Plain Rainbows: Introduction to Transgender People & Being an Ally!

 

Surprise! We couldn't wait either so we dropped the first episode of Plain Rainbows: LGBTQ Amish & Anabaptist Stories tonight! Also on FB LIVE

AHF Ambassadorship

At the 3rd annual Amish Heritage Foundation (virtual conference)


Are you of Amish heritage and an artist? 

It was an honor to serve as the first Artist Ambassador for the AMISH HERITAGE FOUNDATION. During the 3 month progam I gave a talk on LGBTQ Amish issues for AHF's 3rd annual (virtual) conference.

This gave me an oppurtinity to address LGBTQ+ Amish issues in an academic space for which I am grateful. Thank you TORAH BONTRAGER and to Lars for participating. I remain a supporter moving forward, now accepting applicants for new Artist Ambassadors, see AmishHeritage.org for details! 

Check out the podcast below for more on AHF and Torah Bontrager's writing tips!  

Plain Rainbows (trailer)


My co-host Mary Byler and I are currently filming episodes of Plain Rainbows: LGBTQ Amish & Anabaptist Stories. We have some great guests lined up for a season of LGBTQ+ Amish / Anabaptist  / Plain discussions! Debuts in June on YouTube! 

Check out more of Mary's Coffee with Elam series, Drinks with Disobedient Women etc. on her YouTube channel. 

The Forbidden Apple Podcast: Affirming LGBTQ youth with Ross Murray

Ross Murray from GLAAD, Yass, Jesus! podcast and the Naming Project is back on the pod! His new book ”Made, Known, Loved” shows congregations how to create a program that affirms LGBTQ youth. How can we transform religious spaces into more welcoming environments and guide future leaders? 

#🍎: #NationalPoetryMonth






Hello / goodbye #NationalPoetryMonth! 

I have teamed up with THE FORBIDDEN APPLE PODCAST to celebrate! Above: "Satan's Inches" was originally published in "Michiana's Rainbow Gazzette" (2007) & below: "Slundered" from "The Literary Party: Growing Up Gay and Amish in America" (2011). 

Love Letter #NationalPoetryMonth



Weekend vibes. For #NationalPoetryMonth I was going through some early poetry I had written & found this previously unpublished poem: 

*** 

"Love Letter (Fragment)" 

Thinking about the men throughout my life: they always left. Dear Brother, Dear Father, Dear Man in the shadows outside the disco... 

Thinking about letters unsent and dreams undreamt. Blame everyone or no one. 

They left to find God, to run the streets, to go to war with themselves. 

The cityscape at nightfall in his muscular arms...

The way the moonlight could be mistaken for tears...

Men leaving in cars for new lives, 

Beginning with my absence. 

Au revoir. 

The city shines in his eyes. 

Always the years go by and shadows call...  

Fear & Loathing in Amish Country

10 YEAR ANNIVERSARY 

The Amish are a closed community: not just a religion but a lifestyle, culture and people, descendants of Medieval radical heretics fleeing persecution from the Catholic church and yes, other Protestant Christians during the Reformation era before colonizing ceded Native lands. 

Today there is inbreeding, abuse is commonplace, and being a closed religious community, self-policed. As I have stated elsewhere, the Old Order Amish Church today mirrors the Catholic church-state it opposes. It should be pointed out you can trace Amish (Anabaptist) lineages to Catholicism before Martin Luther and the Reformation, my  ancestors immigrants from Switzerland and France. 

 People see the Amish through the rosy lens of tourism (a common Amish experience is being photographed by tourists). In some states the Amish cater to or are a part of the tourism industry i.e. Lancaster, Pennsylvania and Shipshewana, Indiana.
Everything from furniture to clocks to quilts to baked goods to romance novels to keychains. The Amish-American experience is for sale, all major credit cards accepted. 

When one looks at the American literary canon however there is a void of Amish writers and poets. If an Amish member of the church were to pen a novel or literary work critical of the church they would be shunned, ex-communicated from the church. 
Freedom of speech and artistic expression would not be taken into consideration. 
In this and other ways the Amish church violates our human rights

My debut poetry collection The Literary Party: Growing Up Gay and Amish in America was published by inGroup Press in 2011 but it is hard to gauge the impact of a book, even a decade later, when any copies would be banned by the Bishops should a readership arise. Did I think my book of criticism and queer love sonnets would herald a new Age of Enlightenment? I can dream... 


A copy of "The Literary Party: Growing Up Gay and Amish in America" & handwritten poem placed at the Obermutten International Museum of Friendship 


Ancestral Berne, Indiana 2017 


BOOK EXCERPT



The Amish are a working set Family farming, factories, logging Canine mills for the Lancaster sect That are not into blogging. They have no use for me Homosexuality, John Updike poetry Literary prosody Or the works of T. Capote. The 21st century has begun Cell phones–now allowed! And tricked out buggies for the young Techno music pumpin’ loud. One day forward, two steps back Through the Shipshewana paparazzi set Selling their wares to the tourist pack Who gaze wonderingly upon the sect.


LGBTQ Amish: they are forced into the closet or forced to leave their families and communities. Tbere are no easy options. Those that have left have formed a support group and can be heard on various podcasts sharing their stories. As we move into the Zoom era there are vital conversations being had by ex-Amish i.e. THE PLAIN PEOPLE'S PODCAST. This is important as these voices are reaching Amish listeners and empowering them to make informed choices. 

Yes, there is backlash and pushback from the Amish to enforce tradition and the status quo. 

Above all.

Throughout their history in America the Amish have practiced non-engagement with the outside world and are absent from pivotal moments in history i.e. the civil rights movement and WW2. The LGBT rights movement also bypassed the Amish communities even as their "cousin" Mennonite Church schisms. Medieval anti-gay sermons are not unheard of, a ban on same sex marriage and sending LGBT youth to Amish / Plain run conversion therapy homes are obstacles facing us. Not to mention the lack of education.

It is up to the ex-Amish (non-practising) to provide the necessary resources to the Amish within the church and not attach help with any religious agenda. 

*  As a newly ordained minister I am welcoming to and available for all LGBTQ Amish weddings and spiritual counseling. See the Ministry page for booking info.

FOR AMISH RESOURCES CLICK HERE 

Hawaiian Healing 🌺

 
Photo: Kapoho 2017 


Happy birthday to Harry Jim! 

During my time in Puna I was honored to meet HARRY UHANE JIM, author, teacher and healer. A mutual friend introduced me to Harry and his wife one morning at the park in Kapoho. I will always treasure that memory! 

A PODCAST INTRODUCTION: 

Home ❤

 


I finally found my way home after 5 years! It was good to see the Amish farm where I grew up. 

"Arrival & Departure" EXCERPT #NationalPoetryMonth


BY JAMES SCHWARTZ 

 "Morning in Michigan" 


His stubbed jaw in the dawn. 

His sleepy, knowing smirk.

 Empty bottles, echoes of laughter. 


Pinnacle and piercing positions. 

The sounds of humming vending machines and maids. 

Drift down dim hallways. 


Outside semis lumber onto I80/90.

 Factory workers and farmers breakfast. 

Alone, driving home. 


Drive-through coffee, and miles to go.




"Christ in Ukraine"


Out of the closet, into the street.

 Vladimir Putin is coming for you. 

Tonight Christ walks in Ukraine. 

Tonight revolution after the rain.


 My lover’s ass shifts under his jeans.

 Resolution in his gaze.

 He is so fine in the candle-light.

 My savior with his whiskey breath.


 Behind his balaclava.




"Of Bergholz Bondage"


Sam Mullet and the Bergholz clan,
Of the Gaddafi sort you understand,
Snipping the symbols of the church rejected,
As the Old Order status quo disrespected.


The breaking of the Bergholz branch,
The Federal raiding of the renegade ranch,
Dictators unrepentant too proud in fact,
To inquire of the Matthew Shepard-James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act.




"ARRIVAL & DEPARTURE" (WRITING KNIGHTS PRESS) 2014 

 On the road and on the prowl, James Schwartz delivers an explosive manifesto of personal liberation and revolution, from the Amish communities of Michigan to Putin’s bloody regime in Russia.” 

– CHER GUEVARA, poet / freelance journalist

"The Road Not Taken" #NationalPoetryMonth

 April is my 5 year anniversary of attending Centers for Spiritual Living! Grateful for all of my friends made along the way! A lovely reading of Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken" (15:12 mark) at today's East Hawaii Center for Spiritual Living service: 

Happy #NationalPoetryMonth!

April is National Poetry Month! Join the celebration here


Here are several recent works of mine: 

 MARCH 2020 / JUNE 2020 available as free e-books! 

Silver Birch Press blog: My Front Door Series CITY OF REFUGE + SHORT FILM

IceFloe Press: MOTHER / SERVICE / VOICE Series THE NINTH GARDEN with a painting by Moira J. Saucer 

#MARTYRMIRRORS: A VISUAL POETRY SERIES  

THE PLAGUE  

"JAKOB" 

2 Qs with James Schwartz  

A Spiritual Journey 🌱

Every day I ask myself How am I feeling

 *physically*

 *intellectually* 

*emotionally*

 and 

*spiritually*

This life hack is a way to find my balance and stay grounded. Spring is here again, I am currently planting intentions and investing in myself as an artist. Traveling for the last few years has left me wanting to "settle down" for a period of time, write and surround myself with art and creativity.

 There is no place in the world like Detroit, one of the most inspiring creative hot spots on the planet. There are so many brilliant artists, writers, musicians in this city. (Thank you to everyone at U.I.O. for your investment in me!)

I have been attending the DETROIT CSL (Zoom) service since arriving here, thank you everyone at Detroit CSL for your welcome! I am hoping to guest on a spiritual themed podcast next month, details TBA. 

Attending CSL for 5 years now, I never imagined I would be a part of any church after leaving the Amish in my teens! Yet... so it is! 

I have always considered myself to be a spiritual seeker, one of the most beautiful and profound books I have ever read was The Bowl of Light, which changed my life as did studying at Pu'uhonua o Pu'uhuluhulu. I have studied Buddhism and TaizΓ© faith as well as connecting with my ancestors' Anabaptist heritage. No matter where you are on your spiritual path you are welcome at CSL. 


There seems to be a trend among ex-Amish (non-practising Amish that have left the church) to join other right-wing conservative churches but that does not represent all Amish including me.  
I don't advocate for any one church or teacher, rather I prefer to share my own journey and what works for me personally.

As an artist I feel like I am in a place where I can step away from publishing and work on a new project, my last poetry collection being "PUNATIC" (2019, 2020 re-release). FYI: If you purchase a paperback through Writing Knights Press you will get a free PDF ebook copy! Thank you to Az and Writing Knights Press for giving me a voice for nearly a decade now. 

Thank you to my Readers out there, some of you have been with me from the early days! You are all appreciated! 

Also, a shout out to The Forbidden Apple Podcast! Get your free spiritual tool kit here

ICYMI

"Commit To Transformation"


Amish Homophobia On the Rise

 There is a lot of ignorance and racism within the Old Order Amish and a lot of homophobia as well. Add Trumpism and right wing religious fanaticism to the mix and this is what you get:

To any Amish out there wanting a better understanding, please read Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality by John Boswell. I do not have any patience for ignorance but I, once upon a time, was an ignorant Amish kid myself and I know how important it is to educate yourself. When you grow up Amish you do not have any LGBTQ+ role models to look up to. You probably don't even know any out, gay people! 

Please support LGBT Amish.com, The Trevor Project both life saving support groups, with resources & outreach to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Amish. The last few years have not been easy for gay Amish, numerous right wing churches are pushing their own agendas on the Amish. Our voices are being heard, regardless of hatemongers with YouTube channels. Don't miss two literary letters by gay Amish men published in Serpent in the Garden and Sweeter Voices Still! Love is stronger than hate! 

Candid Conversation on Diversity

Candid conversion on diversity (via SEATTLE CSL). For the rest of the series click here

Dispatch from Detroit


Happy to be here! 

"The Universe Building - U.I.O. is a project space that dates back all the way to post-Katrina disaster relief efforts with emergency communities in the Lower Ninth Ward/French Quarter in New Orleans near Dr. Bob's folk art since about 2006 and more recently near the former Fireweed Universe City artist village and is now registered as a non-profit 501 c-3 that stands for the Universal Intentional Organization. We have been establishing this intentional community project space here in Detroit, Michigan for nearly 7 years now after we first obtained permission for the project after July of 2013 following the closing of our beloved Bike Co-op a.k.a. Red Planet Collective or Smokes Bike Shop in 2012. Our permaculture efforts here are to create recycling & performing arts center and to develop cooperative behavior and activist solidarity near Dr. Bob's Psychedelic Healing Shack. Open to intentional community involvement through volunteer grassroots organizing & consensus building to encourage local independence & opportunity for our one human family. Our main focus as of now is restoration work the building of 1. East Montana Street and the Intentional House near what was known as the Goldengate Restoration Project and Occupy Detroit headquarters into a cooperative space for artists, travelers, musicians, writers, and volunteers. We are opening a cooperatively owned bakery coffee shop, U.I.O. radio station, d.i.y. print shop and art commons, rebuild Detroit center upcyclery & thrift/restore, a performing arts venue, our Jupiter IV school bus, a fire spinning and film theater & much more ! We hold community space by suggested donation only for events, workshops & meetings also. Activities held at this building are supported by this community organizational efforts to restore the building & revitalization here in Detroit city."

Featured Post

"Sweeter Voices Still: An LGBTQ Anthology from Middle America" Reviews

 Happy publication day to  SWEETER VOICES STILL ! I am so happy for all the buzz and great reviews it has been receiving, updates to come:  ...