Pride begins in church
June 22, 2012 | 11:00 am
(Updated: February 22, 2013 | 3:45 pm)
I have experienced Pride in only two places: here in Denver, and New York City. To say that these experiences were decidedly different is a vast understatement.
I came out in NYC. Until nine years ago, it was the only experience I had ever had with Pride. My perspective had been a little skewed. In the nine years that I have been gone from NYC, I have no less pride in myself as a lesbian. In fact, I can say without hesitation, I’m prouder than I’ve ever been. I have never struggled with the “what will people think” when I talk about myself and my life. I have never had to struggle with any shame around my gayness. Being gay is like being a woman, a big part of who I am, but not a dealbreaker.
Although my Pride experiences have changed over the years, what I have come to realize, is that my pride hasn’t. I have always been proud of who I am and who my “family” is. This pride was a gift given to me when I first came out – in church. The Riverside Church of New York City has one of the oldest church-based, LGBT organizations in the country. At one point, I was even a co-leader for this group. I was asked to speak on panels to help educators learn how to be better at their jobs by mentoring LGBT youth.
With all of the ugly talk and painful memories our community associates with the Church, I was fortunate enough to have the opposite experience. It was this particular church that helped me understand what it meant to have pride enough in being myself that I could stand up and smile for the camera. Am I a lesbian? Why yes I am!
That minister sitting next to you at my dinner table – gay. In fact, my architect, accountant, financial advisor, attorney – all members of my church, all gay. Do you want to discuss theology with me? Great, I have eight close friends who are ministers, three of them gay, one bisexual. I have never been so empowered to just be myself, without shame or fear. Here was a church full of people – with a membership of more than 2,000 – telling me that they loved me, period. They told me that God loved me and I never had to worry, so I didn’t. The first 10 years of Pride parades I marched in were with my church.
In fact, on Pride Sunday we had a breakfast prior to an entire church service dedicated to Pride, and the entire congregation would bless those who would be marching in the parade. It’s an amazing experience when more than 1,000 people are praying for you, standing up and saying that they, like God, love and are proud of you.
When we’d march down Fifth Avenue and a group of people in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral yelled hateful things at us, I was never concerned. When I experience only love from people of God, then I know that others’ opinions of me do not matter. Having since marched in Denver’s parade, I found out that this behavior is not localized to NYC and I’m still not worried.
As this issue hits the stands, we will have just experienced Pride here in Denver, and my friends on the East Coast will be gearing up for NYC pride.
I am proud to be many things: a woman of color, a writer, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a woman of faith and a lesbian. In the powerful words I first learned marching with my church – we’re here, we’re queer, get used to it.