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PRIDE is the Best Parts of Church

Every time I go to a Pride event, I leave feeling amazing. The radical love and acceptance is so vivid, I can taste it in the air. It's a relief to be held that fully and the joy and openness is a balm even to this cis-hetero person. For those who are queer, Pride feels like a miracle. My nonbinary and bisexual pre-teen glows when among people who like them and are like them.

When you spend your whole life living in a world that for the most part doesn't trust you, want you, or care to keep you safe and free, it's a major coup to be around a big group of people who do. The power of these individuals, of this community, to still march and party despite the pain they endure is something to behold. And it is a whole-hearted, colorful, loud, celebration. Joy and respite, peace and triumph. Whole and free from the shame. It feels holy.

Why "Pride?" Pride is the opposite of shame.

In a society where queerness is still considered problematic and anti-queerness is largely tolerated, a sense of pride in ones queer self is hard to come by. Gatherings like this are crucial to survival. A sense of belonging alludes my sweet kid in most places, and since it's imperative for their wellness, growth, and survival, we're chasing those that welcome them with open arms, going to Pride events every weekend this month and working hard to join as many queer communities as we can.

We're also learning about the history of the movement.

Pride celebrations have been happening in the U.S. for 60+ years. They became more formal after the 1969 Stonewall Uprisings (sometimes referred to as the Stonewall Rebellion or Riots). The Stonewall Inn (now a national monument) was the most popular gay bar in NYC and at that time, homosexuality was still a crime. Gender-nonconformity was also heavily policed ('individuals could not wear more than three items of clothing that did not match their assigned gender at birth'). Serving alcohol to gay people was outlawed until 1966 and bars like the Stonewall Inn were regularly raided by police. On June 28, 1969, a raid occurred, but that time, the detention and brutalization of the patrons and employees got city-wide attention and thousands of people gathered in a protest which lasted nearly a week. Important leaders, like trans activist Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, are remembered for their role in the rebellion and establishment of Pride.

Pride and church?

I fear it might be offensive to compare Pride to church, since religious folks are often the ones trying to fix our unbroken kids and making them doubt their worth and belonging so much that they're taking their own lives. We left the church around the same time that many of you did. It got too hard to find Jesus in all the judgement and cruelty and to untangle the political/moral messaging from the grace.

I miss pieces of the shared worship experience and occasionally, when we drive by a church with a Black Lives Matters or Pride flag, messaging that sounds open-hearted, I consider dipping a toe back in, but I'm terrified. What if we find a concentrated group of people with pseudo-biblically justified prejudice? I don't want to be around that or expose my kids to it. It's too risky. The schools and streets are bad enough, but to go somewhere that's supposed to be a source of love and tolerance to instead find shame and rules of exclusion is too much.

Still, what I feel at Pride is familiar; a peace and connection, wholeness and holiness I've experienced occasionally sitting in church, where I'm told that showing up exactly as I am is all it takes to earn love. In those moments, God's love has felt radical, healing, and revolutionary. Of course, humans filter this love through their own biases and attempt to exclude people from it, leaving dark marks.

Thank God for Pride, where love is radical and the sky is clear (and full of rainbows). If you have an open heart and mind and get a chance to attend a Pride event, I strongly recommend you go to learn, support, and grow. There is so much beauty and healing there. Amen.

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