Oct 5 • 51M

Arizona Equals Brother Lee

We talk about Latin in this one! (Wait, come back, where are you going.)

2
 
1.0×
0:00
-51:04
Open in playerListen on);

Appears in this episode

Equality Arizona
Arizona Equals is a conversational interview podcast chronicling the lives and experiences of LGBTQ+ Arizonans. Listen to new episodes weekly on Wednesdays, featuring conversations with queer people living in Arizona.

On today’s episode of the Arizona Equals Conversation, Jeanne talks with Brother Lee Hughes about classics degrees, working in tech, and living life under a rule. For Jeanne, that’s a series of notebooks and sticky notes; for Brother Lee, a married gay man in a religious order, there’s a little bit more to it. The conversation also explores the long history of the church and the healing that is still only beginning to begin.

Links & Show Notes

Full Episode Transcript

00;00;00;28 - 00;00;31;14

Jeanne

From Equality Arizona, you’re listening to the Arizona Equals Conversation. I'm Jeanne Woodbury. Each week on the show, I talk with an LGBTQ+ person living in Arizona about their path through a network of relationships. Sometimes I worry that that's kind of a heady concept. I mostly worry about that when I'm describing the show to potential guests. And as an aside, anyone listening to this who's an LGBTQ person in Arizona is a potential guest.

00;00;31;15 - 00;01;09;03

Jeanne

You can sign up at EqualityArizona.org/Stories. But more to the point, I really believe that what defines us as people and what really grounds our stories isn't our internal journey, but how we connect to all the people around us. Today on the show, I talk with Brother Lee Hughes. And I think his story and the approach to life that he takes, which is really rooted in community responsibility, is something that exemplifies the whole purpose of this podcast.

00;01;10;03 - 00;01;34;12

Jeanne

He's also the first person I've gotten to talk to on the show about studying Latin, which — fair warning going in. But I was excited. Before we get started, it's important to note that today is October 5th. That's just one week before early voting begins in Arizona. If you're not registered to vote yet, make sure to register to vote today.

00;01;34;27 - 00;02;02;17

Jeanne

Just visit EQAZ.vote to get registered. And since it's the beginning of the month, we also have a lot of great events that I want to invite you to. You can check all of those out at EqualityArizona.org/events. One in particular that I'd like to highlight is our very first Queer People Fit Yoga event. That's scheduled for October 11th at Upward Light Yoga in Mesa.

00;02;02;24 - 00;02;19;10

Jeanne

I hope to see you there. And now let's get into the interview.

00;02;24;14 - 00;02;49;25

Brother Lee

I'm Brother Lee Hughes with the Anglican Order of Preachers, also known as the Dominicans. We are an order in the Episcopal Church, much like the Roman Catholic Dominicans. I am a married man, and my husband and I have been together for 28 years. And I am also a retired I.T. professional specializing in telecommunications.

00;02;50;09 - 00;02;52;16

Jeanne

Wonderful. Thanks for being on the podcast today.

00;02;52;27 - 00;02;54;12

Brother Lee

Thank you. Good to be here.

00;02;55;02 - 00;03;06;24

Jeanne

Well, actually, I'm curious. You were saying you went to get a booster the other day. Is this with the new — this is just for my own curiosity — Is that with the new reformulated vaccine?

00;03;06;24 - 00;03;11;09

Brother Lee

No, it was still the regular BioNTech Pfizer shot.

00;03;11;10 - 00;03;11;20

Jeanne

Okay.

00;03;12;00 - 00;03;29;25

Brother Lee

So I've now got four of those. I was supposed to get my fourth booster in April, but we had a very small, we thought controlled gathering at Easter at our house. And come to find out, one of the people actually had been exposed at a previous gathering.

00;03;29;26 - 00;03;30;17

Jeanne

Oh, gosh.

00;03;30;18 - 00;03;38;24

Brother Lee

At a Passover dinner a few days before. And so she communicated it to my partner and then he communicated it a week later to me.

00;03;39;17 - 00;03;40;15

Jeanne

Ah, gosh.

00;03;40;26 - 00;03;42;24

Brother Lee

So we had to put off the boosters for awhile.

00;03;43;05 - 00;03;43;21

Jeanne

Yeah.

00;03;44;13 - 00;03;56;17

Brother Lee

Although it was really it does say a lot for the vaccines. He's in a very high risk group. Mm hmm. And so he was laid out for a bit, but nothing horrible.

00;03;56;23 - 00;03;57;11

Jeanne

Oh, good, good.

00;03;57;27 - 00;04;05;18

Brother Lee

He did the anti-viral therapy as well. And for me, it was like a mild cold. It was more annoyance than anything.

00;04;05;21 - 00;04;17;23

Jeanne

Ah, yeah. I didn't get COVID until after my third shot, and it was super mild, just lethargy and headaches and all of that.

00;04;17;23 - 00;04;22;22

Brother Lee

If I had lethargy, it was matched by the lethargy I usually have from overwork. So.

00;04;23;15 - 00;04;31;24

Jeanne

Yeah. Well, now I'm curious. You mentioned having a small gathering on Easter and a different gathering that was on Passover.

00;04;32;02 - 00;04;47;25

Brother Lee

Well, it wasn't my gathering. The family we had over is a multi-faith family, and so they're Episcopalian, but his relations are also Jewish.

00;04;48;07 - 00;04;49;04

Jeanne

Oh, okay. Wonderful.

00;04;49;05 - 00;05;05;21

Brother Lee

So they went over for Passover, was fairly close to Easter this year. And so they went over and apparently, even though they were careful because the lady of the family had just finished a round of chemo, and so they were being very careful.

00;05;06;00 - 00;05;06;24

Jeanne

Oh gosh.

00;05;07;01 - 00;05;32;06

Brother Lee

But apparently a few of the relatives had not been careful and being in a very precarious position, she picked it up and she was asymptomatic when she came over to our house. And then we got a call from their daughter, who was very good friends of ours. And she said, by the way, Mom's got COVID. She tested positive this morning and this was like on Monday, so the day after.

00;05;32;06 - 00;05;54;26

Brother Lee

And it's like, wow, she didn't look like she had a single symptom yesterday. Okay, so Tuesday, Hugh fell victim to it. And then a week later I did because I was taking care of them. I was observing precautions. But, you know, after a while, somebody slips up somewhere.

00;05;54;27 - 00;06;03;03

Jeanne

It's almost inevitable at that level. How did the pandemic affect your work?

00;06;04;01 - 00;06;28;13

Brother Lee

Well, um, really interesting. I retired from my job on May the 31st this year. Okay. So prior to that, I had been going I've been doing a hybridized work for a few years before the pandemic hit. I would work from home two days and work in the office three. And so when the lockdowns happened, I moved to working at home four or five days a week.

00;06;28;13 - 00;06;51;08

Brother Lee

And this was for CVS Health. And they were a little bit more sensitive to the, to COVID 19 contagion than a lot of other companies are. So we had an extended work at home, period, for those of us who had to. Store personnel, unfortunately, could not get around that; warehouse personnel, they couldn't do that because they were part of the supply chain.

00;06;51;09 - 00;07;15;00

Brother Lee

But for those of us who dealt mostly with the software and the services, like I was in, I was in telecommunications, we were able to work from home. The only, I only had to come into the office a few times and that was basically to dropkick a couple of pieces of equipment that no longer would respond remotely.

00;07;15;01 - 00;07;15;14

Jeanne

Yeah.

00;07;15;27 - 00;07;36;05

Jeanne

Oh, yeah. I think that's a nice thing — I know some other people who already were in that kind of hybrid work situation where they could work from home a lot. And so it was a really easy transition. And I think for people who have family that are in higher risk categories, that was a really fortuitous circumstance.

00;07;36;05 - 00;08;10;28

Brother Lee

Yeah. My husband's 12 years older than I am. Okay. I'm 55 now. He's 67. So he was 64, going on 65 when the pandemic broke out. And of course, we're bears. We're not exactly svelte people. And so that puts us in a risk category all our own. Both have high blood pressure. He has type two diabetes and a couple of immune issues with psoriasis and severe allergies and stuff like that.

00;08;11;06 - 00;08;20;08

Brother Lee

So he was already like, for the first part of the lockdown, I wouldn't even let him out of the house. I wouldn't let him go near the door. I wouldn't let him take the grocery delivery.

00;08;21;00 - 00;08;28;08

Jeanne

It was a very, very, very serious risk at that point in time, especially since we didn't even know the right ways to protect ourselves.

00;08;29;13 - 00;08;40;13

Brother Lee

Exactly. So I made sure that everything came in went on to a cart. It got wheeled to the kitchen. Everything got washed, including cardboard boxes.

00;08;41;17 - 00;08;47;20

Jeanne

Yeah, that was such an interesting moment. Just thought we had to sanitize everything.

00;08;47;23 - 00;09;03;17

Brother Lee

Everything. And of course, we didn't get COVID until we let our guard down. Like, two years later. And fortunately, by that time, therapies were available to make sure that it didn't carry us off.

00;09;04;01 - 00;09;06;24

Jeanne

Yeah, I'm glad. How did you two meet?

00;09;07;24 - 00;09;13;16

Brother Lee

Hugh and I met in Cincinnati many years ago. In 1994.

00;09;13;17 - 00;09;14;00

Jeanne

Oh, cool.

00;09;14;13 - 00;09;16;08

Brother Lee

We met at a bear potluck.

00;09;16;25 - 00;09;17;22

Jeanne

Oh, that's so fun.

00;09;17;23 - 00;09;31;08

Brother Lee

And he had been a founding member of the bear group in Cincinnati. And I had just stumbled on the bear community because I had just come out of the closet six weeks previously.

00;09;31;09 - 00;09;32;05

Jeanne

Oh, wow.

00;09;33;10 - 00;09;52;04

Brother Lee

So I really didn't have the chance to form any serious relationships or anything like that. And I went to this person's house and back then everything was done by voice mail and phone chains and everything else.

00;09;52;08 - 00;09;52;16

Jeanne

Right!

00;09;52;22 - 00;09;58;24

Brother Lee

Because, whoever thought of a smartphone? And cell phones were about the size of that mixer board.

00;09;59;08 - 00;10;08;15

Jeanne

Well, and I know in 1994, people were using like bulletin board systems and the early web and stuff. But I think that was pretty niche still.

00;10;08;29 - 00;10;34;21

Brother Lee

It was. But it was a life saver for somebody who was just, who had been in the closet for 27 years of his life. I was 27, not only when I came out, but when I lost my virginity. So we're talking really green around the edges. And very nervous. And we had, I, again, I had just, I knew what I was attracted to.

00;10;35;00 - 00;11;02;02

Brother Lee

Just had found out what the community was called, found, just by happenstance, a community bulletin board for that community. And they had a Thanksgiving potluck going on. So I went. And not knowing anything, I dressed in a sports jacket, khakis and a turtleneck, which was way over dressed for — I mean, I could have gotten away with my usual flannel and jeans and fit right in.

00;11;02;12 - 00;11;14;03

Brother Lee

Yeah. So I was sitting there nibbling on food and making small talk. Mm hmm. Being that new meat in the group. Needless to say, everybody was, Who is this kid?

00;11;14;11 - 00;11;15;15

Jeanne

Why is he so dressed up?

00;11;15;17 - 00;11;39;01

Brother Lee

Yeah. And Hugh bounced into the potluck? And I do say bounced, because Hugh has always had a bit of a caffeine problem. And I've learned to develop the caffeine problem too. Marriage will do that. But he bounced in and I looked at him and he was a little hyper. And the immediate thought I went is, who is this druggie?

00;11;39;17 - 00;11;51;07

Brother Lee

I thought he was on something a little harder than caffeine. And he had surveyed the room like he usually did, just picking out friends. And he looked over and he thought to himself, Why is there a narc here?

00;11;52;10 - 00;11;54;21

Jeanne

Oh, right.

00;11;55;16 - 00;12;21;06

Brother Lee

So I thought he was a druggie. He thought I was a narc. And he really it took a few meetings to well, it took a few meetings for us to actually break the ice and get to know each other. And then January, then the immediate following January following, we ran into each other on the street and we both had a rather bad day.

00;12;21;06 - 00;12;25;20

Brother Lee

And we just started to talk on the on the sidewalk. For two hours.

00;12;25;29 - 00;12;28;03

Jeanne

Oh, that's so nice.

00;12;28;27 - 00;13;01;28

Brother Lee

We really clicked, and I went home with him and we started dating very seriously. And I had moved in by April the first of that year. And the next year we were ready to make a commitment. Back then you couldn't get married. So we sort of staged a commitment ceremony in '96, which was August the third, '96, and then it's basically history from there.

00;13;01;29 - 00;13;37;05

Brother Lee

We had, we — I'm a dual citizen. I was born and raised in Canada. So when Canada made marriage legal coast to coast, in 2004, we did a quick trip up to Toronto to officially tie the knot and drag the marriage certificate back with us. And then when it became legal in 2015 here in the United States, the same time the church that we were going to changed their canon laws to make it possible for us to get married in this diocese in Arizona.

00;13;37;18 - 00;13;44;27

Brother Lee

And so we did all the planning and we had an actual church wedding in September of 2015.

00;13;45;06 - 00;13;54;10

Jeanne

Oh, that's beautiful. Um, how long did you stay in Cincinnati after that point in time? After '95, '96?

00;13;54;10 - 00;14;16;02

Brother Lee

Well, I had moved there in 1989 for graduate school, and we didn't leave Cincinnati until 2007 when CVS closed our facility in Fairfield, Ohio. And I was relocated to Pittsburgh for three years. And then they closed the diocese — not diocese, sorry — the data center.

00;14;16;26 - 00;14;17;21

Jeanne

Same difference.

00;14;18;20 - 00;14;37;00

Brother Lee

Yeah. A whole lot of protocols that makes zero sense. [Laughs] They made sense to somebody. So we stayed there until they closed the data center because they were amalgamating all sorts of I.T. processes. And so I moved out here where we have a data, where CVS has a data center in Scottsdale.

00;14;37;23 - 00;14;39;15

Jeanne

Oh cool, I didn't realize that.

00;14;40;12 - 00;14;50;10

Brother Lee

Yeah, out around Shea Boulevard. And we moved out here in 2010. No, 2011. It's been a while.

00;14;50;14 - 00;14;50;23

Jeanne

Yeah.

00;14;52;04 - 00;14;54;06

Brother Lee

And we haven't regretted the move.

00;14;54;24 - 00;15;08;12

Jeanne

Well, now I want to dig in to that diocese, data center thing. I don't think that's a mix up a lot of people would make. So what is your experience then on that side, of the diocese side instead of the data center side?

00;15;08;13 - 00;15;32;20

Brother Lee

So the diocese in ancient churches is basically the major division in churches, in a like a national church. For instance, a very famous diocese is the Diocese of Rome, which is basically the city of Rome, the port of Ostia and the surrounding countryside. And it's bishop happens to be His Holiness Pope Francis the First.

00;15;32;21 - 00;15;33;03

Jeanne

Right.

00;15;33;09 - 00;15;39;28

Brother Lee

Okay. And it's been a diocese pretty much for a long, long, long, long time.

00;15;40;05 - 00;15;40;13

Jeanne

Yeah.

00;15;41;01 - 00;16;11;16

Brother Lee

The way things have gone is most ancient churches, like the Eastern Orthodox Church or whatever variety it happens to be that you're passing by, or the Roman Catholic Church, or any number of the Anglican Churches, like the Church of England or the Episcopal Church, or that — they are governed in units called geographical units called the diocese. And the diocese is headed up by a bishop who is considered the successor to the apostles.

00;16;11;29 - 00;16;37;25

Brother Lee

It's a rank of clergy from whom all the other ranks of clergy depend, basically. And since I'm Episcopalian, I belong to one of those ancient churches that have that structure and so a lot of the stuff that we do at the parish level has to be validated by the diocese. All of our, all of our programs and stuff like that comes from the diocese.

00;16;39;00 - 00;17;01;00

Brother Lee

A lot of parishes like to think they're independent, but they're dependent on the diocese. Sort of like when you're in a company and you're in an I.T. department, everything's dependent on your data center because that's where all the big hardware is, that's where all the major circuits coming in, carrying data are. And that's where companies spend a lot of money.

00;17;01;25 - 00;17;18;22

Jeanne

Yeah. So then for you, waiting until 2015 for that moment where there was the decision that you actually could have a church wedding. What was that like? You know, were there discussions about it? Was it sudden policy change? Were you involved in any of that?

00;17;20;04 - 00;17;46;06

Brother Lee

No, I wasn't really involved in that. I had a period of time where I had sort of like, cooled in my relationship with the church, and that didn't really come alive again until 2014. But the Episcopal Church had been sort of fighting that fight in the background for many years back in the last century. Gosh, we can say the last century and still mean the 1980s.

00;17;47;01 - 00;18;24;10

Brother Lee

But they, the Episcopal Church was starting to reevaluate its position on LGBTQ issues and they really were the denomination that — the mainline denomination — that was basically on the front lines of it. Other denominations have been taking blows internally on that, but it was the first major one with an ancient pedigree that really was starting to wrestle with that.

00;18;25;05 - 00;19;02;20

Brother Lee

And they had people entering the diaconate, which is a service ministry within the the church or the priesthood. And then, of course, there was the consecration of Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire, which really blew the lid off the discussion. And the church is still putting out fires to this very day. There were, there were some splits within the church over the issue, much like we're starting to see with the United Methodists in recent history.

00;19;02;24 - 00;19;38;13

Brother Lee

But they, they sort of like paved the way for implosions and explosions and basically a really lively debate. And by around, by about 2014, 2015, after having faithful LGBTQ Christians in all ranks of the ministry, the Episcopal Church was ready to say, Well, now that it's legal in all the land, we can go ahead and not worry about legal reprisal by opening our canon law either.

00;19;39;06 - 00;19;39;18

Jeanne

Ah right.

00;19;39;19 - 00;19;54;24

Brother Lee

Yeah. Now that that hasn't been smooth sailing either. There are still some dioceses that have problems with that. And some parishes have peeled off, and it's been a bit of a mess. But when we're talking about a massive cultural change like that.

00;19;54;24 - 00;19;56;24

Jeanne

And an institution that's ancient.

00;19;57;03 - 00;20;14;29

Brother Lee

That measures things — whose speed is usually glacial. I mean, we're talking — people feel that the Episcopal Church moves kind of quickly. And for an ancient church, it does move kind of quickly, but it's still glacial.

00;20;15;01 - 00;20;38;17

Jeanne

Yeah. But I would imagine that, you know, as a gay man in that church, even before all the policies were put in place and decisions were made, it sounds like because there was an active process of change, that it was maybe a more natural home than potentially another denomination.

00;20;38;17 - 00;21;09;04

Brother Lee

Yeah, that is correct. My background's a bit checkered religiously. I was brought up in a mixed religious household as far as Christianity was concerned. My dad's family were an odd variety of Baptists who were Calvinists. Most Baptists are on a different wavelength all together. But my, the Baptists that my dad's family were, were more akin to Presbyterians.

00;21;09;14 - 00;21;35;25

Brother Lee

The only thing they did differently is they didn't baptize their young children. So, then my mother's family was a mix; on her father's side they were Congregationalist, which, ok they're kind of Calvinist as well. Her mother's side was Anglican. At that time in Canada, which is where her mother was from and where my dad is from — it's a really long story there — but they were still known as the Church of England in Canada.

00;21;36;12 - 00;21;47;11

Brother Lee

And my, my dad's mother put it this way, my grandmother Hughes, the only difference between the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England is a piece of paper so thin you can sneeze through it.

00;21;48;29 - 00;21;52;19

Jeanne

That is accurate.

00;21;52;19 - 00;21;54;27

Brother Lee

Pretty much. Some Anglicans will dispute that, but.

00;21;55;02 - 00;21;55;15

Jeanne

Oh I'm sure.

00;21;57;02 - 00;22;23;18

Brother Lee

From the outside looking in it, they could argue all they want and it really didn't matter. But I, when I was still in the closet and struggling with my sexuality, I had affiliated with the Anglican Church for a while. And then when the whole thing with the whole LGBTQ issue coming up and being discussed, it was hitting too close to home for me.

00;22;24;05 - 00;22;53;18

Brother Lee

So I defected for a while to the Eastern Orthodox Church. For who I, for a church that I have a lot of theological attitudes in common with, not necessarily on sexuality, but definitely on some really heavy theological debates that would put most people to sleep really quickly.

00;22;54;24 - 00;23;01;02

Jeanne

I think I would be fascinated, but I'm not sure if —

Brother Lee

Your listenership might have a problem.

00;23;01;02 - 00;23;01;11

Jeanne

— my listeners, I don't know.

00;23;02;11 - 00;23;06;05

Jeanne

Some of them right now I'm sure are just going like, no, no, no. Talk about it! Talk about it!

00;23;06;05 - 00;23;10;20

Brother Lee

Oh, yeah, no; if there's if there's a cry for it, maybe we can do a followup.

00;23;10;20 - 00;23;11;14

Jeanne

Yeah, we'll do a follow up.

00;23;11;14 - 00;23;15;14

Brother Lee

It's like, for those who are not interested, we'll spare them that agony.

00;23;15;19 - 00;23;18;05

Jeanne

Yeah. Let's go back to the fourth century.

00;23;18;27 - 00;23;29;13

Brother Lee

Yeah. And which we would have to do. And then a lot of people would be like, okay, you hear that sound? That's them falling off their chairs in a stupor.

00;23;29;13 - 00;23;33;01

Jeanne

But you moved over to the Eastern Orthodox Church at that point.

00;23;33;02 - 00;24;02;01

Brother Lee

I did. And I don't regret doing that. I did learn a lot there about a relationship with God and piety and of incorporating your whole self in worship rather than just your mind. I'm — Orthodox and Catholic worship, for the most part is an all five senses, involve your whole body sort of worship. Especially after the fifth time you've gotten up from the kneelers.

00;24;03;25 - 00;24;04;16

Jeanne

Yeah, that's true.

00;24;04;29 - 00;24;33;05

Brother Lee

So. But when I finally came out, I found that I — It wasn't that safe at church to be with. And there for a while, Hugh and I were sort of content to, like, surf along for a while. Faithful but unchurched, sort of, so to speak. And then a good friend of ours finally convinced us to try out the Episcopal Church.

00;24;33;05 - 00;24;58;02

Brother Lee

The parish she was going to was very LGBTQ affirming. And so we went and we, that, throughout our entire time in Cincinnati, we were members of that parish. And then when we moved, finally moved to Phoenix, we had a bit of a dry period and then we found another LGBTQ affirming parish, St Mary's on 39th Avenue in Maryland.

00;24;58;10 - 00;25;08;08

Brother Lee

That not only was affirming, it was also a very Catholic expression of Anglican spirituality.

00;25;08;08 - 00;25;11;01

Jeanne

And it sounds like for you that's kind of the best of all worlds.

00;25;11;02 - 00;25;26;17

Brother Lee

Yeah, it is the best of all worlds. It again, is the style of worship, the theology that I appreciate, the fact that there is a devotion to Mary, the mother of God, whose nativity it is today. This, this is the feast day of the nativity of the mother of God.

00;25;26;27 - 00;25;31;07

Jeanne

Oh, I didn't even know that, coming into this today. Oh, that's. Yeah, that's really special.

00;25;31;15 - 00;25;42;04

Brother Lee

Yes, it is. It not officially on the Episcopal calendar, but that doesn't mean anything to Episcopalians who have a devotion to the Blessed Mother.

00;25;43;09 - 00;25;48;28

Jeanne

Around about what time was that that you got into that space?

00;25;49;01 - 00;26;11;12

Brother Lee

We decided to really get back into church in 2014 after being here in Phoenix for about three years, we visited a couple of parishes, didn't really feel that welcome in them. It — not so much that, Oh, you're LGBTQ you're, we don't know what to do with you. It's like, Oh, you're new, we don't know what to do with you.

00;26;11;13 - 00;26;12;24

Jeanne

Oh, right. Yeah. Just on that level.

00;26;12;24 - 00;26;23;04

Brother Lee

Yeah, just on that level. It's like, Oh, yeah, no, you're gay. That's cool. It's like, Well, we don't know you and it's really tacky to ask how much you're pledging.

00;26;23;19 - 00;26;32;22

Jeanne

Yeah, right. So was that a problem in general when you moved to Arizona that you found people were not comfortable with new people, or just in that context.

00;26;32;22 - 00;27;00;17

Brother Lee

In certain contexts? Yes, some Arizonans were like, oh, hi, we don't know you. Now, the bear community was completely different, but the bear community does tend to be a little open, almost to a fault. [Both laughing] But yeah, work was a little standoffish. A few other, the neigh— it took us a while to get to know the neighbors.

00;27;01;20 - 00;27;20;06

Jeanne

Yeah, I've found that to be, especially depending on just kind of like the physical geography of a neighborhood, you know, whether there's parking, you know, whether there's street parking or individual garages or whatever the situation is, sometimes it can be almost impossible to connect with your neighbors.

00;27;20;16 - 00;27;55;08

Brother Lee

Yeah. And of course, being on the West, in the West Valley, our neighbors weren't exactly all that welcoming to a gay couple. We didn't have anything untoward happen. It's just that things were maybe just a little chillier. One set of neighbors was openly hostile until they realized just how big I am. I mean, being at like 6'4" and 300 pounds, it can like — when somebody's being obnoxious and then you stand up, they realize, oh, that was a mistake.

00;27;56;25 - 00;28;00;08

Brother Lee

He's really big.

00;28;00;08 - 00;28;08;17

Jeanne

Yeah, well, I think also you do just have kind of a calming presence. So I imagine the combination of those factors will cool people down if they're.

00;28;08;17 - 00;28;08;29

Brother Lee

I think I was scowling at the time

00;28;08;29 - 00;28;09;22

Jeanne

So maybe a little less calming.

00;28;09;22 - 00;28;10;20

Jeanne

I don't know.

00;28;10;20 - 00;28;29;09

Jeanne

I think, you know, you're mentioning that Hugh was involved in leading a bear group in Cincinnati when you came here, did you also try to get involved in organizing community spaces or did you find there was already just enough happening.

00;28;29;09 - 00;28;30;02

Brother Lee

Oh there was enough happening

00;28;30;02 - 00;28;31;04

Jeanne

Oh that's great.

00;28;32;10 - 00;28;50;22

Brother Lee

Early on we got involved with the bear community here. It is a very party centric group and Hugh and I are starting to get a little older and found that it's a little more difficult to keep up. Plus, I have a history of liver disease in my family and I was just pushing it.

00;28;52;20 - 00;29;15;12

Jeanne

Oh, right. I think the bear community isn't something I've been able to get to know very well. But on one of the neighborhood streets I like to drive on a lot, one of the most beautiful houses has a bear pride flag hanging, and it's delightful. And I always just feel like, there's not even that many people around that will fly a generic pride flag in my neighborhood.

00;29;15;21 - 00;29;38;27

Jeanne

And this this person has this specific community pride flag, which I think is wonderful. And for me, that's been like my main perception of the bear community in Phoenix. It's just like, these people must be amazing because look at this display of pride. But that's kind of the whole knowledge I have. It sounds like there's actually just a really active and positive community.

00;29;39;05 - 00;29;42;21

Brother Lee

Yeah, I mean, Hugh and I have been out of that scene for a while.

00;29;42;21 - 00;29;42;29

Jeanne

Yeah.

00;29;43;20 - 00;30;02;27

Brother Lee

Mainly because we, the bear community is very open. And Hugh and I had decided to close our relationship a few years ago, especially when I decided to take a religious vow. So, yeah, open relationships and religious vows tend not to go hand-in-hand.

00;30;02;27 - 00;30;12;13

Jeanne

There's not a lot of support for that, but there's not a lot of support for LGBT people taking religious vows in general.

00;30;12;13 - 00;30;37;15

Brother Lee

Well, it's really interesting. The order I belong to is very supportive. I mean, they're very traditional. Their theology is very traditional. Their adherence to scripture is very traditional, but they are very accepting of the LGBTQ. There's okay, I don't want to like out anybody or mention things without their permission, but they're out online on social media as well.

00;30;37;26 - 00;30;51;21

Brother Lee

And it happens to be the Anglican Dominican order, like the Roman Catholic Dominicans, we, we have, we resurrected the Dominican Order after about 400 years in 1999.

00;30;52;06 - 00;30;53;00

Jeanne

That's so cool.

00;30;53;13 - 00;31;21;25

Brother Lee

It is. And so being more along the lines of it's not a celibate men's order or a celibate women's order, the Roman Catholic Dominicans have those branches of the Dominican order, the celibate men and celibate women, but they also have a third order of men and women who are Dominican, but they, they have a different set of vows for the fact that they can be married.

00;31;22;08 - 00;31;30;20

Brother Lee

And we have that same structure where we allow married and unmarried brothers and sisters.

00;31;30;20 - 00;31;34;07

Jeanne

What led you to the decision to pursue that path?

00;31;34;28 - 00;31;37;14

Brother Lee

Oh, gee, how much time have we got?

00;31;38;10 - 00;31;40;05

Jeanne

We've got some time.

00;31;40;05 - 00;32;13;06

Brother Lee

It's a, I've always had a feeling that there, that God had wanted me to do more with my life than just sit back in a pew and be there on a Sunday. And I have — our parish did an exercise called Spiritual Gifts where we sit down, we take a very lengthy questionnaire, confidentially, that you get to grade yourself when you're done.

00;32;13;06 - 00;32;44;15

Brother Lee

On what your spiritual gifts are based on the questions you answered in the points that you tally up. And mine leaned toward study, teaching and preaching, and it's like, Oh no, no, no, no, no, no. So three weeks later, I took it again and got the same results and I thought, Oh no. So I waited a couple of years more, not years, but a few months more, took it again, same results.

00;32;44;15 - 00;33;13;23

Brother Lee

And so I thought and we already had some religious, um, in our community and they were Benedictines. And the idea of periods of silence really didn't sit well with me. When I was in the Orthodox Church I did join a monastery for a short period of time and my smart mouth got me into trouble so many times that that monastery had the most immaculate, clean, sparkling toilets ever.

00;33;14;29 - 00;33;18;10

Brother Lee

And you can guess what my penance was.

00;33;18;10 - 00;33;20;02

Jeanne

Yeah This was in your in your twenties?

00;33;20;03 - 00;33;50;16

Brother Lee

This was in my twenties. Yeah, when I had an even more smart mouth than I do now. But the whole idea of being able to, like, not just sit and study, which I like to do, but also proclaim and teach and all that, which is what I like to do. I thought, well, does the Episcopal Church have an order that is dedicated to that, whether it's an actual habited order or whether it's an actual association or group like that?

00;33;50;16 - 00;34;15;02

Brother Lee

And I started looking and I immediately — the Benedictines were like prodding me, saying, We think you have a call to religious life. You think you have a call to religious life. And I said, Well, you know what? It would have to be a Dominican or a Jesuit. And because the Jesuits were originally founded to put an end to the Anglican Church, we don't have them.

00;34;15;02 - 00;34;38;17

Brother Lee

So, and I didn't think any more. But then I found looking in the resources for the Episcopal Church of the United States, their national website, there was an actual Dominican order and I thought, okay, this is odd. So I set out an inquiry thinking that I might get a response. I might not. Sometimes they can be really slow.

00;34;38;24 - 00;35;06;01

Brother Lee

Remember what I said about glacial? But they got back in touch with me really quickly and I said, Well, here's the thing. I'm gay and I'm a, I'm married to my husband. And they said, we follow the canons of the Episcopal Church. That won't be a problem. Little did I know that there were already several other LGBTQ — married LGBTQ — within the order at the time.

00;35;06;01 - 00;35;21;15

Brother Lee

So I did a short three month inquiry process then was a postulant for a year, then went through a two year novitiate, and in August of 2021 I took my solemn vows as a married brother, so.

00;35;21;23 - 00;35;31;04

Jeanne

Oh wow. Back in your twenties when you first kind of pursued a similar path, what was it about monastic life that attracted you?

00;35;31;28 - 00;36;02;03

Brother Lee

Life in a rule — I, I like organization, but if I don't have a rule to follow, I'm all over the place. I need, in order to keep my life well-ordered and just so I can, like, do something simple, like, find my keys, I have to have a place for them. Otherwise, if I don't want put my keys in my place, or if I don't have a set time for my prayers, I misplace both of them.

00;36;03;00 - 00;36;28;28

Brother Lee

It's just who I am. And the idea of an order that caters, that is built on the expression of the spiritual gifts I happen to share with that order, that also gives me a rule of life to adhere to, to bring order to my otherwise, I don't think I'm A.D.D., but sometimes I act as if I were.

00;36;29;14 - 00;36;38;15

Brother Lee

If I didn't have, like, my planner and my smartphone and that dedicated hook to put my keys I'd be, I'd be one hot mess.

00;36;38;15 - 00;36;44;22

Jeanne

I'm exactly the same. I have to have my pens and my notebooks and my, here's where my glasses go at night and all of that.

00;36;44;25 - 00;37;01;05

Brother Lee

Yeah, and if I misplace it, Hugh can tell you, I will like go around the house for 15 minutes howling, Where are my keys? Where did I put my pen? And it also doesn't help that we have three cats and sometimes they walk away with stuff.

00;37;01;21 - 00;37;08;10

Jeanne

Yeah, that's fair. Well, I'd be curious to know, you mentioned you moved to Ohio for grad school.

00;37;08;11 - 00;37;09;02

Brother Lee

That's correct.

00;37;09;02 - 00;37;09;27

Jeanne

What did you study?

00;37;10;23 - 00;37;21;02

Brother Lee

Well, it was classical civilization. I had —

Jeanne

Oh, wow.

Brother Lee

Oh, yeah. I had a fairly, I had a fairly arcane education.

00;37;21;12 - 00;37;25;04

Jeanne

That's exciting to me personally, and maybe again, like two listeners. We'll see.

00;37;25;22 - 00;37;48;22

Brother Lee

Yeah. Two listeners. Yes. Both of them at opposite ends of the valley. Yeah. No, I, I started out on a fairly conventional path when I went to university, I did the college prep thing in high school, went to university. You can tell, I'm from Canada, I call it university. And I started out in the sciences and I was thinking I was going to major in physics.

00;37;48;22 - 00;37;51;26

Brother Lee

I really liked physics in college. Or, in school.

00;37;51;26 - 00;37;52;29

Jeanne

Well, physics is beautiful.

00;37;53;01 - 00;38;32;18

Brother Lee

Physics is beautiful. But the problem is physics also involves mathematics.

Jeanne

It's true.

Brother Lee

And I thought I was good at mathematics until I took calculus. And then I realized I barely squeaked by with a B-minus in calculus, and I think it was because the professor took pity on me, that I realized that physics probably wouldn't be a good move. However, I took Latin as my humanity requirement and got an A in the class and the head of the classics department said, Would you consider changing majors?

00;38;32;18 - 00;39;00;16

Brother Lee

We've got this scholarship here for you if you do. That's like, Well, this was fun. I seem to have a talent for it and there's no calculus involved.

Jeanne

That's true.

Brother Lee

And so I switched my majors and ended up bringing up my GPA. And so I graduated with a major in Latin and I technically didn't minor because it was like sort of a double major in Latin.

00;39;00;16 - 00;39;20;24

Brother Lee

But I also did the ancient history and classical civilization in ancient Greek classes, and then I went at the end of a degree like that, Well, what do you do? You either go for a Bachelors of Education or you go to graduate school, or you work flipping burgers.

00;39;20;24 - 00;39;39;20

Jeanne

It's, it's frustrating to me because I looked at similar options. I ended up getting a math degree, but I looked at all of those like — I loved Latin when I was a kid and I got to study Latin for a bit — and I looked at those kinds of things and I just thought, But what am I going to do with my life if I actually study something like that?

00;39;39;20 - 00;40;09;22

Brother Lee

The thing with something like in classical civilization or something like that, usually it's an applied history or something like that. But the competition for positions in that field is fierce because there's not a lot of positions. Yeah. And so if you want to like, there's still a use for it's not a huge use, but people do eventually have to go back and say, well, what did this ancient text say?

00;40;09;22 - 00;40;25;07

Brother Lee

Or was there a clue here as to what happened in history back then? Or did they really mean to say that? And then you have to go back and dig in the ancient texts and try to figure out what that word was or if it was on a burned-off edge of a manuscript, try to figure out what that word would have been.

00;40;25;08 - 00;40;51;03

Brother Lee

And those positions in in academia and in the world are, they're valuable, but they're few and far between because you don't need a lot of them to fulfill that need. You just need a few experts here and there throughout the United States in the world, and that fulfills the need. And so generally the school system produces more than there are to fill that need.

00;40;51;03 - 00;40;54;02

Brother Lee

And so the competition gets to be a little cutthroat.

00;40;54;21 - 00;40;55;19

Jeanne

Yeah, definitely.

00;40;55;22 - 00;41;16;23

Brother Lee

Oh, yeah, definitely. It's, if you got a, if you got a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. Oh, gosh, yeah. The world is your oyster because everybody is like putting on their job descriptions. We'd like you to have a business admin degree, or we'd like you to have a Bachelor of Science and computer programing degree or something.

00;41;16;23 - 00;41;20;25

Jeanne

Like, everyone needs middle managers, but they don't need experts in classical history.

00;41;20;25 - 00;41;32;20

Brother Lee

Yeah, they don't need experts. Or it's like — what really cracks me up are the entry level positions which don't require a lot of expertise who say, you need a bachelor's degree.

00;41;33;09 - 00;41;33;21

Jeanne

Yeah.

00;41;33;21 - 00;41;36;09

Brother Lee

What for? For data entry? Really?

00;41;36;09 - 00;42;01;01

Jeanne

Yeah, I, I think the way you were talking about being able to look for meaning someone might miss just from like, well I know this word means this and this word means this. Having a real sense of the culture of speech. Do you personally find meaning in being able to see how people lived and spoke and thought 2000 years ago?

00;42;02;00 - 00;42;33;26

Brother Lee

I do. Those things — the human response is pretty much universal to stressors of whatever source. And so if it's a case of okay, so the stressors might be a little different; here, you might be dealing with like wage slavery where you're being paid less than a living wage for a boss that doesn't like to give you the PTO that you are actually due according to the employee manual and stuff like that.

00;42;34;11 - 00;43;08;12

Brother Lee

And then you have, you can like look back and see, well, they had that similar situation, okay, it wasn't called wage slavery, it was called outright slavery. And plus it also is very valuable in comparing social ills of that time with social ills of this time, such as how did like the difference between various nationalities in Rome play out against like the very involuted caste-like structure of racial identity in the United States.

00;43;08;16 - 00;43;10;07

Brother Lee

Which Rome did not have.

00;43;10;29 - 00;43;11;11

Jeanne

Right.

00;43;11;23 - 00;43;20;14

Brother Lee

So that helps illustrate the point that some of the problems that we have in America today are of America's own making.

00;43;20;25 - 00;43;31;28

Jeanne

Yes. Yeah. I think a lot of that traces back more to 15th century Spanish history than, than Rome.

00;43;32;08 - 00;44;09;21

Brother Lee

Oh, yeah. Yeah. Well, all Western European history in general. A lot of the attitudes that we see Spain having toward people in the Americas very definitely were reflected by the French and the English as well, and the Germans in Africa and the Dutch in Africa, because they lost their North American holdings really early on in the process. But no, I mean, being a Dominican, some of the things that we've been looking at is the Dominicans role in studying the doctrine of discovery.

00;44;09;29 - 00;44;10;04

Jeanne

Right.

00;44;10;08 - 00;44;21;17

Brother Lee

And its impact and there — a very influential Dominican from that period. Bartolomé de las Casas.

00;44;22;08 - 00;44;23;17

Jeanne

Yes, yes. Oh yeah, I know him.

00;44;23;25 - 00;44;53;11

Brother Lee

Oh, yeah. Bartolomé did a couple of missteps, trying to ameliorate the lot of the Native American in the Spanish Empire and made a couple of suggestions that went horribly back, horribly backfired on him, and realized that he'd spent the rest of his career just trying to undo everything and then try to make things better for African, people of African descent and people of American descent.

00;44;53;22 - 00;45;18;25

Brother Lee

But it was an uphill battle and there were a lot of people like Sepulveda who were very much against him. And of course, the economic interests of the Holy Roman emperor, who at the time was also the Spanish king and sort of like sort of put him on Sepulveda side. It's sort of like, well, you know, I sort of understand where you're coming from, Reverend Father.

00;45;19;22 - 00;45;26;17

Brother Lee

It's yeah, really interesting. But wow, look at all that gold coming in.

00;45;26;17 - 00;45;26;28

Jeanne

Right.

00;45;27;03 - 00;46;01;23

Brother Lee

And the same thing happened in England. Wow, look at all that gold coming in. And they were, Western Europe was just coming out of the institution of serfdom, which was in itself an institutionalized slavery, but wasn't race based. That was a purely, that was basically like a class system that they tried to pass down as a caste system, but then when they went over to the new world, all of a sudden there were all these non-Christian peoples that they were exposed to.

00;46;02;06 - 00;46;25;02

Brother Lee

And Western Europe took a very non-Christian approach to these non-Christian peoples. It's a major blot on the face of the church and we are like just doing all sorts of backpedaling. Some of us, some of us. Some Christian churches are still very much embroiled in the sin of racism and the sin of colonialism.

00;46;25;19 - 00;46;49;11

Jeanne

Yes. But it seems like for you on some level, being able to connect to things that people might associate with that like more traditional Christianity, being able to connect to that and being able to look back beyond some of that really blemished history is something that, as far as I can tell, helps you, to connect to it more in a way that's healing and positive.

00;46;50;04 - 00;47;24;24

Brother Lee

You cannot heal if you don't know what has caused the problem to begin with and just glossing over the sins of our past that we're all complicit in because we're still participating in the systems that grew out of this. I mean, none of us are free of its taint, really. And the big thing is, is to be cognizant of that and realize that, yeah, I've got some attitudes that I was brought up in that I didn't think anything about.

00;47;24;24 - 00;47;34;10

Brother Lee

And they, they're like automatic and it's like, oh, well, this is a problem. Really just how Christlike is this? Not very.

00;47;34;10 - 00;47;34;22

Jeanne

Yeah.

00;47;34;22 - 00;47;59;18

Brother Lee

And to think that the churches were so complicit in it, we still have a major problem. Even in our most liberal churches, because of course, here in the United States, we're still American. We still have people who have been brought up and steeped in this system. I mean, when they talk about systemic racism, they're not talking about — or critical race theory.

00;47;59;26 - 00;48;25;12

Brother Lee

What they're, just talking about is like what is actually happening, what has happened? How are things like programing us to move forward? It's the same thing is if you grew up in an alcoholic family, you've got programing that happens there. Granted. So your mom and dad didn't beat you or call you names or verbally abuse you or anything like that.

00;48;25;12 - 00;48;43;14

Brother Lee

But they still drank and they still had an impaired functionality with society and with your family. There was still dysfunction there. I mean, granted, that's more the exception than the rule. I mean, usually alcoholism ushers in a whole lot of other, big massive problems.

00;48;43;14 - 00;48;45;22

Jeanne

But sometimes it can be just that.

00;48;45;23 - 00;49;09;01

Brother Lee

It, it may be, it may look fairly benign, but there's still issues that go with that. And the children of alcoholics or addicts grow up with certain problems with society and with their own interpersonal relationships that if they don't turn and address them, will still continue to program their own responses and perpetuate the cycle.

00;49;09;10 - 00;49;14;20

Jeanne

You can never just say, well, I'm making a fresh start. It's not enough to just say it. This work you have to do.

00;49;14;20 - 00;49;40;21

Brother Lee

Right. There's work you have to do. And it's work that you have to do until the day you die. For me, the message that I took away from the church is, it's not a case of, like, some some churches say, hey, just say a little prayer and then everything's hunky dory and it's like, no it's not. It's a whole process of, like, turning away from the negative toward God and the positive.

00;49;40;21 - 00;50;19;21

Brother Lee

It's all about, what we call sin is negativity, death, corruption, all of those things that basically denigrate people, bring people into, create problems for people, or even cause their illness or damage or death. And there's plenty of that in this world, and we all have to turn away from that. And I have always said that there's a lot more grace for a moral atheist than there is for an immoral Christian.

00;50;19;21 - 00;50;31;04

Brother Lee

There's, in the final judgment, the moral atheist is probably going to get a better shake from God than the immoral Christians.

00;50;31;04 - 00;50;57;22

Jeanne

I'm really grateful to Brother Lee for giving me the opportunity to record this conversation. And thanks to all of you for listening! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. If you'd like to catch up on past episodes of the podcast, you can find the Arizona Equals Conversation on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or any podcast player, and you can visit our archive at EqualityArizona.org/Stories.

00;50;58;25 - 00;51;04;01

Jeanne

Thanks again for listening, and don't forget to tune in next week.