Or Why People Are Assbutts In June
As Pride month winds down, and the parade floats are put back in storage and everyone sweeps up and goes back to their lives, let’s talk about some of the pushback that seems to get worse every year.
This year the US government made brief headlines as the current administration directed embassies and other government buildings NOT to fly the Pride flag on any flagpoles with or next to the US flag. (This sparked a push-back that led to many ignoring the directive and putting the flag up anyway or putting it on the building itself.)
But the Pride flag being allowed or not is the least of the problems faced by our LGBTQ+ family year round. These issues are brought to light even more during Pride month when all anyone wants is to celebrate how far the struggle has brought us and to be open and honest about who they are in this world. But they are more than Pride Month issues, they are a fact of life for way too many of us.
Christians are leading the charge to put an end to Pride month and all there symbols thereof, not the least of which is the Pride flag and parades and other ‘public’ displays. Many – maybe even most Christians – want to push people back into the closet and act like they don’t exist. Or that they have some mental problem that needs to be treated.
My own community is no exception. Not long ago, Bloomfield NM lost a Supreme Court battle to keep a monument with the 10 Commandments on it right by the door of City Hall. (It was donated and placed by a then, now former, city councilor. It has since been moved to a more suitable location, the grounds of the local Baptist church.) To my knowledge, there has been zero recognition, by the local government or by anyone, of Pride month. The next town over, the seat of county government, happily recognized it, and the larger city in the area joyously put on a Pride parade, but here in Bloomfield, nothing.
Why? I don’t honestly know. My guess is the previously mentioned Baptist church, which is right on the main intersection of the highways here and, except for maybe the high school, is easily the largest building in town. Their influence on the community is huge. Kids here don’t Trick or Treat on Halloween, they go to the Baptist church for candy and coloring sheets. That’s the level of influence the church has here.
My town is not the exception, it’s practically the norm. The American church, like it or not, has a lot of power, especially in smaller towns and communities. So Pride events, things that have nothing to do with the church are either outright prohibited or just quietly kept from the public, directly due to the influence of the churches. Or ‘church people’ put in places of power, like City Hall.
The truth is, however, people aren’t going anywhere. We cannot – and should not – push people to pretend like they don’t exist, to hide who they are and be ashamed of their identity just because someone in power, religious or political, has decided it should be that way.
That’s why Pride Month and all its associated events, trimmings, and trappings, exists. To celebrate our diversity and send the message that we all belong.
Full disclosure, I am not part of the LGBTQ+ community. I consider myself an ally, but that’s not really a label I can give myself, just a behavior I hope to model. I have read much about the Stonewall riots and how the initial raid and the communities actions gave birth to the Pride movement. I hope what I write here isn’t taken as a slight to that time, rather I just want to convey my feelings in this discussion.
I call myself Christian, for lack of a better term. My own church – now closed and the property sold to another religious institution – not long ago was almost militantly homophobic. While I never heard our last preacher, whom I consider a dear friend, say anything I would consider homophobic, previous preachers gave sermons all the time with gross mischaracterizations of what the Bible really says and the LGBTQ+ community as a whole. Attempting to, not only, provide “proof” that “God Hates F*gs”, but to strike fear of “the gays” into the congregation, portraying them as some sort of evangelists for homosexuality, almost like Mormons knocking on every door to convert people to homosexuality.
And it worked, at least on people I care very much about. They felt they had to hide who they were, even from me – since I was part of the ministry team at the church – because of what our preachers were teaching. And I never really shared, publicly, my own feelings, that the preachers were wrong. And my silence did as much damage as those teachings.
A lot, too many, Christians are guilty of the same ‘sin’ of silence as I was. But more are guilty of the real sin of oppression and homophobia. And of exerting their hatred with their political power and influence here in the US, be it in the voting booth or on the school board or city council, straight on up to the White House, Congress, and Supreme Court.
It goes far beyond the conversation of where the Pride flag should or should not be displayed. It’s a fight over whether people can use their designated bathroom, over how people should be allowed to dress, where people can read books to children, what videos or blog posts they can create and put out onto the Internet, who and where they can marry.
Government of, by, and for the people means ALL the people. Including, and maybe even especially, those seen as a minority. People… endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights… including Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – that means all of us, ALL OF US, have the SAME inalienable rights. And as such we cannot strip those rights away because of some poor translation of what we call Scripture and our own prejudices.
In closing let me say that – well I don’t really know what to say that I haven’t already said. The current administration telling embassies whether or not they can display the Pride flag is the least of the issues facing the LGBTQ+ community. But the fact that it’s even an option, 50 years after the Stonewall riots, is a vast improvement. That doesn’t mean, however, that there isn’t a long way to go.