The following is the 2013 Christmas Letter we mailed to our friends and family. You can have a copy of the Letter, which consists of the text and no photos, by clicking here.
That “Crazy!” we’re-gonna-travel-someday Steve (or, How it all started)
Early on when I met Jose in 1997, I told him with certitude: “You and I are going to do Europe together someday!” He thought I was crazy, but in August of 1999, after living together for almost two years, we spent a month traveling on a Eurail Pass visiting five different countries. (To pay for the trip we had both worked long hours in July as temps at a Manhattan law firm on a national legal case.)
Starting in 2005 with Other Sheep, we turned our travels into a worldwide ministry. Since 2005, we have been in 20 different countries from the Caribbean to China, from East Africa to the Southern Cone.
But what does any of this reminiscing have to do with a 2013 Christmas letter? Just this, I turned 60 in January so, naturally, it’s fashionable at my age to recount the past. Oh, yes, that reminds me! To celebrate my milestone birthday, Jose took me to Hawaii (above photo) during his spring break (see our Hawaii photos). At last, I’m on track with 2013.
Wow! What another wonderful summer (2013) – Five countries and some fantastic pro-LGBT activists
Our travels this past summer with Other Sheep took us to Peru, Venezuela, Guatemala, Honduras and Colombia (go to photos and reports). We spoke at an international conference; did TV, radio and Internet talk shows; conducted seminars and small group meetings; networked, did open air canvasing, made cold-calls on evangelical ministers; did literature distribution, and printed 1000 copies of The Children Are Free in Spanish.
For photos per country (Peru, Venezuela, Guatemala, Honduras and Colombia) select the country on the country index page and then select photos within the country index.
Jose Ortiz dancing in the streets, Cusco, Peru
We vacationed in Cusco, our jumping off point for visiting Machu Picchu, and where Jose, to promote marriage equality, danced in the streets of a public square before watching crowds (photo at right).
In the USA, 2013 – Meetings, Conferences People, An SBL Paper, Hosting
In the USA, our speaking engagements took us to a college campus (SUNY in Geneseo), to two weekend conferences (AWAB – see AWAB photos, and Connecting Families), to two small group meetings (Big Island PFLAG and The Riverside Church, Manhattan), to a church sponsored seminar (UMC of Gloucester Point, Virginai), and to an academic conference where Steve gave a paper on Uganda (Society of Biblical Literature, Baltimore).
We participated in the Honolulu Marriage Equality walk (and Jose in drag on stage at a Honolulu luau). Steve distributed literature to Syracuse American Baptist churches, and visited with a Burmese Baptist pastor there, downloading onto his computer Other Sheep’s The Children Are Free in Burmese. In addition, when called upon, Steve helped his pastor by filling the pulpit (an MCC church in NJ).
In our Bronx home, we hosted a gay Christian couple from Colombia for two weeks, our European Coordinator for one week, and a closeted evangelical gay Christian from China living in an evangelical Chinese Christian community in NJ who was needing space (overnight stays) to talk openly about himself.
Happy Times with Family!
Jeff and Robin Parelli
Our ties with Jose’s family continue, with reoccurring trips to Brooklyn to visit his mother and brother. On Steve’ side, we visited Jeff (Steve’s brother) and his wife Robin (photo at right
), traveling to their home in Pennsylvania on two different occasions: for a reunion with their family on Memorial Day
(click here for photos on Facebook
) and in October when my Aunt (my mother’s sister) and Uncle
flew in from Arizona for a visit (click her for photos on Facebook
). My oldest child, Rebecca, vacationed with us in September on the Jersey Shore (her choice; fond memories from her childhood). In November a second grandchild was born to me (I have two grandsons now).
Finding a new “Norm”
My parents, three of my four children, my ex-wife, my two grandchildren and my sister remain estranged from Jose and me, whereas my brother Jeff and his family, my daughter Rebecca and my Aunt and Uncle and our gay-affirming friends have welcomed Jose and me with open, loving arms.
Recently, Jose attended a training session in which the speaker told of losing her teenage son to a tragic urban shooting incident. She said she had to create a “new norm” in order to move on. The former underlining narrative was marriage, children, family, and so on. That was the “norm” that was forever gone when her son died.
A “Christmas-moment” in Guatemala, and Finding a new Norm
In Guatemala in 2012, Jose and I met a young gay evangelical Christian, named Jonathan, who was working at the resort where we were staying as a Spanish-English translator to conferees. Jonathan told us his story: his parents, both evangelical, knew he was gay but were closeted about it to others.
Jonathan and his mom with Steve and Jose, Guatemala
In 2013 we spoke at PFLAG Guatemala (parents and friends of lesbians and gays). Jonathan and his mother attended without telling the father. It was his mother’s first time ever to meet parents like herself with gay sons and daughters. Following the meeting, the four of us – Jose and me, Jonathan and his mother (photo at left) – went to dinner at a local restaurant. The four of us laughed the whole meal through: our connectedness around an accepting mother made us giddy and child-like; our common stories around condemning religious beliefs gave us a shared history; our play on words in Spanish and in English surprised us all; our coming out to the waitresses at our table gave us a sense of mutual self-acceptance and awareness; and a mother all aglow to be with her gay son and his Christian up-beat, married gay friends gave her and Jonathan a paradigm of what life can look like for her and her son.
Her “new norm” was taking shape right before her eyes. That dinner together was, for Jonathan’s mother, a Christmas-moment in which she could hear and see peace and good-will towards her and her gay son.
Lima, Peru Gay Pride 2013
Her Christmas-moment didn’t come all wrapped up in swaddling clothes with a manger in a cold cave, and with a Christmas tree and a feast with family and friends – things that make Christmas feel like
Instead, all wonderful and important as these things may be, Jonathan’s mother is scripting a “new norm.” And when she is finished, it will become the new underlining narrative that makes Christmas feel like Christmas for her. It will be her “new norm” that brings her and her family peace and good will. I like to think that’s how Joseph and Mary started out that first Christmas long ago: writing their “new norm” as it would pertain to their new arrival and the absence of family and friends on such an occasion.
Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,
Steve Parelli and Jose Ortiz
Photo at left: Jose and Steve in Bogota, Colombia, 2103