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h u m a n

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Portraits and interviews by

Alisa Miller and Harrison Brink Artwork by James Kalinoski and an anonymous donor Copyright

Alisa Miller and Harrison Brink, 2015


human


This book is dedicated to anyone struggling to find their place in this world. You are not alone.


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contents forward....................................................................................................................9 bill kinder.............................................................................................................10

brandon barlieb.................................................................................................14

brendan coleman..............................................................................................18 camae...................................................................................................................24

duncan brittin.................................................................................................28

ellen meissgeier...............................................................................................32 james kalinoski................................................................................................40 “laidech mac dela”..........................................................................................44

nick cutrona.....................................................................................................48

robert perry.....................................................................................................56 sarah koon........................................................................................................60

stash serafin...................................................................................................66

“stefan”..............................................................................................................72 stephen borish................................................................................................78

Meet the authors..........................................................................................86

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forward.

Every single one of us feels happiness and pain, sorrow and hope. We all dream, we all need to eat, sleep and feel loved. To keep warm in the winter, cool off in the summer, go to school if we want to and to the doctor when we need to. Yet for some reason we as a race, the Human race, tend to alienate each other.

was available, along with toiletries and an electric razor; commodities that are not always available to those struggling without a home.

After a discussion with Reverend Robin Hynicka of Arch Street UMC, we decided to undertake a project which embodies the idea of inclusion in all aspects of life; despite an individual’s “They are homeless because they are gender, lifestyle, or sexuality. lazy addicts.” Part II of “Human” aims to explore the “They are not entitled to share my god inclusion and exclusion of the LGBTQIA because they are gay.” (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transpeople, queer, intersex, asexual) community On April 24th, 2014 a group of people in different faiths and other aspects of from many different walks of life everyday life by providing a platform gathered together at Arch Street United for individuals to share their struggles Methodist Church in Philadelphia to and stories of acceptance with the share food and stories and dress up for world. a photo shoot celebrating humanity. Some of the people were experiencing homelessness at the time, some came from homelessness and others were high school or college students. Clothes, food and other supplies were gathered through the help of volunteers for the comfort and enjoyment of the models. Arch Street UMC opened their doors and their hearts to us, allowing us to use their space. Anyone was invited to come in, eat and get comfortable. Those who needed clothes could browse the wardrobe and take anything they desired. A shower 9


bill kinder. Background: My name is Bill Kinder, I am presently 69 years old, I’m retired. I worked for the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, the Food and Inspection program. Faith: I’m a Christian. I was born a Methodist and baptized a Methodist, then I was a Presbyterian for a while when we moved, that was the closest church to us. Then I moved into the Willow Grove area and I started to go to this Lutheran church. Aspects of your life which have shaped your faith: Much of what helped shape my faith was my parents. We were very active in the church, meaning that we attended frequently, in fact almost every Sunday. It was Sunday school and church services, I guess from when I was probably about three years old. I can remember that young because I was in the…the Methodist Church in Chester had a wedding, called the Tom Thumb wedding, every year and I was the groom one year and I was three or four years old. I started at a young age and then I always participated in the Sunday schools and in ushering in the church as I got older. It was always with the guidance of my parents. They didn’t force us to go, we wanted to go.

“It had a very lasting effect, I think of it right now. I always think of Bob Gump and his wife and Joyce, they were the greeters, and Joyce always had a smile on her face...” Do you generally feel included with your peers? This is the first church I’ve really felt more included with a congregation than the other churches. The other churches, there weren’t that many kids, children my age at the time. Here being an adult, this church is very inclusive. I go places with them, help around the church, they help me. We all have a goal to make this a better church. 10


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A time when you felt included: The very first Sunday that I came to this church, it was about 10, 11 years ago, we came into the church and the greeters greeted us and at the end of the service we were leaving and one of the greeters came back and said, “I hope you’re coming back next week.” And we said we probably would, didn’t know for sure. When we came back the following week the same greeters were at the door and they were really glad to see us. They were happy we came back. That was really when the inclusion really started. How did it affect you? It had a very lasting effect, I think of it right now. I always think of Bob Gump and his wife and Joyce, they were the greeters, and Joyce always had a smile on her face, was glad to see ya. Bob was always wanting to shake your hand and ask how you were doing and that’s what everyone does here. Everybody is glad to see everybody every Sunday and sometimes they hate to leave Sunday after church is over ‘cause I have to lock up the church and the people want to stay around and talk and that’s what they do. A time when you felt excluded: Probably that’s happened but it didn’t really affect me in any way ‘cause I’m an outgoing person and I am forceful sometimes and I will dig in and work and do things and force my way into things sometimes, maybe I might be an old boar. I can’t remember people saying, “no, get away” or “we don’t want you Bill.” I never can remember that. All my work and in college…everything, everybody knew that I was always willing to help. Advice for someone who is feeling excluded: They have to be patient with the people. Sometimes you might have to get down and dirty with them. What they will do, you will do. Just be willing to accept other people themselves, first of all. Let people get the chance to know ya, and give them the opportunity to know ya. Maybe with your actions and your willingness to get along with people, you can change their attitude towards you.

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Advice to the people doing the excluding: Change of attitude, mainly. Sometimes people don’t like change in the church, or even in the work place. Sometimes they don’t like a change, so they might want to exclude themselves from everyone else. Always be willing to try and see what happens and if you don’t like the situation, well maybe you can try and have some input towards how you can help out in that way, from being excluded. One thing to make the world a more inclusive place: Take the time to talk to people. Smile at them. Be willing to help them if they need help. If they don’t need your help, then say, “Ok, but if you ever need it in the future, be sure to call on me. I can help.” I like being with people. If people would respect people, treat people the way you want to be treated…that’s the way I try to guide my life. Treat people the way I want to be treated.

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brandon barlieb. Faith: It’s very much “lack thereof.” I’m not a religious person or really believe in any faith. I grew up Methodist and I actually, surprisingly, was a very active member of the church. My family was. I was “confirmed,” as they have it in our church. Aspects of your life which have shaped your faith: It was funny because for me, it happened way before I even came out. I started to question a lot of the things that I was reading and I actually came up with a bible lesson for Sunday school one year that freaked everybody out and it was called ‘What About the Dinosaurs?’ They didn’t know how to answer me and that was my problem. I would have questions about things, like, “I don’t understand how this can even be possible. If you’re telling me this, but we now know that this is happening or this has happened, then how can what you’re saying be true?” They would always just tell you, “oh, you just have to have faith in God.” Well, that’s not an answer. I’m more of a science person or a ‘show it to me’ person. I started questioning it at a pretty young age. I went through with getting confirmed and all that stuff just because my parents were such active roles in the church and I didn’t want them to be shamed because that’s how it was in our church. It was very shameful. I wore jeans to church once and they thought I was the devil. Do you generally feel included with your peers? As far as people who are religious, in the people that I know, yes I feel accepted and I don’t feel like an outsider. Even with my family, my family goes to church every Christmas Eve and I don’t go with them and my mom asks me every year to go but she doesn’t really force me. Ever since I was 18 she hasn’t forced me to go to church anymore. I know other people who have felt excluded but I don’t generally feel that. A time when you felt included: When I went to college, I went to college thinking that I was straight and one of the first days there, I went to lunch with a person who I met and his friend. I’ll never forget, we were in line in the cafeteria and he looked at me and was like, “I just want you to know that I’m gay, if you have a 15


problem with that, it’s yours, not mine.” After that, he kind of took me under his wing and brought me to their gay organization’s ‘bring a straight friend,’ which is kind of funny now. How did that affect you? He was a huge influence on my life because he made me feel very included. He brought me down to Philadelphia and took me to Woody’s for the first time for underage night which was the first time that I saw that gay people were not what I thought that they were. … It actually brought me out of my shell because I was a very quiet, shy, very depressed, temperamental person and when I finally came out and was comfortable with it, it changed my life, essentially.

“No gay person trying to get married is trying to harm anyone or trying to take away anyone else’s rights.” A time when you felt excluded: I wish that I could give you a juicy story, but I can’t. Honestly, I, personally, have never really experienced anything. I had only one person in my life, when I came out to them, stop talking to me and that was my best friend from high school. It wasn’t even like he made a big thing about it, he kind of just disappeared, like, I just stopped hearing from him. Advice for someone who is feeling excluded: If you’re being excluded from something, then that’s obviously not something that you should be trying to pursue. Essentially, you need to find the people, the places and things that will include you. That’s one of the main reasons I wanted to move to a city. In the suburbs, it’s easy to kind of keep yourself to people who are accepting of things because you only drive and go to places where you feel comfortable, or at least I did. In the city it’s different because you’re just all over the place all the time and you never know who you’re going to run into.

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One thing to make the world a more inclusive place: Ultimately, it just comes down to respecting people. If you look at all of the reasons why things, especially in the gay community, happen like the transgendered people getting murdered and people coming after gay people and they don’t understand. No gay person trying to get married is trying to harm anyone or trying to take away anyone else’s rights. It’s just all about respecting people for their individuality and if you don’t like the person, stop talking to them, stop being around them. You don’t have to do things to harm them or hurt them, just move on to something else. The fact that people concentrate so much on hate and hating people, it’s ridiculous to me. You just need to respect people and what their difference is and if it’s not something that you’re into, then don’t get into it!

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brendan coleman.

Faith: I am Roman Catholic. I went to catholic school in Princeton as a kid so that really kind of shaped me as a person. Aspects of your life which have shaped your faith: Going to a pretty well-off school. It really shaped who I was just because I was around a lot of nuns. The priests there were always super nice to us. I think they could tell that I was a little bit different than the other kids. I was the youngest of five, all of my siblings went there so all of the teachers knew me. I was, like, a huge fuck-up in school—I failed religion in eighth grade—and I had to do study sessions with my vice principal, that’s how small the school was. I think being in something like that environment that’s loving but at the same time you kind of fear being different was kind of hard. I think that if I had gone to public school at that time it would have been really rough for me. A lot of the kids knew who I was in my area and they all made fun of me. When I went to high school it was like, “Oh, hi! Who are you?” and I was like, “Great! Nobody knows who I am.” Do you generally feel included with your peers? I don’t necessarily feel included just because I think I’ve secluded myself. My mother and I, whenever I go home around holidays, make a point to make sure that she goes out to church just because no one in my family really goes anymore. I think my oldest brother goes with his wife, but I think everyone’s a little too busy. My family used to all go at different times. But I think taking her there, especially since she and my father are pretty religious, is nice for her to go because I know how much she likes it. So I usually go then. A time when you felt included: I think the most that I feel included is when my mom talks to me about it. She always talked to me about how open the pope is about things. She’s always trying to tell me to find more Irish people to be around because they could be “more inclusive.” I think my mother is really a champion for her faith because she has never really judged me for being gay and Catholic. They were never two different things. It’s like, “Oh, you can be gay and religious!” She always hated that the

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kids at school made fun of me because she knew that later in life I wouldn’t want to be around them. I didn’t want them to be embarrassed going to church because their child was clearly gay. I guess that in the early 90s, it wasn’t as acceptable as it is now which is sad to say because in the early 90’s it was much more acceptable than the 70s and 80s.

“When you’re a kid, everything gets blown up and out of proportion, I thought that I would get brought out of school and that the kids would make fun of me more than they did.” How did it affect you? Going to art school, I touched on it a lot when I was getting close to my senior year. A lot of my work talked about the fear of change and the fear of the nuns finding out, I’m pretty sure if they did they would just be like, “ok.” When you’re a kid, everything gets blown up and out of proportion, I thought that I would get brought out of school and that the kids would make fun of me more than they did. It really was terrifying. I remember coming out to my parents when I was 15 at my brother’s birthday party cause everything has to be about me. Half of them didn’t hear me and my mom and dad did but no one really understood why I went upstairs and secluded myself. They were like, “ok, Brendan’s just being a teenager again.” But afterwards they were all fine. It was just the thought of them finding out and knowing that my religion frowns upon it was really scary to think about and now that I think about it, it’s like, “oh, they’re my family and they have to love me.” I guess I’m just lucky in that aspect. A time when you felt excluded: I think because when I talk to people, I don’t really bring up the fact that I’m religious because so many of my friends aren’t religious and so many of them are against organized religion and especially Catholicism. White Catholics have done a lot of amazingly terrible things—America is basically founded on that. I guess I just keep to myself so that I don’t have to deal with that conversation. It’s never something that I bring up because I don’t want to make anyone else uncomfortable. 20


Overcoming exclusion: I guess I could go more often to church. I just haven’t found one that I’m necessarily comfortable in. I’ve had people come up to me while I was working at Starbucks—a couple that I always served—the one day they were getting married and they asked me to come to their ceremony and I was like, “I don’t really know you guys. That’s super sweet of you but I’m not comfortable,” and they were like, “No, we’re accepting.” I’m not here for you to accept me. I don’t think that I should have to be accepted, I think I should just be able to appear at church and no one bother me. I’m just there to pray. I’m minding my own business. Advice for someone who is feeling excluded: I think the exclusion that I faced as a kid helped shape me as an adult because I think that I’m more aware and understanding of things. I sometimes tell people I’m like a character in a play that knows too much because I feel like I can talk to people and understand. I would say just work through it. Don’t make any rash decisions. I would just focus on something else and not think about it and there are people you can talk to, you just have to have the courage to stand up and know who you are and fight to be who you are. To the people doing the excluding: You fucking suck, like come on! There was a kid in, I think, 7th or 8th grade who must have told a girl that he was gay and she told the teachers and the principals that he was gay. Then he was sent to the nurses office and I think he was gone for a week after that. This was clearly something that this kid was struggling with, what the hell is wrong with you? I had kids in high school walk by me and call me a faggot in front of teachers and the teachers were just dumbfounded and I’m like, none of you are doing anything, you need to yell at this kid. There are people who can stop it from happening and they don’t. You just have to be strong enough to look that person in the eye and be like, “fuck you.” I’m just a person, it doesn’t matter. One thing to make the world a more inclusive place: I think the whole idea of religion is that someone is going through something terrible and they find something that is inclusive for them and makes them feel happy. I think if we were to take apart all religions and see that it’s all basically worshiping something and saying that if you’re a bad person, bad things are going to 21


happen to you. If you take apart all the things that make up a religion, I think that everyone could come together and realize that they’re all in essence the same thing. We’re all thinking about why are we here. These are just questions we like to think to soften the blow. I would like to think that my parents have something after they die or any of my friends or family and I think if we all remember that we’re all just people on this planet that don’t necessarily know what they hell is going on, like how we got here, it’s good think about that.

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camae. Background: My name is Camae, I really don’t believe in age and I’m an artist. Faith: My spiritual practice, I would say I’m more of a Universalist. I study all religions and I take from those religions what resonates in me. Aspects of your life which have shaped your faith: I’m really into myth, I’m really into why people continue…what drives people. I’m into collective memory and collective struggle. I would say those things motivate me to study. Do you generally feel included with your peers? I feel like, as a so-called black person or a woman in this society, of course I’m not included in the different aspects of my life. So no, on the dayto-day I don’t feel included. I feel the so-called black woman in America is a new entity for other people to understand and even for ourselves to understand.

“All I can do is continue to practice self-love and practice ways to deal with the troubles of the world, the troubles of interactions of existence.” A time when you felt included: I wouldn’t say a time when people have gone out their way, just the rare instances where I am able to meet a true human being. Someone who is able to treat you with kindness, without judgement or expectation. The rare times when I meet a human being I experience those things. Just yesterday somebody sent me a very nice email about how they’re thankful that I make music so that’s something, that someone took time to do something outside of themselves,

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even though it’s in response to themselves when it comes to the matrix of the internet. A time when you felt excluded: I feel like when people who do something to keep someone out or people are acting negative, it’s a result of something they’re going through so I try not to speak too much about that. I try not to personalize people’s actions that are not accord to nature. Overcoming exclusion: It’s not about “what do I do to overcome it.” I can’t take responsibility for other people’s actions. All I can do is continue to practice self-love and practice ways to deal with the troubles of the world, the troubles of interactions of existence. Advice for someone who is feeling excluded: Just like athletes work on their core to be strong…the core for an athlete is their most important part because it strengthens the rest of the body once your core is in shape. On a spiritual level, or a metaphysical level, it would just be about practicing positive self-love tactics. The first step to that was just to practice actually being kind to yourself, regardless of what you put in your body, the things that you say out your mouth, the things you think about yourself. That would be the first step and that’s a very hard thing to do so it’s a good first step. Advice to the people doing the excluding: There’s nothing you can actually say to them. When it comes to prejudice, it’s up to the person. You can always hope to inspire but even that inspiration dissolves. Everything continues to change so it’s kind of hard to be an inspirational quote to someone in a sense of you need to change something about yourself. Not everyone is meant to be the same here. Everyone is very, very…unlimited possibilities of who we can be. I would just say…some idea of karma, to take note of your evil doings. That energy always

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comes back, energy always comes back. One thing to make the world a more inclusive place: I would say self-love but then there is this gray area of what does love even mean. Then I guess I can’t say self-love, you know? One thing we can do is understand that people have been dealing with stuff and living and existing even before you met them so I guess some compassion is needed but what does that even mean, you know? Words are so elusive.

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duncan brittin.

Background: My name is Duncan, I’m 25, and I’m originally from South Jersey but now I live in Philadelphia. Faith:I think that my faith lies more in people than it does outside sources. Aspects of your life which have shaped your faith: Growing up I was always kind of surrounded by people who had a very good moral compass and I think that really influenced me to have a lot of trust in people doing the right thing and people doing good. On inclusion:

“I think that in order to make this world a more inclusive place we have to be able to not judge others so harshly for their actions or for who they are as people.” Inclusion is really important in our society because without it people wouldn’t be able to collaborate or share ideas and I don’t think that we’d be able to develop as a society as greatly as we would, if we excluded certain groups of people. A time when you were excluded: Growing up in the suburbs of South Jersey, I always felt kind of excluded from a lot of other kids. I had a weird name growing up so kind of created barriers and also I was kind of a weird kid, I was bookish and other people were more loud, extraverted, and I don’t think that I really found my crowd ‘till I was older. Overcoming exclusion: I’ve overcome that exclusion by surrounding myself with people who are more open, people who are kindlier and friendlier and have more in common with me. I think it’s easier to judge that as you get older and you know yourself better.

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Advice for someone who is feeling excluded: My advice for somebody feeling excluded is to look within themselves and try to find strength within themselves first, and then try to find other people to communicate with and collaborate with. Advice to the people doing the excluding: I’d say that they have to look at their reasoning behind why they are segregating a particular person or a community and try to figure out why they feel that way. One thing to make the world a more inclusive place: In order to make this world a more inclusive place we have to be able to not judge others so harshly for their actions or for who they are as people.

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ellen meissgeier.

Background: My name is Ellen Meissgeier, I’m a pastor at Resurrection Lutheran Church in Horsham, Pennsylvania and I also work part time as the Director of Mobility for our synod, and that means that I oversee the work of pastors when they either go to a new church or when they are retiring so that the congregation isn’t left without some kind of pastoral leadership. So I may work in a team of people, but oversee that whole process. Faith: My faith… Well, I’m one of those people that are perhaps rare in that I don’t I remember a time in my life when I didn’t have some kind of faith, that I didn’t believe something. I grew up in the church as a little kid then there were some years that we really didn’t go to church a lot, but I often went with friends because I was always somehow drawn to people of faith because they always had a story to tell. Sometimes the stories I didn’t like because the truth is sometimes people of faith, out of fear and misunderstanding, can be pretty prejudice people, but I think I learn from people regardless of where they are, so I listen to stories. But I was always again drawn to people who were people of faith because there was a depth to them that maybe some other people didn’t have. And so I’ve always had a sense that there was something greater than I am and that whatever that is, and for me that’s God, would help me to define a purpose. You know, why am I here? Why are you here? I think God can help us be the best people we could possibly be. So, I went into education in college, thought about ministry but in those days there weren’t a lot of women pastors. I taught Junior High for eight years in a Lutheran school and it was there that the kids used to say to me, “Ah, you’re going to be a pastor!” I always felt called to do it but I just wasn’t ready and then in

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1984 I went to seminary so, here I am, 26 and a half years later as an ordained person, I’ve been ordained for 26 years. Aspects of your life which have shaped your faith: I think seeing how faith communities working together for the good of others sort of affirmed that that’s an important thing to do, although, you know other groups do things to help people. Faith is about community, it’s about relationship and it’s a way that we can do that. You can have relationships in a community but there is something different and deeper about it in for me in my experience because connected with that is a prayer, which I have seen so many powerful experiences where prayer has made a difference. Just the connection of people with prayer, when people say, “Would you, would you pray for me?” That connection to that person, whether you’re promising to pray in the future because that person has shared with you a concern, “grandma’s sick, could you pray for grandma?” Or whether the person says, and it’s more likely to happen to me particularly when I’m wearing a color at the hospital, I’ve had people stop me in an elevator and say, “Would you pray with me?” and we pray right then and there. And so there’s really a strong connection and bond that’s formed even though I may never see that person again but there was a powerful connection that took place because we both believe in the power of prayer. So there is something really cool about that, and then to encourage other people to do that. A woman from my former congregation called me up once and said, “I can’t believe you made me do that!” and I said, “What did you do?” and she said, “I was in a doctor’s office and there was a woman really upset, you know kind of it was obvious,” and she said, “I remembered you once said that we should offer to pray with even strangers, that we should care for the strangers in our midst,” and so she said, “I went over and sat next to her and said, “are you ok? Could I pray with you?’’ And she said the woman said yes and so then I had to pray and then she talked about what a powerful experience that was for her and then for the woman because prayer is really an intimate thing, and so here she is with a stranger, holding her hand and praying. So that was kind of neat, to have somebody say, “I listened to what you said and it was powerful.” 34


Do you feel included with your peers? I feel included although I am well-aware of the fact that do to various circumstances, a lot of it having to do with the mess with the Catholic Church and the abuse of priests. There was a time when to be a representative of the Christian faith was kind of like a status thing, not that I care about that, but we’ve gone to the other extreme where people don’t trust the church anymore and so I represent something in society that a mass of people distrust and hate and that’s difficult but I get it and I understand why because the church has done a lot of things wrong through the ages. There’s still a few people once in a while I’ll encounter, again particularly wearing a collar, who will say women aren’t supposed to be priests or pastors. I don’t get a lot of that, but every once in a while because there’s still traditional to not ordain women so they say, “No! You shouldn’t be doing that,” but I blame God and say, “it’s not my fault, it’s God’s fault, he called me.” But overall, I think people for the most part are still respectful, but I’m aware that the credibility is gone but I think we need to prove ourselves because the church has for so long been exclusive and even this

“I think that it’s time for particularly the church to step up and say, ‘we’ve been wrong about that and we’re wrong when we do that.’ Our responsibility is not to be gatekeepers. Our responsibility is to bring all people to the good news of God and Christ and that includes everybody.” congregation that I serve, I’ve been here for 20 years, we had to work little by little by little to say, “Are we going to be an open and inclusive community for all people and what does that mean and what would that look like?”

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A time when you felt included: I think one example was, it’s almost two years ago, my niece asked me if I would do her wedding and that in itself was sort of huge because her grandfather is also a pastor and he’s the pastor of the Lutheran Church Missouri senate and they don’t ordain women and so all the baptisms and things like that, her grandfather has done. And so when her brother got married, her grandfather did that wedding. So Linda and John came and said to me, “Will you do our wedding?” So it was like, you know, “Wow, yea, if you want me to I’d be glad to do it.” So they were having a…I guess it was an engagement party, or something before the wedding obviously, for an opportunity for everybody to get together and meet one another and it was at a restaurant and I got there a little bit early and I walked in and right away somebody from John’s family, her fiancé, knew that must be the aunt that’s going to do the wedding, and this woman took me by the hand and started introducing me to everybody and I felt instantly like I was a part of this family that I was just meeting for the first time and that was really such a lovely feeling that they had such a sense of hospitality and knew how to welcome me in and I almost felt like wait a minute, you’re treating me like a celebrity, I’m not the bride or groom! But it was just a wonderful feeling to walk in thinking I don’t know anybody because nobody from my family was there yet and for these people to just embrace me like that, it was really kinda cool. A time when you felt excluded: I’m having more difficulty thinking about a situation like that because I try to let go of the negativity. Well, I’ve been in situations a couple of times. Particularly I have one sister, three brothers and one sister, and my sister is really not into church kind of stuff. And so there have been times when I have been in a group of people, let’s say it could be at her house but not necessarily there and not always, but in a group of people and people start talking and then, you know, it’s sort of like “Well, what do you do for a living?” And it’s like, “I teach” or “I work in computers” or whatever and sometimes when you say you’re a pastor….quiet. And so people are either uncomfortable with you because they think you only know how to talk about God or you’ll hear someone say, “Oh, we gotta watch our mouths now, there is a pastor among us. Don’t anybody say, you know, any of those words!” And so then I feel uncomfortable, thinking I’m not asking you to be anything but what you are and who you are. So then 36


I just kind of, in certain settings like that, have felt excluded and mostly I don’t like that because I don’t pretend to be something that I’m not and I’m just human. I’m just a person with the same, you know, I fall short all the time and what you see is what you get so I don’t like to be made uncomfortable because of what I do. Overcoming exclusion: I think the best way to do is by, in my life, trying to include everybody and to model inclusivity instead of exclusivity, and I think you do it best when you do it naturally. I mean, I have friends that are young and old, and black and white, and gay and straight and, you know, so that just becomes natural for who I am and hopefully when people see my comfort level with other people, they’ll get that sense too because I think it’s contagious. When you’re comfortable in a setting, people can say, “oh, I can be comfortable in this setting too” and when you’re really anxious because of who you’re with, that’s contagious too so I try and just be accepting of people, to the best of my ability, and that’s what I do. Advice for someone who is feeling excluded: I think I would say you matter. You matter to me, you certainly matter to God and you need to find people who will remind you of that every single day. You can always find somebody who is going to try to tear you down but you can also find some people who will see the value in you, your self-worth. In scripture, Jesus talks about how his body is the temple and Paul goes on to write about we are all temples of the holy spirit and so I even said this Sunday in my sermon that when I harm you in any way, whether it’s physically if I punch you, or when a man rapes a woman, that is violation and desecration of the temple that is you, but that also counts if I say something terrible to you that crushes your spirit, if I crush your spirit, if I say, “I think you are so stupid.” That crushes you, that violates you, it desecrates the temple and that if we would think of all, you know, of all people as equally worthy temple’s of the holy spirit, I think we would treat people far better. Advice to the people doing the excluding: I think that it’s time for, particularly the church, to step up and say, “we’ve been wrong about that and we’re wrong when we do that.” Our responsibility is not to be gatekeepers. Our responsibility is to bring all people 37


to the good news of God and Christ and that includes everybody. So it’s not for us to judge who gets in and who doesn’t, but I think it takes education too. We have to say to people the reason that we excluded people in the past is out of fear, out of ignorance, and you know, the fear of the unknown, we don’t know what those people are like and we use “those people” in “us” and “them” language which is wrong. We’re all God’s people. I think in the back of our mind was, and if we let them in, they might want to start being in charge. So it’s power, it’s fear of power, ignorance, all those things. That’s what happened in the church with people of color, it’s what happened in the church with gays and lesbians, and still happens today because if we let them worship in our churches, what happens if they want to serve on council? What happens if they want to be a pastor? You know, like where do you draw the line? But, the real questions is, well, why can’t they serve on council and why can’t they be our pastors? We have to teach that to the people who aren’t there yet and say to them, “they have as many good ideas, they are children of good, made in the image of God, and we have to accept that and our job isn’t to be the ones to keep them out.” We let everybody in and then God decides, not my job. One thing to make the world a more inclusive place: I believe strongly in the concept of pay it forward. I think about people who have done things for me, 38

that I didn’t expect, and wow, it really mattered and so I think, I try to look for ways of doing something for somebody that they can’t pay me back but hopefully they’ll remember that and down the road do something for somebody else. I may never know about it but it doesn’t matter but those little things, you know it’s that whole butterfly effect, same thing so pay it forward.


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james kalinoski. Background: Hi, my name is James Kalinoski, I am 26 years old and I live in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I went to Temple University and I graduated in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and I am currently working as a visual merchandiser and a musician and artist. Faith: That’s a loaded question ‘cause I was raised Catholic and had to work through breaking down this like “fear faith” system that was taught to me as a child which opened me up to believing that we are all a part of a bigger thing that we could never understand as humans, but as long as we try to listen to ourselves and what we feel is right, we come closer to that greater good for all humans.

“I think that a lot of the times we exclude ourselves from things because we don’t feel like we’re like worthy, or that we don’t fit into someone else’s idea of perfect or something, but it’s really just like a lot of the time our own insecurities that are holding ourselves back from being included.” Aspects of your life which have shaped your faith: My family… my mom, has always been really spiritual in a nonreligious way. So always really humanitarian and very loving to people and accepting and that sort of started me off with a curious perspective of the world to learn more about culture and to experience. And then I was very lucky to meet some very cool friends in my life who have traveled with me and have led me to travel, to…open up to myself and to my possibilities and potentials for this world. As an artist and as a thinker and as a member of the community.

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A time you felt included: I feel like I’m always striving to feel included in some way and I think my most recent experience with that, with people going out of their way to make me feel included, was definitely on my trip to Europe last summer. My...I was going through a little bit of like, an emotional breakdown and my friends Alisa and Alex and, especially Alisa and Alex, but also Hinde and Nikki tried to get me involved with a bunch of projects and cool things to do to break me out of this funk that I was creating for myself and it really helped me to understand that these doubts and fears and worries that I have about the people that love me are just in my head and that they really do care about me. It was really nice to have those people look out for me when I needed them. A time you felt excluded: I don’t know, that’s such a hard question because it’s also something that’s in your head. I think that a lot of the times we exclude ourselves from things because we don’t feel like we’re worthy, or that we don’t fit into someone else’s idea of perfect or something, but it’s really just a lot of the time our own insecurities that are holding ourselves back from being included so therefor we exclude ourselves. So I think I mostly exclude myself from things because of my doubts and my insecurities so I can’t really think of an example of when others have excluded me. Overcoming exclusion: That’s my mission for the next couple years within myself, is to just no matter what happens to me and where I am in the world, to always find that, sort of, strength within myself, to not doubt, fear, or worry because I usually have no reason to because I surround myself with people who are like-minded and who are also very productive. It’s just hard sometimes I think, being a creative person and trying to find work creatively. You always have to come from this place of ultra-self-confidence to convince the people around you that you’re ready or that you are worthy of certain creative opportunities. So it’s..I think if I want to continue my development in a creative field then I have to be the center of my…my strive, my well-being. To not exclude myself from things. Advice for someone who is feeling excluded: Get out of there! You are an amazing, unique person because how could 42


you not be, you’re on this planet. There are so many things, especially now that we can get ahold of and access, so many communities, so many people who do share your vision or your understanding for the world. If you feel excluded now in your place then keep going and keep trying and change what’s going on that makes you feel excluded because you do not deserve that. You deserve to be included in this, your experience is necessary, your opinion is necessary for our future because we’re all experiencing this together in a different way. Advice to the people doing the excluding: I think that I would ask why they are limiting their potential. I think that exclusion creates bias, or comes also from bias, and it’s not productive for the bigger picture. If we want to be productive as people within a community, exclusion is like ignoring this big part of what keeps us going so it’s really important to recognize all ways of life around us. So I would say, stop excluding! One thing to make the world a better place: On a tiny scale I think we can just start by saying hi to our neighbors. By, you know, recognizing the elderly people in our communities and supporting them and just realize for ourselves that we are very safe and protected because of everything that everyone else around us puts into the community so it requires each of us to be conscience and to take part because it’s really necessary for us as humans to commune with the people we live around and to…I guess it’s just like, say hi to a stranger, or introduce yourself to someone you don’t know that is around you. On a larger scale, how we can affect is just by supporting conscience lifestyle. So, make educated decisions about the products that you use and the food that you eat and about where your money goes in this world because if we want to work towards a better world we have to stop supporting industries that support, you know, exploitation of people. In turn that creates perception, like a negative perception.

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“laidech mac dela.”

Background: My name is Laidech Mac Dela. I’m from Baltimore but I went to school in Philadelphia. Faith: I was raised Catholic but when I was a kid my mom decided that she hated the Catholic faith so we left the church and I never went to Catholic school again. Started having like gender questions when I was like in high school and there was kinda like a ten year period where I sort of had to figure out what that was. I came out to my mom recently but I didn’t tell the rest of my family. My mom doesn’t really…my parents don’t really do emotions, so she just asked me a bunch of really like… questions that someone who doesn’t know what like gender queer or a transgender person is would ask and then she was just like, “ok” and she’s never mentioned it since then. Do you typically feel included with your peers? Well, the first three/ four years I was in college I didn’t really come out to anyone so I kinda just didn’t really talk to anybody ‘cause I didn’t want really anyone to know but I came out my senior year and no one cared, you know? It was just like ‘oh, well, I wasted four years, should have just been upfront about who I was the whole time cause any major journalist are probably the people who would least care about that, but, you know, I was an insecure 20-something. It just felt like it was something I had to do. I felt like I was just like, it was getting annoying, trying to like keep track of who knew and who didn’t know and it was just too much so I figured it’ll all come out and whoever is not happy is not happy with it, I don’t care, I don’t need to be friends with anybody. A time you felt included: I guess just by accepting it. People ask me what pronouns that I prefer and stuff like that. I mean, I think it’s nothing really extreme, just by being normal they just, you know, they just act like it’s normal, then it is. A time you felt excluded: There are certain things where malebodied people aren’t welcome. I’ve chosen to not transition and there’s limitations to that. It’s one thing to be around people you 45


know and they know you but it’s another thing to be a stranger and be just be like oh so, this person is transgender and they should be included in this female only activity, but they don’t know who I am so I don’t push the issue.If it’s a female only event, I’ve chosen not to transition so I’m not in the business of trying to make anybody uncomfortable. If I transition I would feel differently about that, if I was presenting female every day, I would want to be included in that but since I’m not, it doesn’t really, well, it bothers me a little bit but, like, when I was living in Japan my girlfriends wanted to go to a hot spring but they’re segregated by gender so I couldn’t go and things like that.

“I think a lot of the discrimination against transgender people comes from just general sexism.” Advice for someone who is feeling excluded: That’s a tough question, I think that really varies by what environment someone is in. The environment I was in as a photojournalism student, no one cared. But there are some environments where you absolutely are not accepted. I think I saw a stat the other day that said 53% of people who come out to their families as trans are like disowned in some form. I think you really gotta test the water. I mean, ultimately you have to be true to yourself but you know, there’s other things you have to consider like if you need a roof over your head you have to kind of weigh...there’s a lot of things to weigh. I didn’t come out until I graduated college because I wanted to make absolutely sure that I got my college paid for. I mean, my mom ended up not caring but I didn’t know that. Advice to the people doing the excluding: People who feel the need to exclude people, I mean, we passed a transgender protection thing in Maryland recently and there was all these people who went and spoke to the House of Delegates about how transgender 46


people aren’t real and they’re just all creeps trying to get into women’s bathrooms and all this nonsense and that upsets me. I understand as someone who’s not transitioned that there are some places that if I went, I would make people uncomfortable as a male-bodied person. For parties and stuff I sometimes dress female but generally I’m dressed as a man and I understand that there’s places that that’s going to make someone uncomfortable but generally if you’re at work and one of your coworkers transitions and wears a dress, who cares? I mean, I don’t understand, how would that bother you? People do discriminate against you at work and at school and it doesn’t make any sense because, why is work sexual? That’s messed up, like you’re putting numbers into a computer, the computer doesn’t know. If at the end of the day everything’s in the black then isn’t that what matters? I don’t know, I don’t get it. It just doesn’t make any sense to me. One thing to make the world a more inclusive place: Well, I think a lot of the discrimination against transgender people comes from just general sexism. People say you’re raised and a man does this and a woman does this and I think that makes people uncomfortable. We need to just get past that things are set like that cause that’s just not how, forget how modern social things work, that’s not how the modern economy works. I mean, everyone is expected to do kind of the same things now so those things just hold everybody back. If I’m doing business with you, what difference does it make?

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nic cutrona.

Background: My name is Nic, I am 22 and I grew up in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Faith: I grew up in a Roman Catholic family, I went to church, I went to, like, CCD, which is like a form of Sunday school I guess but more, it was like during the week and it was like an afterschool thing so I did that. As I grew up I just became really, like less and less religious. Now I guess I self-identify my religion, or lack thereof, as just nonreligious. I guess it’s like atheism but I just usually say nonreligious. My dad’s really religious so I just like to say nonreligious, it seems less offensive I think. People have like a pejorative sense of the word atheist so, atheist but I just say nonreligious. Aspects of your life which have shaped your faith: It’s probably been more like my views on just society as a whole. I never really like, I don’t really attribute it to my parents because as I was growing up my parents, like my mom never really went to church, she was an Easter and Christmas person and my dad was like, always went to church, but never really found his place in Roman Catholicism but since he couldn’t find his place it was hard for me to get into it, my mom wasn’t into it and I just didn’t want to wake up on a Sunday, that was a big part of it also when I was in high school and eventually I just found I didn’t really like the views of the church, the Roman Catholic church, on abortion and same-sex marriage and stuff like that. It was never appealing to me. I never really found a religion that was appealing to me and then when I learned more about science, and the way that the world works, I became probably less and less religious to the point where, you know, it’s probably hard to convince me now and I just consider myself nonreligious I guess completely. Do you feel included with your peers? When I was younger I don’t really think that I ever really had any views on who I was as a person and how I was viewed by my faith, you know. Now I don’t consider it my faith

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anymore and probably in most of my adult life I never really considered any religion my faith so I never really felt excluded by any faith that I have held whether that be secular or religious. I’ve felt included the whole time, I’ve never felt excluded out of any sort of secularism that I’ve had, I was probably too young at the time to be excluded by the Catholic faith that my family practiced. A time you felt included: I feel like there have been a lot of times where people have made me feel included. I can’t think of any one person in particular but I know a lot of the last couple years I have been experimenting recently in an area career-wise that I haven’t ever really been a part of and I never knew anyone that was a part of it so, you know, from really the genesis of what I knew I wanted to do as a career goal, work in broadcast journalism. I have met people who were inclusive to me first starting out, and first pointing a camera, and also in the later term. Now I’m finishing college, I have to get my first job, you know, setting up internships, all of those people have made me feel inclusive. Again it’s like the same sort of thing, I’m really that sort of beyond the point since it’s a career, it’s beyond the point when it sort of has anything to do with a person’s sexuality or their religion for that matter but I can see why those things would be a problem with some people but I’ve been very included by the sort of field of study that I work in. I appreciate that.

“I think that with anything, the more inclusive the people are, when you’re trying to become a part of that group, the easier it is to be a part of it and the more easy it becomes to become passionate about it...” How did it affect you? I think that with anything, the more inclusive the people are, when you’re trying to become a part of that group, the easier it is to be a part of it and the more easy it becomes to become passionate about it so if you see somebody that’s passionate about something, you’re more likely to become passionate about it than if

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they’re dispassionate about it, they don’t feel anything about it. Seeing people who have been so inclusive and welcoming and really have been so helpful with me and shaping what I know that I want to do now, I think that that’s made me feel really great, it’s made me feel fantastic, I guess you could say. Just because the people that are there to help you, when they make themselves known, it’s really helpful to you but when you find them and show that you have put a lot of work into what you want to do, they make themselves known easier and they become important parts of whatever it is you want to do. A time when you have felt excluded: It’s not that it never happened, I probably wasn’t as open. I feel like the times in people’s lives where they probably have the most problem with their sexuality, they’re open and that’s probably why they are having a problem with their sexuality and I totally feel for those people and I was never really one of those people. I probably came to terms more with my sexuality in college then I really did in high school and I feel like that’s probably where most people suffer and that’s what I said with my religion, I never felt excluded because really the time when I was experimenting with religion, I wasn’t really sure of what my sexuality was and to tell you the truth, I probably wasn’t thinking about it but then. When I was in college I probably was beyond the point where I really cared what anybody thought so I never really felt excluded from any sort of group. I just aligned myself with groups that I knew I wouldn’t feel excluded based on whatever I was. Nonreligious, or gay, or whatever. I only aligned myself with groups that I knew would be inclusive towards whatever I thought that I was at the time. Did it have any effect you? It’s not that I never really felt excluded, like I never probably had the point in my life where I was outwardly being excluded essentially because of one aspect of who I was. I never think anybody excluded me specifically because I was 51


nonreligious or specifically because I was gay but I think that I’ve suffered some of the same sort of stabbing, poking fun of, that some people have faced probably because before I knew I was gay, probably other people thought I was gay. I’ve never really had a problem with it. There was a point in my life where I knew that I was gay and it became a lot easier to talk about it and then before that I never really knew, I never really cared what anyone else said because no one really mattered to me and then the people closest to me, it only really mattered to them because it mattered to me so dealing with those people has been great but where I’m going with this is that just because I have never suffered the straight feelings of being bullied, doesn’t necessarily mean I haven’t had to deal with like the stigma of being nonreligious or being gay because I have. Those are stigmas that people have to face. I had to come out to my parents, I’m the first gay person in my family so that was a strange thing. My parents were more than welcoming. I had to come out to my friends, that was also a strange thing, again they were more than welcoming. Some people you bump into and they care but, you know, who cares about them? The people that care just kind of go by the wayside, the people that don’t care are the people that stay in your life and anyone that would try to make somebody feel bad about their spirituality or their sexuality or anything like that is just strange to me and I don’t really know why those people become problems in people’s lives. Advice for someone who is feeling excluded: I think that everyone can probably find, and I don’t want to speak in generalizations because I know and I hate to sound like I’m speaking in generalizations because other people suffer with a lot more problems than I do and I totally understand that but, I mean, I think the best thing to do if you’re facing people that are being exclusive towards you, don’t want you to be a part of whatever they are doing, being around those people probably is pretty poisonous to begin with, so I don’t know really, my best advice is just to surround yourself 52


with people that are inclusive, are welcoming to new ideas, are welcoming to what you think about yourself, what you think about other things. Those are the best people, just surround yourself with those kind of people. The minute you know you’re hanging out with someone who is being exclusive towards someone, or is just a problem, is bringing you down in any way, they’re probably not the person you should be hanging out with. I don’t say exclude those people, just work through problems that you have with people and the best thing you can do is just communicating your problems well. My best advice to anyone who is feeling excluded anyway is just to communicate your problems with whatever people are being exclusive towards you and then just work through those problems with that person. If you can’t work through those problems, maybe you should find somebody else to surround yourself with. Advice to the people doing the excluding: The truth is I think that everyone is a little exclusive at some point of their life. I don’t think it does us any good for everyone to pretend like we’ve been the best ever because we haven’t. I mean, everyone has made mistakes so I think the first step we can do is first acknowledging sort of our biases and the problems that we have with people because people have problems with people, it’s nothing new. It’s been happening forever, the first step is acknowledging that you have a problem with someone, communicating that you have a problem with someone and if you can’t work through those problems maybe you shouldn’t really be acknowledging that person to begin with. Maybe that’s probably the problem but you know, my best advice to somebody’s who’s actively being exclusive against someone or exclusionary, my biggest thing to say to those people is just to stop. People have other ideas to add to conversations and excluding those people’s ideas is not helping anyone. Diversity of opinion is the greatest thing to human thought, I think, in the world. So the more opinions the better, the more people there, the better diversity of thought and 53


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opinion. By excluding someone you’re not really helping yourself, you’re not really helping that person, so by including that person you have a whole new treasure trove of ideas to dig through. One thing to make the world a more inclusive place: I don’t think anybody really has the perfect answer to that question. I think everybody can do a little bit every day to make the world a more inclusive place. I don’t think it’s anything that could happen overnight. I think it’s something that everyone has to sort of build to. I think we’re getting a lot better as a society, all these preambles I know it doesn’t matter really, but I think the best thing we can do is make sure our laws are as inclusive as possible. I think our groups should be as inclusive as possible. The body politics should be as inclusive as possible, just because the more diverse, by inclusiveness I mean really diversity of opinions and ideas, and the reason I say that is because the greater diversity of opinions and ideas we have in our workplaces, in our universities, and our schools, the greater diversity of opinions we have in those places, I think the more inclusive we’ll be because we won’t really see any reasons to exclude people. I think that by creating more diverse institutes we can really create a body of thinking Americans and an international body of people that can really work though problems and be inclusive at the same time because we won’t really see as many divisions and I’m not talking about your sort of classic idea of a colorblind world. Nobody really thinking thinks that’s a good idea, or that that exists or could exist anywhere but I mean, how to be more inclusive is really just about opening yourself to new ideas. New ideas come from new people and by including those people in your group of, you know, in your treasure trove of ideas, you can definitely have a more inclusive society.

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robert perry.

Background: My name is Robert and I have my own business that I’ve been doing for about almost 20 years, it’s a small bar and restaurant. Faith: My faith is in the ultimate goodness in people. Aspects of your life which have shaped your faith: Just my daily encounters with people have shown me that if you open your heart to the world, the world will open its heart to you. It’s just one of those things that multiplies and continues to teach you that lesson over and over again. A time you felt included: Just in a general sense there’s been many occasions in my life where people have gone out of their way to make me feel welcome, which to me is the same as feeling included. There’s been many, many instances where people have just welcomed me, either into their homes or into their lives or into whatever experience we were sharing at the moment, and it makes you feel great, of course, to be welcomed in such a way.

“Just my daily encounters with people have shown me that if you open your heart to the world, the world will open its heart to you.” A time you felt excluded: It can bum me out a little bit but I really try not to focus on that experience too much. I feel like it’s kind of a waste of energy to feed into that feeling that they want you to feel. Feeling excluded, or ignored, or rejected, or whatever, it’s sort of a dead end so I try to just acknowledge it and just move on and move onto something more positive.

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Advice for someone who is feeling excluded: It’s hard because for some people it can make them feel very isolated and that’s a really hard thing to get past I think for a lot of people. My advice would be to find experiences and look towards things that they love, that make them feel included and to find like communities and to find even one person that can turn around that experience of being excluded or turn around that feeling of being rejected for some reason. Advice to the people doing the excluding: I don’t know, life is too short and too precious. Quit wasting your time and energy worrying about whether someone should be on the in or the out. It’s just really ridiculous, it’s really a waste of time and energy. It’s really a negative approach to your life. I don’t know, get over yourself, basically. One thing to make the world a more inclusive place. I’m a really big believer that the personal experience extends to the universal experience. Like, it just pulls out. So, if you can make every experience that you have into an inclusionary one, like if you can make every personal encounter you have a welcoming one, then that can’t help but magnify that energy to that person that you touched and then somewhere down the line that person might touch somebody else then I think it just has this really beautiful domino effect that can spread from one person, one encounter with one person. Any kind of personal experience like that, I think it has a huge effect that is way beyond what we may understand.

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sarah koon.

Background: My name is Sarah, I am 31 years old, born in Wilmington, Delaware. Spent my childhood in a parking lot of a church in a trailer where my parents were the pastors of a church. So that was kind of the beginning then we moved to Delaware again where my parents were part of a big church here. Now I am back here after being away for 10 years, I’ve been back for like three years now. Faith: To me faith is just…I don’t really know about the word faith. Faith. It kind of makes me feel something like just blindly believing or something and just kind of like falling into some pattern of belief that you feel committed to or you feel like you can’t change. I guess having faith could mean like having a faith in positivity, feeling like everything will be okay in the end. Aspects of your life which have shaped your faith: I’ve had a lot of different periods of faith in my life. Growing up in a church I really felt like I didn’t have a choice as to what I would believe. I kind of felt like my whole perspective of reality had been formed for me and was very aggressively enforced. So I didn’t really have a lot of room for experimentation. So as soon as I was 18 I wanted to get as far away as I could. I don’t really know what I think, I kind of feel like whatever I choose to believe is reality. Whatever anyone chooses to believe actually becomes reality for that person. I feel like everything is just so individual. Do you generally feel included with your peers? I kind of feel like that more now than I did in the past. When I grew up with this very strict evangelical background I felt like I was a little bit different and it was hard for me to fit in. It was difficult for them to stuff me into this model citizen that they were trying to create.I didn’t really feel included, I always felt like the bad kid, or the kid that was never going to quite fit in, and I wasn’t and that’s because that completely goes against how I’m made.

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I feel like I have met some magical people that have come in and out of my life and are still coming in and out of my life so I do feel more acceptance now in this kind of agnostic community of people who choose not to label themselves in any firm belief but still have a spiritual side to themselves. A time when you felt included: I’ve had a lot of people make me feel included, especially now as a musician. I’ve been a recording artist for a while, I was an actress for a while, and then I was just kind of living my life for a while so never really created a career path but then I started really focusing on my music three years ago and people have been really accepting.

“Don’t succumb to people pleasing or feeling like you need to work harder to be included by people who are obviously excluding you. Make your own place in the world.” A time when you felt excluded: This is going to go straight back to Christianity because I didn’t feel really included there. I was felt like I had to please those in authority over me and I felt like I was kinda locked into this hierarchy of trying to please my youth pastors and trying to be just like the certain kids they picked as examples. Everyone would idealize them and it as kind of manipulative and almost sociopathic I feel like when people in authority would kind of have this position of telling you spiritual advice and making you feel like their acceptance or you need their approval. I feel like a lot of really unhealthy stuff can happen in that situation, where anybody is a spiritual leader, a spiritual teacher…I feel like that’s not supposed to be an absolute and that’s not THE source of wisdom for anybody but it’s just A source. I feel like there was just a lot of negative outcomes from having that kind of hierarchical system set up. The society that that creates and the kind of culture that that creates is competitive and it’s very judgmental. If somebody does something the youth pastor doesn’t like, all of a sudden everybody is angry at that 62


person, they’re in the outs and nobody will talk to them. That happens to everybody, there is always a black sheep you can pick on and people love to do that. Overcoming exclusion: I would just kind of keep my head down and I would find just like one or two people that I felt kindred to, or I felt understood me. I had like two or three really close friends that to this day I’ll see sometimes. I definitely felt like I was always able to find one or two people and we could create our own little support system and we didn’t need anybody else. Advice for someone who is feeling excluded: Realize that the place that you’re in right now is not going to be forever. As you grow and as you develop, different opportunities come through your life. You aren’t always going to be where you are now. Just focus on what you want in life rather than the things that are disappointing to you or the things that make you feel bad. If it makes you feel bad, get out of the room. Go to a different room, whatever that room symbolizes for you, just get out of there. And I know sometimes you’re in a situation where you’re stuck if you have to finish school, you have to get your bachelors’ degree and you don’t want to be there. If you are stuck in a group or friends or your family there could be so many contexts where you could feel tied to people who are bringing you down. I would just say protect yourself and take care of yourself and focus on your own happiness. Don’t succumb to people pleasing or feeling like you need to work harder to be included by people who are obviously excluding you. Make your own place in the world. Create your own scene and just start to put out intentions. Start to dream about who you want to be your friend. What is this person like? And before you know it you’re just going to start attracting people that are cool and that are going to help you and benefit you in your life. I feel like you can shift your energy to help you grow into a different direction and meet new people.

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Advice to the people doing the excluding: It depends on how willing they would be to listen. Sometimes it’s difficult to express yourself in a way that people who are different from you can understand. That can be a challenge, definitely. I would just try to be as honorable as possible and try to communicate your feelings in every situation. If you’re stuck in a place and you need to confront somebody who is excluding you, I would just say these “feelings” messages, you know? Like, “I feel this feeling because of this and I would rather be feeling this” and just kind of describe what you would rather want to be happening. Usually people who have a heart can feel that. When you share your feelings with somebody it can really help and if it doesn’t that that’s your proof that that person is totally not worth your time and they probably won’t even listen to you so I would just…peace out and go your own way. Try to just be yourself and share your feelings as honestly as you can. One thing to make the world a more inclusive place: Education, social education possibly. I feel like ignorance is something that creates this idea of excluding someone. If you’ve never met somebody who is different from you, sometimes you don’t know what the norms are, how you should behave. How do you shake someone’s hand who doesn’t have a hand? There’s just so many things that you consider normal from your perspective that are just different habits for different people. I think just educating yourself. Reading different articles online about different people’s lifestyles, following blogs, looking into history about different people. If you come across a culture you don’t know anything about, just go on Wikipedia, look it up. Something as little as that. Or looking around you and seeing who are you friends with. Are there people around you that you’re not with that would be like an interesting person to know. Getting to know people in a more objective way just for your own growth really. What can this person teach me and is there anything I can teach them? When you meet people having that kind of attitude can really help you to expand your mind and learn new things. 64


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stash serafin.

Background: My name is Stash Serafin and I am a figure skater, I teach figure skating as well as a form of counseling called Comfort Coaching. Faith: I am a retired Catholic, an RC, and now I am a Unitarian. Aspects of your life which have shaped your faith: My parents were very loving people and extremely spiritual, although I didn’t know it at the time. They just felt that loving one another, loving each other, was the way to do it and the ticket to get along in the world. So they taught me how to love myself and by following their example, I got a real blessing, learning how to love myself by looking at them and learning from them. Do you feel included with your peers? Our Unitarian fellowship in Lower Bucks is really a prime example of inclusion. They don’t deal well with exclusion. It’s a small community but mighty in power and accepting each other from a place of comfort, of safety. Kids come out now, you know, in front of the whole congregation or whatever and just say, “oh wow, by the way, we’re gay” and it’s kind of cool or whatever, they come out with all kinds of stuff and it’s very accepting and they were great with me when my partner died a couple years ago. They decided that they would help me through it and walk me through the journey and they’re still doing it now and I’m helping them. A time you felt included. Well, it happens all the time. I don’t know how this inclusion thing happens but I guess the biggest thing was when my partner Wayne died and my friend Priscila just took it upon herself to be with me with the process as he was dying, and walk me through it and I have a lot of friends that will do that and I’m not sure why, cause I’m not always the easiest person to get along with all the time, cause I can be pretty snarky when I’m in a bad mood and when things get to me. When the doubts are bigger than my desires it’s like crap, you know, but my

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poor friends deal with me and they love me anyway which I guess is a good thing. It feels good. How did it affect you? Every time I feel included or accepted, it validates that something I already knew and just never kind of put in words. It’s hard to put into words. Something I feel in me is already whole and when anybody includes me and accepts me for whatever reason, it just enhances that sense of wholeness or that sense of safety, that sense of comfort. For me that’s where it all comes from, it’s a feel for me. Not just because I can’t see but it’s a different kind of feel, it’s like whatever we’re going through, you know, we’re just going to have the light on even if there’s cloud on, you know, we’re gonna see them both a little bit but honor them. Honor the clouds and honor the sunlight, or the light or whatever ‘cause that’s part of being human, learning to love, somewhat, the unlovable. It’s beyond tolerating, it’s like, you know, when you love it a little more, it works just a little better.

“Something I feel in me is already whole and when anybody includes me and accepts me for whatever reason it just enhances that sense of wholeness or that sense of safety, that sense of comfort.” A time you felt excluded. Believe it or not I’ve never felt excluded because of my sexual preference or gender, I’ve had more exclusion because of being blind. It’s an expectation issue and I guess for me as soon as I decided to come out of the closet, although I don’t think I was ever really in it. But in 1982 I started, I told my mom and , you know, what I told her was, I said, “You know, um, I’m gay” and she kinda didn’t want to admit to it but she said, “I kinda thought so. Do you need a priest?”And I said, “yea, if he’s like 6’2, I could deal with him” and she’s like, “ok, I’m going to love you anyway” and I said, “well, I’m glad of that because if you were not approving I wouldn’t hang out with you much and we would talk a little, but not much.” 68


How did it affect you: Anytime I feel excluded it seems like at one level for me it’s a personal form, it’s like rejection, I don’t take well to rejection. I’m not happy with it and I don’t like it one bit, it’s friction for me. Now that I’m older, when I remember as soon as I feel excluded I can use that to figure out, well, how can I include myself more and I’m not sure if I can stop anybody from excluding me, but all I know is for me, my personal life experiences from being 61, it’s like the more I include myself in every part of life I’m included more by everybody around and the ones that don’t include me, well, do I really want to be with them anyway? Overcoming exclusion: For me overcoming exclusion is just, you know, loving more and fearing a little bit less ‘cause I really believe everybody is equal and the light level, you know; we see the lights, we see the clouds and sometimes inequality looks really bleak and murky and dark and actually crap, actually, but it feels that way but then when the light goes on it’s like, you know, I mean, ever since time began we’ve been dealing with these issues in some way or another and the ones that deal with them with more dignity… and that’s a good one for me, I guess, tryin’ to deal with whatever I’m going through with dignity. I believe when each of us feels more equal, that’s how we overcome exclusion. Advice for someone who is feeling excluded: There are times when I don’t feel accepted and how to overcome that? I’m not sure in somebody’s case but those times when I didn’t feel accepted, I didn’t feel very safe with myself and I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing but as soon as I started to feel comfortable, and a little more safe with myself and a little more comfortable, what they did or didn’t do kinda on one level is irrelevant and it’s like, the things that I push against the most, if I push, they don’t seem to go away. They seem to get worse and they feel worse so for me it’s when I can look at them and not fight ‘em so much. I’m prone to use the phrase with my skaters, don’t fight with your blades, feel it. Feel for what’s right instead of fighting for it. And for me, I’m not sure if it’s being blind, I don’t think it’s being blind but I think, I feel, it’s an energy awareness of more softer energies the more we become equal with 69


ourselves, you know. When we give everything an equal opportunity, no matter what emotion we’re feeling, to not judge it so much but to know, this is just what I’m feelin’, it’s a crap day. But part of me isn’t crap, and part of me is comfortable. Advice to the people doing the excluding: Well, people that do excluding, from my personal experience it just feels like some of them just honest to gosh, don’t know any better or they would do better. Sometimes it’s absolute sheer ignorance and it’s sometimes not wanting to do anything with dignity and when somebody has their own agenda, exclusion is a real temptation. But then again, you know, hopefully by any of us who are doin’ what we’re doin’ from a heartfelt place, when it’s a loved place, it’s an example. We’re kinda like way-showers, and without doing a lot of mouth talk to it. We’re people that really listen. Sooner or later they really will listen. The thing that we gotta remember is, people that are generally wanting to include people more and love people more, to not give up on those people that don’t want to do it because sooner or later they will come around and maybe it’s not going to be all the time in my lifetime but I can’t really do a lot with somebody who doesn’t want to do anything but I can still have the hope that they will sooner or later realize that we’re all energy. When people get and feel that, it’s like why would you want to hurt anybody? Why would you hurt yourself or anyone else ‘cause at that level we’re all one. One thing to make the world a more inclusive place: Whatever we do, do it with a little more dignity. Whatever we’re feeling; feel it with a little more dignity, kindness and gentleness, which in a roundabout way says from my heart hopefully to yours; love a little more, fear a little less. Love more, fear less. When love takes ahold it does work because we mean it and when we come from a feeling place of meaning, sooner or later things move.

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“stefan.”

Background: So I guess my name is “Stefan” and age, 22. Faith: I grew up as a Muslim, in a Muslim family, but they weren’t the most extremist or people who would care. They care about religion but they would tell me go pray but you know how some families would literally hit their kids if they didn’t pray. Technically it “says that” in Islam, I’m not sure if it’s true. Like there is the Friday prayer which most families make their kids go to. I think in all of my life I’ve only been to the Friday prayer less than ten times. N ow I don’t believe in religion. I don’t like to say that I’m an atheist because I believe if you’re an atheist there’s some specific things that you have to believe in, some things that you have to be against. I don’t believe in superior power, I don’t believe in God, I don’t believe in religion. I just believe in, hey, do whatever you want, whatever makes you happy even if that involves praying to…I don’t know, anything you want…if that makes you happy inside. But, yea, that’s for me no religion. I mean even when I was a kid I never thought about religion as a religion, I feared religion. Aspects of your life which have shaped your faith? I would say maybe because I didn’t grow up with my father and in our society the father shapes a lot of the religious aspect because he’s the one who takes you to the mosque and stuff like that because women are not allowed to go to the mosque except in one month which is Ramadan. Maybe that would be a lack of belief of religion and my mom would just come to my bedroom and tell me “Hey, did you pray?” and if I said no she would be like, “go pray” and if I said yes and she knows that I didn’t she would be like “ok..” and I’m sure she knew that I didn’t pray cause you use a specific carpet for that or whatever, praying mat, so she would see it like unfolded the way it was unfolded last night and it didn’t change so yea that was part of her telling herself yea, he prayed but he didn’t use the praying mat, I guess. 73


I remember in high school I actually started believing more in religion for, I would say, a year of what I grew up from, like me being gay…and I knew that I was gay since I was like five years old…and the fear of that, people knowing or me being like that…I’ve been told that it’s not ok, that it’s not normal, that it’s not human nature…made me believe more in religion because religion supposedly, it will save you. So I thought, hey, let’s turn up for God and say, “Hey God, I’m going to pray for you and see if what I have is wrong. Hey, cure me.”

“I’ve known some people who are gay and yet they, let’s say, they would do the most “sinful” thing to do in Islam, which is sleeping with a guy, and then they get out of bed and go pray which I found amazingly weird and amusing. How can you do that? How can you find this comfort in yourself?” I started praying maybe for a year or so, last year of my senior year in high school and I got close to one of my cousins at that time. He’s a really fun guy and everything, he does everything, but he still believes that you can do anything and everything but at least pray. That ’s what he believes in so I guess me being close to him at that time made me pray more cause he would tell me, “You should pray” and he would like try to make me pray with him or whatever so that, I guess, helped a lot. I guess you get influenced at that age a lot by whoever you hang out with. Then I remember praying and like, praying to God that “Hey, if this is wrong, cure me” and I guess after that I would be like, “nothings changing… why is this not working?” And then I really do believe that I stopped believing in religion and God when I turned 74


20. That’s when I was like, yes, I’m comfortable that way and why should I believe in something when I don’t feel comfortable believing in it and being who I am so I think I found some peacefulness at 20 in knowing what I want and what is this and what makes me comfortable. Do you feel included with your peers? I’ve known some people who are gay and yet they, let’s say, they would do the most “sinful” thing to do in Islam, which is sleeping with a guy, and then they get out of bed and go pray which I found amazingly weird and amusing. How can you do that? How can you find this comfort in yourself? Good for you that you found comfort in doing that and at the same time accepting that your religion is not ok with that and yet if you confront them about it, they would be like, “No, I don’t do that.” So they are not really comfortable. I remember meeting some gay guys in America who are actually Christian. Christian, yea. They believe in Christianity and they go to church, I still find that amusing. I mean, yea, I guess the church accepts you. I don’t mean to be judgmental, but uh hey, that’s good for you but I never found that appealing to me. I feel like there is some kind of…we want you, although, technically you weren’t meant for us but we still want some people. I mean, it is nice but I believe that the structure of the religion basically 2000 years ago, whenever it was, really asked for you to be stoned or beheaded or whatever so I still think no matter how much you change it, there’s still going to be some hate in it. A time you felt included: I wouldn’t say it’s more about your religion ‘cause I’ve had some friends who are actually Muslim and identify as Muslims and practice religion but they’re pretty open with everyone else. They’re like, “Hey, you want to do this. You don’t want to practice religion. You’re an atheist. That’s your life, do whatever you want.” ] I don’t care if people are Muslims or whatever, just don’t try to enforce your beliefs into someone else just because you believe in them and you think it’s right. I don’t think I find comfort, me personally, in someone just because we share a same belief or a same nationality or a 75


same color of skin, or even same sexuality. I think I get along with straight people more than gay, I can’t lie, but, um, it’s just…how I get along with you is just for the person himself. It’s not about his belief or anything. It’s just how we react and I guess our energy. A time you felt excluded: I’ve never been open about it until recently, like two years ago, and me being open about it is me being comfortable with it too. So I guess if I’ve never felt excluded… it would be maybe my religion, maybe based on where I’m from. I lived in South Carolina for six months when I first moved in here and I remember on a Sunday afternoon, I lived in this like college town, it was a college town but you know how the University Village thing is? It’s like it but it’s actually houses so all of the people who were there were college kids. So, I remember walking down the street, going back to my apartment. I looked to my right there were people screaming, a group of…white kids and I know they were conservative, they were Republican, yea I think they were Republican, ‘cause they had flyers out for whoever was running at that time. So they looked at me and they were like, “Hey you terrorist!” They were drunk, I saw a lot of beer on the ground. So they were drunk and he was like, “Hey, you brown boy, Middle Eastern, you terrorist, go back home! What are you doing here?” I just looked at them, stood there looking at them, and I was like, “I’m not having this argument with you guys. First, you are drunk. Second, you are just being ignorant.” So I was like, “You’re being ignorant and you are drunk, I’m not having this conversation with a drunk or I think I said even “this argument,” it would never be a conversation, and you guys are ignorant so I just walked and left them. So, yea, there was that. Being discriminated because of who I am. How did it affect you? They didn’t have any lasting effect because I knew those people were ignorant and those people were just stupid and I knew that not everyone was like that but I gotta say that I was surprised that there were still people thinking that way. Advice for someone who is feeling excluded: First of all I would say don’t think about everyone else, just think about yourself, get 76


included with yourself first and then think about what everyone thinks. Well, actually, don’t ever think about what everyone thinks. Just do whatever makes you feel comfortable and just try as hard as you can to be comfortable with yourself ‘cause being included in any group or anything is not better than being you peaceful with yourself, that’s where it all starts to be better. Advice to people doing the excluding: Get over yourself! I mean, seeing as you’re hating someone for just his race, his beliefs, his sexual preference or even the way he dresses or looks, who are you to judge them? I’m sure there’s tons of things that are wrong with you and just because you wear conservative clothes doesn’t make you normal and to judge people. One thing to make the world a more inclusive place? I would say people need to be less judgmental, need to be more understanding and open-minded and need to not hate for stupid reasons. I mean, hate alone starts all the crap that is going on around the world. I guess people just need to be peaceful with themselves at first to be peaceful with others. If there’s hate in you, and hate in yourself, then you’re going to let it out on other people. It’s going to be hard to accomplish, but, yea, I guess people just need to understand that not everyone is like you or what you like. There is what, 7, almost 8 billion people living on this planet, we’re not all alike, live with it. Everyone likes his own and just be ok with it, they’re not hurting you. If they’re hurting you, yea you have the right to fight back but if they are not doing anything against you or to hurt you just be cool, get along with it, everything will be fine.

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stephen borish.

Background: My name is Stephen, I grew up in a suburb outside of Philadelphia known as Havertown. I am graduating this semester, I have a degree in biology and Spanish and I had always planned to be a dentist and then my plans changed from being a dentist to becoming a doctor and then I decided not to do that thing. Now I am applying to law school, and hopefully I will work in drug discovery, drug patenting and malpractice, and that sort of stuff. It’s something different but I think I’ll be able to use everything I’ve learned from biology to sort of help me with that in the future. Faith: I’ve always questioned why we’re here and what it means to be a person and somehow I’ve always tried to explain the world in some way. I grew up as Catholic, my parents baptized me when I was a child. My dad is Jewish and my mom is Catholic and I’ve been exposed to sort of both traditions I guess and in a way they have helped me understand a lot about life that I think a lot of other people haven’t been exposed to in the same way in that my dad isn’t very religious, my mom isn’t very religious either, but I grew up going to church, I grew up going to Catholic school, learning everything that they teach you in Catholic school, but at the same time I was always told that the most important thing isn’t necessarily going to church and being a good listener to whatever the church says and trying to follow the rules. My parents have always taught me the most important thing is to show love for everyone around us and so, in a way, that has become my religion whether I identify as being Catholic or I’m Jewish or anything that I say. I think first and foremost my biggest belief is that you have to show love for everybody whether they be the most important person in the world or someone that you despise, you still have to show them love. So, that’s my idea of religion, I guess. Aspects of your life which have shaped your faith. I was always told exactly what the church believes to be wrong

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about being gay. I’ve also been told that no matter what you have to love every person by the same church so it’s sort of, you have to judge what the person does but at the same time you have to love that person no matter what. It’s been confusing for me, growing up, trying to understand what that means.

“I feel included as a person, definitely, but as a gay man I don’t feel included. As somebody who could possibly end up marrying another man and then go to church, I don’t think that I would be included whatsoever.” I’ve taught sixth grade confirmation classes, which is sixth grade is normally the year when somebody who is Catholic gets confirmed. So they have their baptism, and then they have their first communion and all of that, first reconciliation, and then they receive confirmation which is sort of related to their baptism in saying that finally I... when I was baptized, I was not old enough to make that agreement so now as an adult I can reaffirm what I believe and so I’ve been doing that for a while and after doing that I sort of don’t really think about what the church says in terms of how being, or homosexual acts, are sinful or whatever it is. I don’t really think about that, it doesn’t really affect me. I know that who I am is nothing that is shameful, it’s not something that I should be embarrassed about, it’s not something that I should hide, it’s not something that people have the right to judge. Even after reading about what the church says about homosexuals or reading about what the church says about..everything that is sort of outside of the norm….one, I’ve had a hard time understanding where that position comes from and two, it’s never really bothered me because I think when it all comes down to it, it doesn’t 80


matter. It doesn’t really matter what the church says. The most important thing is how we treat people who are known as different in society or known as…not normal, unnatural I’ve heard. Regardless of whether or not my actions are sinful according to some people, if I treat other people with respect, I think that in return I should receive respect regardless of who I love…who I am. Do you feel included with your peers? In a religious setting, no. I feel included as a person, definitely, but as a gay man I don’t feel included. As somebody who could possibly end up marrying another man and then go to church, I don’t think that I would be included whatsoever. I know that I can’t go to my church and say “I’ve met this person and I want to marry this person and I think that I love this person.” I don’t that will ever happen that I’ll be able to go into a church as the person that I am and be accepted for that. I think the way that we think about who gay people are in society is changing a lot, especially in the church with so many differing opinions. Some people say who am I judge, like, Pope Francis said, “Who am I to judge” or some people say, “you should go directly to Hell, you’re terrible people.” I think it can be confusing for some people to try and understand who they are in that sort of context but I think that if I were to go, as the person that I am, openly gay, to a church, a Catholic church, I would be met with resistance and it wouldn’t be the same welcoming hello as if I weren’t open or I weren’t gay. A time you felt excluded: There have been a lot of times when I have felt excluded but I have this one memory of me in like sixth grade I think it was, or seventh grade, and this one girl came up to me and we were at gym class and she said, “You’re gay, you can’t play soccer with us.” The gym teacher heard her say that and absolutely flipped out at her, and this was a little seventh grader, and said, “how dare you say that” and I started to cry. First of all, I didn’t want to accept who I was, I didn’t want to accept that I was gay and I was scared that the teacher knew that and 81


that she was defending me and so in a weird way, I didn’t want to talk to the girl who was being mean by bullying me and saying, “oh, you’re gay, you can’t play soccer” but at the same time I didn’t want to be with the gym teacher because I didn’t want to be seen by the rest of the class as gay and so it was sort of a weird struggle for me to not want to be bullied, but at the same time not want to be defended because that would mean that I was gay and that would mean that they would just continue to say terrible things. Another time that I was excluded, or felt excluded, was in high school when people would ask me to go to date dances or I’d have to ask people to go to date dances and a lot of times I would ask friends and that sort of stuff and to me and my date, we were friends, but to the rest of the world… for example, my dad when we would get pictures before the dance my dad would say, “Are you guys going out? Is she your girlfriend? What are you going to do after?” and it made me feel like super, super uncomfortable and every time that I had to go to a date dance, the idea of me being gay was constantly in my mind. I know I didn’t enjoy it, I absolutely hated every moment of it. It was fun because I was with my friends but at the same time, it was so nerve-racking to think that this isn’t who I am and I have to pretend that it’s who I am and if I don’t act that way then somebody will find out and somebody will know that I’m gay and somebody will know that I’m different and that’s not a good thing, at least at that time in my mind it wasn’t a good thing. How did that affect you? I’ve always struggled with having to come out to the world over and over and over again, to everybody that I meet or everybody that talks to me. In some way, I have to come out to them; whether it’s by saying I’m gay, or by acting a different way, or saying that I have a boyfriend, or saying that I don’t have a girlfriend, or whatever it is. It’s always sort of made me realize that people are different and that not everybody is the same and not everybody is normal and not everybody is the way that people assume, and people assume things about everyone in the world and sometimes that can be a good 82


thing and sometimes that can be a terrible thing. Advice for someone who is feeling excluded: The advice I would give to someone who is feeling excluded is probably, don’t give up. No matter what, understand who you are and sort of make it your life to realize that you’re perfect the way that you are and that no one in the world can ever tell you that the person you are is bad, or the person you are is wrong because it’s who you are and it’s who you should be. I think it’s difficult sometimes to see that and to realize that it’s okay to be whoever you are. Always keep that in your mind, always just look forward and it might be difficult to see far into the future but just take it one step of a time and get through the mean things people say and let it pass you and enjoy your present life. Enjoy every moment that you have because it should be, it should be special. You shouldn’t have to worry every day that somebody is going to judge you, or that somebody is going to say something mean to you. If they do, that’s their prerogative and they can say whatever they want to say but you need to realize that whatever they say, it does’t have to mean anything to you. You can still be an amazing person without them by your side. It’s so important to remember that you’re special and that no matter what, you don’t need some sort of okay from someone in order to be the person that you are because that’s who you are. You don’t need anyone’s approval, you don’t need anyone’s okay. That’s the most important thing, be true to yourself. Advice to the people doing the excluding: In life everybody is in some way excluded from something; whether it be that they’re gay, that their skin color is different, or they’re from a different culture, or they speak a different language. In life, we’re all excluded from something and it doesn’t feel good. If you are at lunch and you go and sit at the lunch table you probably sit with people who are similar to you. You probably sit with people you can identify with or maybe you sit alone. No matter what in life everybody is excluded so the next time 83


you think it’s important for you to make someone feel bad about who they are, make someone feel excluded, imagine if that were you, or if you were the person being excluded. How would you feel and how would that impact what you’re doing right now? So just realize that no matter what you do in your life, at some point you will feel excluded. You shouldn’t make someone feel excluded just because you don’t like the way they act or who they are or something about them. One thing to make the world a more inclusive place: I think the biggest thing we need to change is, no matter what we do to someone; whether they be gay, or they be homeless, or they be crazy, or they have some sort of deformity, or whatever it is in the world; no matter what you have to show people that you’re there to listen, and you’re there to not judge them and no matter what, no matter what they believe, no matter what is wrong with them or not wrong with them, or whatever they think, it’s okay and they have someone that will listen to them. So I think the most important thing that we need is to be open. Be open to listening and to understanding and to learn, that’s one of the biggest changes that I think we need to see in the world. Sometimes it can be difficult to do that but if we really want to change the world, I think that’s the most important thing. We need to listen to other people and just show them that we care and show them that no matter what they believe and what they’re going to, someone will always be there for them to give them strength in some way.

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Meet the authors: alisa miller My name is Alisa, I’m 26 years old and I have the travelling bug. I find nothing more exciting than going somewhere unfamiliar, meeting people and getting the opportunity to see the world from their point of view. Despite my love of traveling, I do not believe that you have to go far to find something worth photographing. Whether exploring a new land, or your own backyard, there is always a story to tell. Over the years I’ve come to notice that many people are in need of on outlet, a way to get their message out into the world. For this, I’ve mostly found myself focusing on discovering creative ways to allow the underserved to tell their stories in their own way; searching for a balance between art, journalism, and social outreach. The idea for the “Human Project”, or simply “Human”, was sparked last year when I began thinking of a topic for my final book in my photo seminar with Dr. Edward Trayes at Temple University. After spending more and more of my free time on the streets of Philadelphia, wandering around, speaking to anyone who was willing or in need in company, I decided I needed to find a way to portray the fact that no matter what is thrust upon us in life, we are all at our roots the same. We are all Human.

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Meet the authors: harrison brink My name is Harrison, I am a 20-year-old photojournalist based out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As a photographer, I’ve committed myself to trying to shed light onto groups of people who are misunderstood or unknown. In my experience, I’ve learned that everybody has a story to tell and that those willing to share it with the world are truly special. Being allowed to record and share people’s stories with the rest of the world is something that I consider to be a privilege. A person’s worth is not something that can be judged based on their social or economic status. Nor can it be measured by their sexual preference or gender identity. The most important thing is to get to know a person and I see my role as a photojournalist as a means of providing people with that connection. Alisa asked me to help with “Human” after I volunteered to help her with interviews for part I of the project. When she told me that she was expanding the project, I was excited for the opportunity to help. I hope that “Human” can provide some insight to people as to how other groups live. There are so many different kinds of people in the world that the opportunities for the project to grow are infinite. We are here to show that for every human out in the world, there is a story worth telling.

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Human: Enlighten  

Part II of the Human project explores the inclusion of the LGBTQIA community in and out of different faiths.