June is busting out all over! And that means one thing: Pride. In June of 2008, I went with my then partner to San Francisco Pride, in the brief window of time when marriage equality had come to California (only to be whisked away by Prop 8 that November). The booths and vendors covered a vast, festive, grassy area; people were lounging on blankets, dancing, and getting married left and right; there were fairy wings, leather, and rainbows. A multitude of rainbows. The parade was glorious.
I was only a couple years into my lesbian journey, but being at that Pride felt exciting and historic for our people. That fall, when a majority of Californians voted that marriage had to be “between a man and a woman,” I took it as a personal blow, even though I lived clear across the country. It got worse when we saw my partner’s brother, a prominent Republican, complain on national television about “fascist” protesters, as in the gays and lesbians who had taken to the streets, mostly peacefully, when their rights were stripped away.
Family can be funny. I only learned in my late twenties, several years after coming out, about the whispers that my great-aunt had lived with a woman for thirty years. I wish my younger self had known about that during the years I was wrestling with my identity — alone, confused, ashamed, and scared. We need our stories. We need our history.
If you don’t know the full history of Pride and the beginnings of the modern LGBTQ rights movement, watch the PBS documentary Stonewall Uprising. Warning: it was very upsetting for me to watch the homophobic, fear-mongering PSAs from the period, learn about Nazi-like medical experiments, and see interviews with trans, bi, lesbian and gay folks, talking about the myriad social and legal oppressions they faced. Because of the activism catalyzed by the six days of protesting at Stonewall fifty years ago, and the work continuing today, we have made tremendous progress. And yet… It can feel hard to celebrate when my family members have been criminalized for going to the bathroom, just within the past three years. When transgender people are once again banned from the military, and LGBTQ folks can now be denied any kind of medical care, if the provider thinks that’s what their god wants. It doesn’t help that one of the last unsupportive mainline denominations, the United Methodists, dug in their heels this spring and once again voted against our rights.
Religious trauma can be the most gutting. A few months after coming out, I happened to attend a Sunday morning service at a nondenominational church with my sister. I realized part-way through that I would not be welcomed there as my authentic self. As I stood singing the hymn in the balcony of the huge auditorium, I suddenly felt exposed, like all eyes were on me. I felt like I was floating out of my body a little bit. It didn’t compute that had I attended a few months prior, I would have been fully accepted. I was the same person. Nothing had changed. I felt like I’d been punched. It takes a lot of work to live in a world that doesn’t want you to exist.
I wish we didn’t still need Pride. I wish those in our community who are most marginalized – because of their poverty, skin color, gender identity, immigration status, religion – were not facing threats on a daily basis, far graver than what I experience. What can we do?
One partial answer is to gently care for each other’s uncertainty. Some of us did that at the Holistic Enneagram workshop in March (read Meghan Florian’s write up). Not only did I find it affirming to attend a workshop led by an out and proud queer minister, I loved recognizing aspects of myself and loved ones in the descriptions of the types, all amidst a sweet community of other seekers. I keep learning – and forgetting – and learning again that self-love and acceptance, or Pride, is the best gift I can give myself. I’m looking forward to the deeper exploration of the Enneagram over four evenings this summer.
Several other programs this summer are also geared toward greater self-acceptance, self-care, and self-expression, including To Taste Life Twice: Building the Personal Essay; The Ministry of Black Women’s Self-Care; and Art Day by the River Haw.
We need our stories. We need our truths. We need our Pride.