Keeping it Together: Women Survive and Form Community in the Resource Center
The Resource Center has been working to meet the needs of LGBTQ+ spiritual leaders since its founding, providing resources for healing from the traumas of being told that spirituality is not manifest in LGBTQ+ people. Its purpose as an organization for social change seems to be sustaining the many people it serves: helping them to hold themselves together in a world that tries to pull them apart. Programs led by the Resource Center can help with that, by connecting folks to diverse spiritual practices, writing workshops, preaching festivals, and activism in the area. One of the things I have gained from the program is a relationship with LGBTQ+ elders, who have been in community with others through RCWMS for decades. These intergenerational bonds have proved stronger than repeated attacks on LGBTQ+ humanity.
The Resource Center’s vision for spiritual communities that support and affirm women, LGBTQ+ folks, and people with identities made marginal has been opposed by politics, some religious institutions, and social norms for the last 40 years. These threats have heightened the necessity of community support, which RCWMS has provided throughout its existence. One of the first tasks Jeanette assigned to me and my co-intern, Savannah, was to read the past year’s newsletters and two of Jeanette’s books of essays, 25 Years in the Garden and 35 Years on the Path. These essays document the last 40 years of struggles that the Resource Center has faced. Some of these struggles were unsuccessful—the Resource Center worked with feminist groups in North Carolina during the failed attempts to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment—and some of these struggles have seen progress—Jeanette wrote a beautiful article in response to the Presbyterian Church’s acceptance of openly LGBTQ+ ministers. At first, I was amazed at how many of these essays seemed to mark losses. From re-implementation of executions in North Carolina to increased restrictions on access to reproductive choice, to critics of spiritual women claiming these women were heretical and too feminist, there are a lot of feminist causes in North Carolina with resonances in the present. The work that the Resource Center has done, and the setbacks it has seen, have affected the conditions of the North Carolina I was raised in. It cannot have been easy for the people at the Resource Center to continue to defend all people’s rights across the decades, but the support the Center has given to activists working to change North Carolina for the better has also fostered networks that have benefitted me and the generations of Southerners growing up in a more supportive world.
The Resource Center has made a tactical shift in response to the Trump agenda: their goal for this summer is to dedicate more energy to activism and changing public policy than they have before, focusing more on these efforts than internally-focused programming. Though it may appear that this approach is different from their long-term vision, RCWMS seems to be in a moment where remaining becomes an active process, imbricated with protecting heath care, protecting LGBTQ+ children and workers, protecting victim survivors of sexual assault, preventing attacks on Muslims and people perceived as Muslim, and ending the criminal legal system’s violence against Black and Brown people. In these spaces, everything seems urgent, everything is dangerous. But the Resource Center’s approach resists the fearful and stressed life that entails. While the people at the Resource Center work to combat this presidency’s threats, they also focus on keeping their whole selves together, continuing to make art, practice faith, discuss issues at hand, and remain well. Old friends and organizers are connecting for yet another manifestation of struggle, and this summer, the Resource Center’s communities are strengthened in the streets.