’m praying for all who are oppressed in any way.

With love for you this Easter season,


Saturday, March 26, 2016

I Was There

A view from Holden Village, 2006
[This is my meditation from last night's Good Friday service at St. Andrew Lutheran.  There were seven readers, each with a part of the passion narrative from the Gospel of Luke, sharing from the perspective of one of the witnesses. We began with "I was there"...]

Luke 23:32–43: Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!”The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” 
I was there, on the cross next to Jesus. The mood was violent, and the frothing crowd that had yelled, “Give us Barrabas”, and “Crucify him!” craved more. They tried to humiliate Jesus, even as he was dying. I don’t know why they were so angry. Maybe some felt persecuted by the Romans, and some were just caught up in the frenzied rally. They wanted Jesus to feel their shame and impotence, and mocked him with “Save Yourself! Come down from the cross now!”

Jesus didn’t save himself from the cross, but he forgave them. I was so angry at them all. They were so cruel! And he forgave them. What did this Messiah hold within his heart that he could forgive such hatred and violence? I chastised the other criminal for heaping insults along with the rest. Isn’t it enough that he was dying?

I mustered up all of my courage to speak to him. “Jesus,” I said, and was shocked at how intimately I was speaking to this stranger. What should I ask for? He hadn’t saved himself from the cross, so saving my life seemed out of the question. He was as powerless as I was. He was in the same bad state, maybe even worse after all of the beatings. Then, I said, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” I don’t know what I expected. I didn’t deserve a place with the Son of God. But I wept with relief at his answer. “Truly, I tell you, today, you will be with me in paradise.” Truly this man was the Son of God. I would not only be remembered, I would be restored. I would be with God. I had never been good enough or at all righteous. I felt shame and embarrassment about all I had done, but he invited me to be a part of his kingdom.

Even in dying, I felt great joy. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the sneer on the face of the other criminal. And I had compassion on him and forgave him. He was just as I am, and worthy of a place in the kingdom too. That day, I forgave myself, because Jesus forgave me. And I forgave the angry crowds and the brutal soldiers, because Jesus loved even them. And I entered into God’s glorious kingdom, of forgiveness, restoration, welcome, and peace.