Today was the Utah Pride Parade and Festival. This was my year to ride in the parade with my congregation. (I alternate being part of the parade with preaching on GLBT issues to the folks not at the parade.) It’s always fun to see the joy and the humor at the parade. Talking with a congregant I was reminded of how important Pride is for so many people. We were talking about a young man who was struggling mightily with his sexuality, trying to be straight and fearing he is gay.
I talked for a while (as ministers do) about how hard it is to face each day with the fear of rejection, ridicule, or even violence. I talked about the moment we passed the grandstand and the announcer said, “And here are the Unitarians (sic) who have supported us for so long. We have members of First Church and the South Valley church where they have the very first TRANSGENDER MINISTER! Oh, and there he is now!” And even though it was Pride, and even though I was safe, I had a brief moment of fear. The thought that went through my head was “Oh crap, it only takes one…” And then I took a deep breath and kept smiling and waving…
And then later, walking alone back to my car a big black SUV came around the corner. I saw the window start to open and since I was wearing my cap that says “Human” in rainbow letters, I expected the big white man inside to shout an epithet at me. I was suddenly in “fight or flight,” measuring the distance to my car…when his words finally reached me, “Happy PRIDE DAY!” he shouted and waved. And again I took a deep breath and smiled and waved.
It’s deep, the way the constant attention to safety and battle with fear become an almost-instinctive reaction. Every day I check the mirror to make sure I look “acceptable.” Every day I try to quietly fade into the background when I drop off my son who doesn’t want his friends to know he has two dads. Every week or so I hear another story of a transgender person who was beaten or killed just for being. And it builds up in me.
That’s why Pride matters. That’s why I need to march every other year. That’s why I need to celebrate the resilence and beauty and attitude of my community. That’s why I need Pride.