What Does Pride Mean in 2016? LGBTQ UUs Reflect
June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) Pride Month, a time when cities across the U.S. celebrate and affirm the diversity of sexual orientations and gender identities with pride festivals and parades of all varieties. Since last year’s victory for nationwide marriage equality with the U.S. Supreme Court decision on June 26, 2015, there has been a backlash against LGBTQ rights with laws rolling back anti-discrimination policies and particularly targeting transgender people in places like North Carolina and Mississippi. Given the social and political climate, what does pride mean in 2016? Four UU leaders and members of the LGBTQ community share their reflections.
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Rev. Carlton Elliot Smith, Congregational Life Staff, UUA Southern Region
“For future wildly diverse generations, I wish a way of being beyond pride and shame. Clouds aren't proud of their ability to glide across the sky, and trees have no embarrassment as they stand denuded in winter. The context of LGBTQ pride is centuries of denial, guilt, fear and violence rooted in sexism, patriarchy and gender conformity. When we have collectively healed from those dis-eases, no one will have to parade, protest or prove their inherent worth and dignity. It will just be something we affirm and promote every day, as naturally as we breathe air.
Until that time, however, it is important that we show up as authentically and/or as fabulously as each of us dares, whether as someone LGBTQ-identified or as an ally.
That showing up is complicated by the ways in which white supremacy, patriarchy, sexism, ableism and heteronormativity manifest within LGBTQ communities. My heart is especially with the brave souls who present themselves as different in small towns all over the world that are hostile towards non-conformists. This spring, I'm thinking particularly of the Unitarian Universalists of Oxford, Mississippi, who will be part of their town's first pride celebration since 1991.”
Annette Marquis, UUA LGBTQ and Multicultural Programs Director
“When I marched in my first Gay Pride Parade in 1978, even showing up for the parade was such a dangerous act that people standing along the parade route wore bags over their heads so as to not be recognized. Although we carried a vision of a world where gay, lesbian, and bisexual people could live and love without recrimination, I never imagined how far we would come in the next forty years. I am proud of the tremendous work that has been done, especially the work to be recognized as whole, moral people. I’m proud that the door is now opening even wider to transgender, genderqueer, and queer-identified people who, despite horrific attempts to shame them back into the closet (or bathroom stall) are just beginning to feel safe enough to emerge from the shadows.
And yet [just recently] 111 clergy and clergy candidates in the United Methodist Church risked their ministries by issuing a ‘Love Letter’ to their denominational leadership saying they will no longer be shamed into silence. This is a humbling reminder to me that pride does not arise from arrogance or smugness; pride is a rightful, moral response to internalized oppression forced upon people because of differences the dominant culture does not understand and is not willing to accept. That internalized oppression, almost forty years since my first Pride Parade and forty-five years from first falling in love with a woman, still lives within me. I fight it every day. Pride in who I am and who I love is my salvation.”
Rev. Sean Parker Dennison, Minister at Tree of Life Unitarian Universalist Congregation, McHenry, IL
“These days, pride isn't just about being seen or celebration. It's about making sure there is room in this world for all of us, justice for all of us, food and housing and medicine for all of us—the young genderqueers, the queer people of color, the lesbians, gay men, genderful and genderfree people with disabilities, the people who are seeking to live their lives with integrity. It's NOT about having to fit in or be ‘nearly normal’ to be seen and loved and have what you need. It's about being loved and seen for who you are, and it's about justice for all.”
Rev. Robin Tanner, Lead Minister of Piedmont UU Church in Charlotte and Salisbury, NC
“Adrienne Rich asks, ‘What would it mean to stand on the first page of the end of despair?’ Despair ends where dignity begins. Because of Pride movements that waved the flag when the fear was high, we have children and youth being raised in a better world. Because of Pride festivals and outlandish celebrations, we are emboldened to embrace one another and resist every ounce of hate woven into legislation aimed at our transgender soul siblings. Because of Pride painted across towns, stuck on bumpers, and sanctified in sanctuaries, we will one day know the end of the story of beloved community. But this day, we begin with Pride.”