On Sunday, June 30th, I attended my fourth Pride Parade. This years parade did not disappoint it was everything that one would imagine a Pride Parade to be, glitter, streamers, balloons, music, incredible dancing and a beautiful display of people in all shapes, sizes, color, gender and age. Pride is a celebration of a moment in time when a group of very brave and very terrified LGBTQ people chose to no longer accept the painful existence of being a part of the shadows; fearful to live openly and freely.
As a straight woman I cannot begin to understand the feelings of having a same-sex attraction, but I can relate to the idea of living in the shadows and not being able at times to fully express my gifts, my life, my voice, my ideas, and my story. As the Woman’s Suffrage movement attempted to pull women from the shadows and the Civil Rights Movement revealed the disgraceful inequalities between races so has the symbol of Pride Parades, celebrating the riot at the Stonewall which brought voice and light to the treatment of LGBTQ people in the United States and throughout the world. The riot started, not because the people at Stonewall wanted to make a statement and were organized and ready to fight, it started because a group of people out of desperation and fear said they could no longer be treated less then; they could no longer be beaten, or shaken down, humiliated and arrested. They no longer could afford to look in the mirror and tell themselves it was okay to hide in the shadows, “in the closet,” but it was time to stand, to shout, to be courageous and say no more, collectively for the first time together as brothers and sisters as an LGBTQ coalition, in one collective voice shouting “no more”. This is why Pride Parades are held, to remember the courage and sacrifice of those who within their deepest and darkest fear chose in a moment of reckless abandonment and boldness, to take a stand.
I understand the gravity and importance of remembering significant moments in history because in reflection we are to learn and grow from the situations of the past. Moments and historical events are guidelines for our futures and building blocks that we are to create upon and hopefully improve upon. It is in this deep reflection that I share my experience at Pride, a moment where I and a few other members of The Marin Foundation chose to do something different, to stand in a location we had not stood before as we participated in the I’m Sorry Campaign.
There were about 10 of us who decided to leave the familiarity of our space in front of the IHop on Halsted and find where the Pride Parade Protesters would be located. After speaking with Chicago’s Finest, we were pointed in the direction at the end of the parade route where a sectioned off area had been established for those who were exercising their right of freedom of speech and protest the parade. Let me be very clear, I do believe that as a citizen of the USA we do have a right to protest, to speak our minds and share are thoughts in disagreement and agreement. I was prepared to hear a multitude of arguments against LGBTQ liberties, celebrations, marriage, connection to God, the bible, and the parade itself; what I was not prepared for was how the name of God was being used to utterly humiliate, degrade, hurt and belittle the participants and patrons of the parade. My heart was broken not because these protestors felt it was okay to spew four hours’ worth of the most vile hate speech I had ever experienced and heard against a certain group of people, yes that was outrageous, but that was not what broke my heart. My heart was broken deeply and my soul torn to its core by the calloused presentation of the word of God to the crowd passing by, to those of us watching the parade and those participating in the parade, triggered a deep pain that had nothing to do with the love of Jesus, but everything to do with a cruel attempt to make each person feel as if they were unworthy to breathe.
The 10 of us from The Marin Foundation decided to stand as a buffer directly in front of the protestors. We hung our banner on the fence and designed handmade signs reading; “you are loved”,” Jesus loves you”, “free hugs” and one held by our Director of Pastoral Care, Jason, “I’m sorry, I was once a bigot.” It was an intentional and literal sense of standing in the middle and standing in solidarity with the other, or in this case humanity.
After a while I must admit the sound of the protestors became more like the teacher in the Charlie Brown cartoons, but I was quickly reminded that they were there and they were yelling a litany of visceral rehearsed statements time and time again. As the parade participants passed by their joyful celebration turned to pain and anger as they yelled back their own line of profanity directed toward the protestors. However, within moments, like a single candle light in a dark room, a flicker of hope as the parade participants read our signs and recognized The I’m Sorry Campaign it was an instant reaction which led some to cheer, others to say thank you, many to come in for high fives and hugs, lots of blown kisses, and a few to break down in tears. These moments where real for me and those I shared them with and I held on to them with great compassion. A suspended moment in time when celebration explodes into hate, anger, and pain and like a lantern onto our feet, our path is illuminated by what Jesus’ light means to others, a light of love and of value.
This year’s Pride Parade was far more emotional for me and took a deeper toll on my heart and my physical body. The scriptures I read would never describe Jesus or His followers standing on the street and calling women whores, disgusting, unworthy of value and men sissy, ugly, pathetic, and sick. The Jesus in the Bible I hold dear was radical and like Michael Kimpan, the Associate Director of The Marin Foundation, pointed out in the retelling of the story of the woman caught in adultery, that before we as “Christians” can begin to pass any type of “judgments” we must have first risked our reputations and our lives by standing in solidarity, protection and in between the accusers.
I am satisfied in knowing that I made a conscious choices along with others from The Marin Foundation to stand as a shield, a buffer, to block a very unGodly account of scripture and Jesus. We are not to be a stumbling block for our brothers and sisters to find Christ. In these moments as culture shifts swiftly, we as followers of Jesus must remember what it means to be radical in our love...
A perfectly tarnished child of God