Bear To Make A Difference
Seawell Grand Ballroom at the Denver Center of Performing Arts
Denver, Oct 15th 2011
Jennifer: Thank you so much for this honor.
I'm here because I love the Matthew Shepard Foundation. I learned about the Foundation through my experience on The L Word, the little lesbian show that could. I actually learned a lot of things on The L Word: I learned about dental dams and twinkies and camel toes ... I learned that there are more sexual positions on Heaven and Earth than ever dreamt of in a straight girl's philosophy. Every love scene kind of presented itself like a Rubik's Cube. I remember thinking on set, "You want me to put my hand ... where? Is that even humanly possible from this angle?" I feel as if I could have an honorary degree in engineering or physics.
But, honestly, the show taught me about love, authenticity and the importance of human agency. When we were shooting the pilot one evening, my husband and I were sitting in a restaurant, and he turned and kissed me. And I realized that if we were a gay couple that that would have been a very big event in this particular restaurant. And it hurt my heart. And it spoke to my sense of otherness. And it awakened in me an awareness of how much courage it takes to live your life authentically. And this is true for anyone. But it is especially true for anyone who is systematically, culturally and structurally marginalized. Unless anyone think that we have come so far culturally, we have only to look to Southwest Airlines to know that we have so much further to go. The last time I heard, it was legal for two girls to kiss, and the last time I checked the Bible, Jesus invited everyone to sit at the table ... probably to make out at the table.
You know, I'm really going to come clean, though. The L Word taught me how truly wonderful it is to be selfish. I am wildly selfish. The L Word was a great catalyst for charity events and fundraising. You know, we as a cast, we would show up to an event and organizers would auction off a walk-on or some piece of errant lingerie, and, Blamo! the organization would have enough money for the medical equipment they needed, or the ability to begin another outreach program. And it was incredibly fulfilling. You know, the fundraising stuff was fun.
And then the show ended. And as I normally do at the end of a project that is near and dear to my heart, I created a photo book to commemorate our time together as a cast and crew -- this part bulwark against what I felt like was my rapidly eroding memory, and part celebration of how this disparate group of people had formed a family of sorts. And it then dawned on me that the fans of the show might be interested in having the book. You know, maybe The L Word could be that gift that just keeps on giving. And so I made it available online. And when I heard about how truly tiny the Matthew Shepard Foundation's operating budget was, I thought, "That's just impossible. How can they get all of that done with nothing?" And I knew from the start that the Matthew Shepard Foundation would be a major beneficiary of the book's proceeds.
But, honestly, I didn't do a lot. I didn't lead a march; I didn't testify to Congress. But I did satisfy a very selfish need to feel good by giving to one of my favorite organizations. I truly love the Matthew Shepard Foundation. I love the legislative work they do; the education outreach programs to young people they've created; but mostly -- as a mother and as a human being -- I worship at the altar of Judy Shepard. At a time when people seem to be so willing to compromise their values in exchange for access, at a time when power seems more important than ideas, at a time when people are gripped with an economic fear that makes them believe they are unable to give, and at a time when so many people cry for violent revenge in reaction to violence, Judy Shepard is a shining light. She is a Vajrayana Peacock. "What the Hell is a Vajrayana Peacock?"
I remember once reading that the peacock was an important Buddhist symbol. In the Vajrayana practice, the peacock doesn't represent pride. It represents the ability to turn that which is evil into something good. Because, and this is true, the peacock is the only bird that can eat something that's poisonous to other animals and transform it into something that is good and helpful to its own growth. Judy Shepard has taken something so personally heinous, so potentially poisonous, and managed somehow to create something that can help transform us all. By example, she has shown us all the transformative power of love. Love is the greatest light, the brightest torch, and will always be the greatest instrument of change.
Now I don't want anyone ... I don't want to make you all feel guilty right now, but I want to encourage everyone tonight to do yourself a favor and give to this amazing organization. And if you're afraid of the big bad recession, then just give a little bit. Even like a tiny bit. Because nothing is too small. This organization really runs on next to nothing -- I'm not kidding -- it's really next to nothing, so every little bit is enormously helpful.
Now you all have like envelopes on your tables. Right? Now when I come to these events, those envelopes are really scary. The pencils are kind of scary. I want you all to just pick up an envelope. You don't have to write anything in it, but can you all just touch an envelope? Just touch it; it's not scary. Just touch it and think, you know, even a little amount, the amount of a Starbucks cup of coffee, for example. Even if it just adds up during the night and is very very helpful to the organization. And if you can't do it with a pure heart, then do it with a really selfish heart. Because giving feels good. It's a form of healing. Not just for you as an individual, but for everyone. You just have to ask the Shepards.
So thank you. Grab a pencil. Thank you.
You may donate online to the Matthew Shepard Foundation here http://www.matthewshepard.org/donate
Images of this event: http://www.jennifer-beals.com/gallery/thumbnails.php?album=519
transcript by Motaterz.
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