The Power of Pride

The Power of Pride

Pride means different things to different people.

To some it means a colorful festival of diversity, love, and self-acceptance.

To others, it means a celebration of white, cis-gender male gayness that doesn’t feel welcoming to them.

To some, it means a protest against societal norms that have rejected them.

To others, it means a hedonistic display of debauchery.

Like a lot of things, it’s simple and complicated at the same time.

When I was growing up, long before I knew about capital-P Pride, I learned that “pride is the root of all evil.” At its simplest, this understanding of pride is about the centering of self, the elevating of oneself above others. At its healthiest, a warning against pride is a call to self-awareness, humility, and generosity of spirit.

But too often we get that kind of pride and humility mixed up with things like self-respect and shame.

It’s easy for those of us who have felt accepted and affirmed throughout our lives by family, friends, church, and society to miss the struggles of those who are different. We read our own experiences onto their lives and turn empathy inside out, blind to the very different world they’ve had to navigate. It can be hard to imagine that what is inherent and obvious to us isn’t the same for everyone else.

It’s not.

More people than we imagine have lived their lives absorbing a message that they are less. That who they are is inherently flawed, deficient, or unwanted. Sometimes that’s a message we’re told right out, and sometimes it comes indirectly, through silence and a series of persistent no’s. Some of the most painful of those messages come from family and church, which both give us our most basic understanding of how God sees us. When those messages are drenched in shame, it effects everything.

It’s hard to know how to love others if you don’t know how to love yourself.

That’s when pride is something different: the denouncing of shame. The refusal to hide – to just sit down and shut up. The elevation of oneself to the level of others. The adamant love and respect of oneself and others.

That is a pride worth embracing and celebrating! It’s a pride that brings life rather than poisoning it, that makes love grow rather than stifling it. That raises up the lowly and downcast. That proclaims good news to the poor, liberty to captives, sight to the blind, and freedom to the oppressed.

I refuse to be ashamed of the people I love, or who they love. I refuse to be ashamed of the good news that Jesus isn’t ashamed of them either. I refuse to be ashamed of any shade of the human race or color of the rainbow.

There’s power in that refusal – the power of pride.

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Proud.

Proud.

The first weekend in June my friend Lauren was in town and we connected for dinner. It was the second time this spring we’ve had the chance to connect, and I’ve been so grateful for these opportunities. We were friends and fellow students in seminary over ten years ago, and we hadn’t seen each other since.

A lot has happened in those ten years. My own faith has come alive in new ways as I have sought to follow Jesus outside the lines and delve deeper into the Love that is the Life of all things.

And Lauren…when we were in school together, Lauren was a “he.” She transitioned a few years ago and I am so glad I have the opportunity to know the beautiful woman she is today.

While we were good friends in seminary, I had no idea Lauren was trans. What I did know was that my friend didn’t fit the masculine ideals our conservative evangelical school had for ministers. (Of course, I hardly fit those ideals either, but since they hadn’t quite figured out the same kind of ideals for women in ministry, I never encountered the same kind of pressure to conform.)

The school nearly refused to grant Lauren’s degree, though in the end, Lauren managed.

As she put it to me, she “zipped up her man-suit every morning,” but it was killing her.

There’s no way I can know what that must feel like. I can barely imagine.

What I do know is that there is life and peace in her now that wasn’t there before. She is at home in her own skin in a way she never was in seminary, and it is beautiful to see.

In that sense, Lauren’s story is much like that of other trans folk I know. They fight to live with honesty in the world with courage that takes my breath away. They have been willing to lose the whole world to gain their own soul. I am beyond grateful for all I have learned from them.

That is true to some degree of every LGBTQ+ person I know, and I am proud of them. Proud to know them, and proud to stand beside them.

June is Pride month, and in a couple of weeks I will be at Chicago’s Pride parade, standing for Love between the parade and the “Christian” protesters who proclaim something else entirely. Cheering on the friends and strangers marching, encouraging them to “Make Love Louder” than the hate.

Because there’s more than one kind of pride. There’s the pride of vanity and privilege and self-aggrandizement. And then there’s the pride that stands tall in the face of all that would demean and dehumanize. The pride that refuses to bow to shame and fear. The pride that won’t hide inside that zipped up suit that isn’t who they are. The pride of those who know Who loves them.

That pride is hard-won, and I am so proud of those who have won it.

Happy Pride, y’all!

After the Parade

After the Parade

Pride was a beautiful, powerful, heartbreaking, exuberantly fun experience all rolled into one. It is, indeed, the opposite of shame, and that is beautiful to behold.

Some impressions…

Forty-nine pictures going by, each with a name and an age on it. Too young, all of them.

The protesters themselves. While I have known few believers who would adopt their big signs and bullhorns tactics, I have known many who would promote their message. At one time, I agreed with it myself (though it never sat easy with me). I believe they believe every word, and it breaks my heart.

The gratitude and amazement on faces because for love’s sake we choose to stand in that space, in front of the people saying the vilest, most hateful things for the whole four hour parade.

The power of humor to diffuse a volatile situation. From the man who simply holds a neon colored arrow sign marked “Secretly Gay” pointed at the protesters all day, to the double entendre of #MakeLoveLouder, laughter was a clear relief to many in the wake of Pulse and in the face of loathing.

PFLAG. They make me cry. Parents who fight for their kids. Parents who’ve too often had to fight their communities and churches (and sometimes even themselves) to love their kids.

The other group that gets to me are the churches who march. There are so many of them — a sea of signs. Too many to read all of them as they go by. A stunningly beautiful problem.

The beautiful strength of friends who’ve fought (still fight) their own varieties of battles to live love with integrity — with all of who they are. They fight for others even when it costs them.

In the midst of all the “F— you”s directed at the protesters, just how many of the parade participants, with tears in their eyes and pain on their faces, made heart symbols with their hands and shouted “We still love you!”

It was a beautiful, powerful, heartbreaking, exuberantly fun experience all rolled into one.

And then I had to come down from it.

Friends all had obligations elsewhere, and as I walked down the crowded Boystown streets by myself, I struggled with feelings I’d been wrestling with ever since the Pulse shooting.

This is a community I own as family, and yet in so many ways, I don’t belong to it. I’m a white, cisgender, heteronormative woman. I’ll never know what it is to fear rejection because of who I could love — do love. I don’t know what it’s like to never feel physically or emotionally safe just being myself in public. I’ll never know what it is to fight against hating the part of myself that loves and desires. Not the way LGBTQ+ friends do. For all of the sideways ways I can relate to all those things, it’s not the same.

And yet.

I love this community. I love the way they make family. I love the way they fight to live wholly as who they are with integrity. I love the way they defy shame with love. I love that I can be myself with them in a way I’ve rarely been with people “like me.”

But walking down Halstead, I was so aware that for all that these spaces feel like home, they are not my spaces. At least not yet, and I’m not sure how much they ever can or should be.

I felt very much in between.

But it was Pride. And as I walked along a tree lined side street, a young man passing by in a group of friends stopped short and said, “Oh my God, you’re beautiful! Can I give you a hug?” He gave me a sweet, sweaty hug and went on his way.

I walked on smiling, nothing resolved but everything affirmed. Especially love. I can’t imagine that happening with such innocent, exuberant joy anywhere else. And for all my in betweenness, there’s nowhere else I’d rather call home.

Standing In Between

Standing In Between

This wasn’t supposed to be that post.

That post is already written, waiting for the right time.

But this is the post I have to write. It wasn’t supposed to be that post.

When I woke up early Sunday the 12th to the news that someone had walked into a gay night club in Orlando on Latin night and shot over a hundred people, my first thought was, that could have been us – the friends I went to a club in Chicago’s Boystown with just a few weeks ago. It could have been any number of friends and neighbors on any night in any one of those clubs.

It felt like something I, a white cisgender heteronormative woman, have no justification to feel – it felt like my family was under attack.

And I wanted to stand in between.

It was later in the day on Sunday that a friend from college told me he’d lost someone he cared about at Pulse. It brought a flood of memories and emotions, particularly of one week when the Christian university we attended required all students to attend daily services in which a member of my own family preached against “homosexuals” and told sensationalist stories about the gay community and the gay “lifestyle.” It was the era of AIDS, and these were evils ready to consume us all.

My friend sat through those services, too, and I can only imagine what that felt like to him.

We sowed so much poison, and we have been reaping it’s rotten fruit for decades.

Chicago’s Pride Parade is coming up this Sunday, and some of my friends will be there under the tag line MakeLoveLouder. They will be at the parade, standing on the sideline between the “God Hates F—-” protesters and the parade.

It will be a risky place to stand, between the sowers of hate and a parade of people who’ve had to fight for the freedom to say who they are, to love who they love, to even exist. Especially this year.

I will be there with them. Standing in between.

A friend of mine says that whenever you draw a line in the sand between you and another person, you’ll find Jesus on the other side of it.

Most of my life I’ve felt like I was standing between different perspectives, trying to bridge them, to at least translate.

But sometimes violence is flying across those lines, in the form of both bullets and words. And sometimes you need to stand in between.