June is PRIDE Month! Around the world, we celebrate the freedom to love. Today, especially in the United States, this translates to parades and really big parties. Like other celebrations, we seem to have lost the serious origins of our festivities.
We forget the six days of protest (read rioting) after a police raid on the Stonewall Inn in New York in 1969. We forget the violent arrest of people who were wearing fewer than three items of “gender appropriate” clothing. We forget that a large proportion of the clients of the bar were drag queens who were not welcome at other gay and lesbian venues. We forget that, along with the efforts of activist groups (The Mattachine Society, Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC), the Council on Religion and the Homosexual and many others), those six days brought the issue of LGBT freedom into the larger public arena.
Since then, the LGBT community has made progress, even in religious organizations. Since MCC was founded in 1968, many churches have become welcoming. We no longer need to be closeted to worship in these spaces. Even so, many churches still treat us as second-class. (It’s okay to come, but don’t expect a leadership position or matrimony.) And many churches still want us to undergo therapy to change who we are. Outside North America and much of Europe, LGBT organizations meet in secret. People can still be executed for appearing to be gay or lesbian. PRIDE parades are attacked.
Here in the U.S., we are starting to see push-back, both socially and politically. Recent laws and court decisions allow business owners to deny services to LGBT people because of “close-held religious beliefs.” This has been extended in some places to medical personnel. I worry that soon we will return to the time when transgender people are allowed to die on the street or remain untreated in emergency rooms because the medical personnel have those “close-held” beliefs. Of course, those religious organizations who have always pushed back, continue to do so.
If we truly believe, in Rev. Elder Troy Perry’s words, that “God made us the way we are and God loves us the way we are,” then it is time to push back against the push-back.
That means that those of us who remember 1969 need to come out of our “elder closet” and let young people know that PRIDE is much more than a party. We need to help them to understand the history and that history repeats itself. We can help them know that what has happened can happen again. This means that religious, community and other organizations need to step up.
We need to remember. One way may be to attend Church of Our Savior’s showing of The Upstairs Inferno on June 29 at 7 p.m. Another may be to discuss Gilbert Baker’s creation of the PRIDE Flag as a symbol of diversity, not only in the LGBT community, but in the greater community.
Celebrate, remember and take action!
Rev. Wendy R. Woodruff, Pastor
Church of Our Savior MCC