June 3: Twenty or so of us gathered in the Lindsey Chapel after church for a discussion about Queer Theology. Among theological things, we also discussed the reclaiming of the pink triangle as a badge of queer pride, and the trouble some folks have with the term “queer,” which seems to break along generational lines. At one point, a woman in our circle said, “I think queer doesn’t have anything to do with sexuality. When I was looking for a church, it wasn’t until I got here that I felt at home. So many churches are so focused on couples, families, and children. I’m a single, heterosexual woman with a cat. This is the first church I’ve been to in Boston where I haven’t felt like I had to find a guy to bring to church with me just so I could fit in. So I feel like I’m queer, too.”
June 6: Emmanuel Church co-sponsored a Pride Memorial Vigil at the New England Holocaust Memorial, along with Boston Jewish Spirit, Arlington Street Church (UU), and Congregation Am Tikva. It was the 19th annual candlelight vigil commemorating queer martyrs of the Holocaust. The clergy of each congregation led us in singing, meditation, readings, and a candlelight walk through the memorial to lay stones on the plaque honoring homosexuals targeted for torture and murder by the Nazis.
The New England Holocaust Memorial sits on a sliver of parkland in downtown Bostonbordered by Government Center (where a loud festival was going on), Faneuil Hall (where the plaza outside the hall was filled with tourists and street performers), and a row of Irish pubs. As we were walking through the plaza outside Faneuil Hall to the memorial, GForce asked me, “Do you think this memorial should be here in the middle of the city?” I asked her what she thought. “Well, some people think it should be in a quiet setting, so you can meditate about what happened. But I think it belongs right here, in the middle of the city, so more people can be reminded.”
In an eerie and perfect liturgical collision, announcements of available tables in the various pubs intermingled with the names of the young people who have committed suicide in the past year as a result of being bullied for being suspected of being gay. suspected of being gay. “Jay ‘Corey’ Jones.” “Smith, party of two.” “Jamey Rodemeyer.” “Andrews, party of six.” “Jack Reese.” You get the idea. It reminded PW of how genocides happen because of the human insistence that life must go on, no matter what. It reminded me of the sorting process in the camps, as prisoners stepped off the trains to be sent to a speedy death, a slow death, or survival against all odds.
Here’s a slideshow of photos from the vigil:
Click here to see the photos if for some reason you can’t see them in slideshow mode.
June 9: Pride Day. About a dozen people from Emmanuel marched in the Pride Day parade. We had a wide range in ages, tenure at Emmanuel, and approximate place where each of us sits on the sexuality spectrum. Our youngest marcher is a grad student in theology and has been coming to Emmanuel for about a month or so. It was his first time marching in the Pride parade.
Some may wonder, with marriage equality on the advance, with the demise of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, with the Obama Administration no longer defending the Defense of Marriage Act in court (and with several courts having ruled DOMA unconstitutional), why do queer people still need Pride Day? Isn’t Pride one of the deadly sins?
Here’s what I know about Pride Day. I know that when PW and I march, she wears her collar and clergy shirt, and no matter how hot it is, we hold hands as much as we can so that people can see we’re a couple. Over the years I’ve noticed that as we walk the 2 ½ mile parade route, people tend to cheer louder when they see an openly queer priest holding hands with her wife. Some years, we’ve had strangers run out into the street to hug and thank us. This year, at three different places along the parade route, I noticed middle-aged men standing on the sidewalk, crying and clapping, and each of them mouthed the words, “Thank you” to me as our eyes met. Those brief connections were so intense, I could probably pick each one of those men out of a line-up.
At one point, as we walked along with applause and confetti raining down on us, our young grad student, who carried a sign that said, “Queer. Proud. Christian.” said to PW, “It’s great getting this applause but I haven’t done anything to deserve it.” PW immediately replied, “Of course you did! You came out against all the odds. No one was encouraging you.”
Here’s a brief slide show of photos from the Pride parade:
Click here to see the photos if for some reason you can’t see them in slideshow mode.
Here’s what I think about Pride Day. I think we won’t need it anymore when no church, no politician, no pundit, and no bully can get any traction in public or in private by demonizing queer people. We won’t need it anymore when queer people (youth and seniors in particular) aren’t killing themselves at five times the rate of their peers. When shame is no longer killing queer people, we won’t need Pride Day.
June 14: John Shelby Spong’s weekly Q&A that arrived in my email seemed perfect for Pride Month:
“I do believe that people we love are part of us and we are part of them. I also believe that all of us are part of something beyond ourselves. I call this ‘a universal consciousness,’ and I define it only as that which is beyond our limits, but I have no empirical data to cite that will demonstrate this conviction. Life seems to point me there is all that I can say.
All I know for sure is that I am alive now. I have been made who I am by the gifts to me of many people. I believe that the word God stands for those gifts that lift me beyond my limits, allow me to escape my survival-driven existence and invite me into a deeper experience of being human. As I give my life away, I experience life being expanded. As I share love, I find my ability to love is increased. When I have the courage to be myself, I find my participation in being itself enhanced. That is where I have glimpses of the divine and intimations of immortality.”
June 22: David Blankenhorn, founder of the Institute for American Values, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times explaining how he has changed his mind and heart and evolved in favor of marriage equality. Please click through and read this piece if you haven’t read it already.
“[T]here are more good things under heaven than [my] beliefs. For me, the most important is the equal dignity of homosexual love. I don’t believe that opposite-sex and same-sex relationships are the same, but I do believe, with growing numbers of Americans, that the time for denigrating or stigmatizing same-sex relationships is over…Surely we must live together with some degree of mutual acceptance, even if doing so involves compromise. Sticking to one’s position no matter what can be a virtue. But bending the knee a bit, in the name of comity, is not always the same as weakness. As I look at what our society needs most today, I have no stomach for what we often too glibly call ‘culture wars.’ Especially on this issue, I’m more interested in conciliation than in further fighting.”
June 24: Pride Month isn’t over until Saturday, but I’m full to bursting. Every day I marvel at how far we have come in my lifetime in terms of equal rights for people on the margins of society. And every year that I march in the Pride parade, I am reminded that our work isn’t over. Honestly, I don’t think it will ever be over. There will always be marginalized people who needs allies, both the ones who have been in the trenches of the margins all along and the ones like David Blankenhorn, who have been won over by the relentless and insistent humanity of marginalized people who were once abstract demons.
For me, marching in the Pride parade is an intense way to connect with the deep pain that is still out there, even in the midst of the queer haven that is Massachusetts. Since much of this pain has been—and continues to be—inflicted by church people, it’s all the more important for church people to march on Pride day. Some people live their whole life feeling so wounded, they never realize when they can unclench their hearts. When we march in the Pride parade as queer and proud people of faith, along with our allies, we expand the realm of possibility for anyone who happens to see us. Maybe the heart can only unclench in the face of new possibilities.
I realized recently that I never marched in a Pride parade before I joined a church. I never had the nerve to step off the curb. I have a profound body memory of standing on the sidewalk watching the New York City Pride parade in the mid 1980s. The curb felt as high as a 10 meter diving platform. I stood there, tingling and crying, edging my toes over the curb. But I ended up backing away, terrified of the chasm between the marchers and me.
As I marvel at the churchlady I’ve become since then, one of the things that strikes me is that church has never been about nailing down what I do or don’t believe with regard to God or Jesus. The rhythm of going to church, of having church families in various cities and countries, is first and foremost about learning give my life away, as John Shelby Spong put it. I go to church to learn how to stay open to the blessings of other broken people, and to find that, whether I ever know it or not, I can be a blessing to someone else in my own broken, fumbling, even goofy way.
Maybe next year, one of the weeping men who silently thanked me at the Pride parade this year will be in marching in the streets with us instead of standing in the shadows on the curb. Maybe next year, David Blankenhorn will march in a Pride parade. Or both! Stranger things have happened.