"Does the gay community really need to have a parade? Why do they have to be so 'in your face' about their sexuality?"
I've been asked these questions several times and it saddens me that when I talk about a gay pride parade many people have a visceral or condescending reaction (scoffing, chuckling, or eye rolling). So I want to help shed some light on why a gay pride parade feels necessary, & maybe even essential, to the LGBT community.
First you should know that the pride parades (which happen in every major city across the country each year, most often in June) are to remember the Stonewall Riots that took place in New York City in 1969. Gay clubs & bars were often raided and LGBT people were arrested regularly (since being gay was illegal). When the Stonewall Inn was raided that night, the LGBT community had had enough and rioted for 3 days setting a precedent that they were no longer going to be treated like the lowest of society. Regardless of your belief about sexual ethics, I hope you can see that this was a momentous event for a group of people that had been stripped of dignity, rejected by families, and routinely harassed by society and law enforcement.
Now, I certainly don't know every reason someone might celebrate this way, but I do know the feeling I had when I went to my first pride parade when I was 18. I felt that I belonged somewhere; I felt I wasn't alone with this experience of being attracted to the same sex....and I was relieved.
I grew up hearing about "fags and queers"....and then I realized that that was me. I identified as gay when I was about 12 and came out at 17. During that time, the only feelings that accompanied being attracted to the same sex were shame and confusion - which either caused denial or isolation. I heard no positive messages, nor did I hear any redeeming ones. As someone who did not choose to feel this way and couldn't seem to shake it, I felt I had two options: live in the shame that was overwhelming me, or turn the tables, rise up, and embrace what many hated and shamed me for.
So holding my boyfriend's hand as I marched down the streets of Columbus, OH., I felt empowered for one of the first times in my life. I felt good. I liked me. And I could see where I belonged in a larger community of people. I felt I finally had a voice.
The LGBT community is a minority group. Historically, they've been ignored, turned away from, pushed away, and pushed down. Generation after generation of the majority have not only been satisfied that they've remained in their corner of the city (out of sight, out of mind), but we've actively kept them there by not inviting them into our homes, churches, & lives. We can't continually push a group of people to the margins and not expect them to eventually respond in anger. We also can't expect them to not do something about it. Decade after decade many straight people have said (either actively or passively), "I don't care if you are being consumed with shame or pushed aside" and have refused to come alongside, to pray with, to support, or even to listen.
And because shame is toxic to the soul, mantras like, "Just be who you are" and "Out and proud" have been born. I was determined to be out and proud, not because I felt pride for being gay, but because I wasn't going to let one more person's opinion determine if I liked myself or not. So I took away their power to shame me by taking pride in the very thing I was rejected for.
This seems to be what happens with many (or maybe all) minority groups. Whether you are in the minority because of your sexuality, race, disability, gender, religion, etc., there comes a time when you have to say, "I've had enough - If I don't push back, I'll die here". At that point in my life, being out and proud was the best I could do; to be anything less would mean being eaten alive by self-hatred and the rejection of others.
I am a white able-bodied man from a middle class family in the Midwest; without the experience of a minority sexuality, I may have never known what it was like to be shoved to the side & hated for what you didn't choose. And I probably would have never had the slightest inkling when I was the one doing the shoving. This has enlarged my ability to be empathic and I can't imagine being a pastor without it.
I get that most straight people are annoyed at the thought of the gay pride parade. I understand that some of my Christian brothers and sisters see this event as a time where gay people "shove their lifestyles in our faces" and "revel in their sin". I get it and I understand it, but I don't agree with it. Because I've been the gay man at the pride parade, and celebrating my sexuality and seeing others like me was like coming up for air in a world that kept trying it's best to drown me.
I'm not asking you celebrate with them, I'm asking you to empathize with them.
Until I met Jesus, I had no other way to deal with my shame or to even understand my identity. Because he allows me to be imperfect, glory in my weakness, and because he removes my shame, I no longer feel compelled to take back power, stand up for my rights, jockey for position, or convince myself I'm valuable. I get to just be....a man, a son, with a fallen sexuality walking with Jesus.
You may think I'm writing to advocate for gay pride, but I'm writing more to say I understand why. For many, it's a means of survival & I hope you too will see it through that lens. I know some will roll their eyes as soon as they read that, which means they've likely never been the targets of repeated marginalization & intense hatred. And I would contend that if society (including the Church at large) hadn't turned its back on an entire community of people, there may not have been such a determined need for the grandeur of a pride parade. We can't lament the ills and trajectory of the culture and then divorce ourselves from being part of the cause and the remedy. You may not agree, but will you at least consider it? I'm not placing the sole blame on one group of people or another, but I am encouraging repentance for us all so that God's kingdom would come and impact the individual riddled with shame and the society that needs a savior.