As pride season drew to a close and news of federal marriage equality electrified a nation, I knew that I could respond by writing articles granting faith-deficient antigay organizations the attention that they crave.
I could have detailed, at length, how Don Feder’s impressive-sounding World Congress of Families — and Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins and Alliance Defense Fund attorney Bill Becker — all warned that allowing “homosexual” couples to marry had already destroyed the family and human civilization. I also have ranted for several paragraphs about how Rep. Louie Gohmert mocked the science of evolution and the potential genetic advantages of same-sex orientation, or how Concerned Women for America explained that antigay couples volunteer in their communities while LGBT families don’t.
Instead, I chose to celebrate the support for equality and the affirmation of spiritual grace that are apparent among people of faith at NYC Pride 2013. Among the participating religious groups this year [PDF list] were American Jewish World Service, Broadway United Church of Christ, Congregation Beit Torah Simchat, Affirmation and Mormons for Equality, Collegiate Churches of New York, Dignity NY, the Episcopal Church, Grace Church Brooklyn Heights, Manhattan Mennonite Fellowship, Riverside Church, Methodists in New Directions, Metropolitan Community Church, NorthEast Two-Spirit Society, Park Avenue Christian Church, and Seventh-Day Adventist Kinship International.
Photos by Mike Airhart, except where noted
I spent New York’s pride weekend at the home of a longtime friend in the East Village — a man from a conservative Christian background, formerly active in Soulforce, who has been exploring Zen Buddist meditation for many years. We discussed how ego and the constant race of thoughts in our own minds interfere with our ability to fully hear the experience of others, especially in cases where one person’s crisis creates sudden frustration and inconvenience for the rest of us. That egocentrism and mental noise seemed especially strong among those Christian conservatives who shout down the reality around them.
After a trip to the top of the Empire State Building to snap pictures of Pride-themed, rainbow-infused antenna mast, I paid a visit to a church at Washington Square Park whose signpost had impressed me earlier in my visit. Judson Memorial Church has a long and distinguished history of community activism and artistic spirit, and that appeared undiminished in the sermons and prayers that Pride Sunday morning.
Community Minister Micah Bucey spotlighted the actions — conscious or not — of the LGBT mainstream that make underprivileged members of our community (the homeless, the economically disadvantaged, runaway youths, people living in hostile communities) disappear from sight. [Bucey’s sermon transcript.]
Back in the 1980s, U.S. right-wing evangelicals (Concerned Women for America, Pat Robertson, and Peter LaBarbera, among others) supported genocidal campaigns against the disadvantaged, dissidents, and liberal Christians in El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. Among other internationally denounced crimes against humanity, those campaigns forcibly “disappeared” thousands of Salvadorans — fathers and sons, teachers and laborers, all presumably killed, with no trace left behind and no acknowledgment of their arrest. The mothers and siblings of the disappeared are still fighting for full recognition of this crime and for confirmation of the fate of their loved ones.
One might assume that U.S. sexual minorities are sensitive to such injustices, but — given ongoing crises with hate crimes and homeless runaways — Bucey fears not:
We, as a queer community, even as we celebrate immense progress, are in danger of inactively disappearing our own people. Our Marriage Equality campaigns have embraced the institution and ignored the less easily assimilated members of our queer community. Our visibility is helping kids to come out at younger ages, but some are being kicked out of their homes, coming to New York City to find community and, in a terrible twist, being booted off of the piers by the very residents of the Village who came here decades ago to find their own safely queer space.
Now, I realize that this brand of “disappearing” is different from a systematic and active disappearing, but it is our inactive participation in this disappearing that troubles me the most.
Bucey believes that LGBTQ people have a destiny:
Our queer identities were designed, as Oscar Romero says, to provoke, to disarm, to get under people’s skin. Our lights were designed to flame freely and to get us in trouble. That’s why our past and present are so filled with pain. And it is the embracing of and the transformation of this pain that not only gives us the pride that we should have every day of our lives, but also gives us the imperative to continue to take care of those most in need of community, those who are being raped, killed, and harassed every day of their lives, those who can’t yet dream of freely sipping a happy hour cocktail on a Chelsea sidewalk.
The sermon at Judson Memorial Church that morning reminded people of why they march in annual parades. More importantly, it reminded people of why sexual minorities can be proud — and what we may do to fulfill our own potential and to un-disappear the accomplishments of our ancestors and underprivileged neighbors.