I’ve never been to a Pride parade. Not ever. But when all the restrictions of the pandemic are lifted and we start having them again, I’ll go.
Because when I started playing drums in a praise band at a church in Abilene on Wednesday nights, my mama came to hear me play.
My mother grew up at a time when churches of Christ were not just known for their tradition of a cappella music, they were engaged in formal debates about whether or not instruments could be used in worship without it being a threat to our salvation. Mama felt strongly about adhering to the teachings of the church, but when her daughter came to a different conclusion about our teaching about instrumental music, she listened. She was willing to re-examine her convictions. She even reconsidered. Notice I didn’t say she changed her mind, but it didn’t keep her from engaging with me!
The night she came to hear me play drums, she experienced worship in a way that was different from anything she had ever known. She was uncomfortable on lots of levels, starting with the music being too loud! But she knew me, and she knew I had a heart for God. She was also willing to acknowledge she was of a different generation, and that with time, certain ways of doing things change. Most of all, she cared about cultivating her relationship with me. And she was wise enough to know that to find fault with merely the surface, without seeking to learn more about what was underneath, would do nothing but create distance between us.
On the surface, I have nothing in common with the global celebration of LGBTQ+ Pride. Images of Pride that I’ve seen over the years haven’t necessarily depicted me or my experience as a gay woman, at least not on the outside. But let’s be clear – these images that have formed much of what we think when we hear about “Pride,” about it being nothing but a debaucherous, lascivious orgy of sordid folk who have no reverence for God – don’t show us the full picture of Pride. Because I have friends who have gone to Pride for years, with their families and with people from their churches. They don’t fit the image I have stuck in my head. So, much like my mom must’ve wrestled with the thought of me playing drums in a church of Christ, I have wrestled with Pride, concluding there has to be more to this.
Here’s what the national celebration of LGBTQ+ Pride is really about.
Pride is about making a 180 degree pendulum swing away from shame. Shame that has been heaped on wrongly, vehemently, lethally, for generations. Pride today is about recognizing that the days of secrecy and isolation because of a difference in our sexuality are over. It’s about being able to hold our heads up with pride – as opposed to shame – for who we are. In contrast, it’s about celebrating who we are as people, as a community that has long been ostracized and rejected by the very places who were supposed to love us the most – our families and churches.
Everyone reacts differently to the pain of being unwanted and left out. The revelry, the over-the-top flamboyance of the parades that is more readily portrayed is a response to the pain. It’s a 180-degree pendulum swing from being ignored and bullied, cast out and abused. From the agonizing pain of always feeling less than around those most dear, because of something you didn’t choose and can’t make go away.
Does Pride represent all of us? In a way, yes. In the sense that all of us have experienced the pain mentioned above. Most of us, though, will never don a rainbow thong and climb atop a float gliding down Main Street. We won’t be part of the most outlandish portraits of Pride that are most often captured by the media. The vast majority of us simply want to live our lives, content to be known and loved in our communities, worshipping in our churches, experiencing the joys and sorrows of creating families, and contributing to the well-being of society, without making a whole lot of racket. But we want to feel proud of who we are and where we come from, just like everyone else. And sometimes, when you haven’t heard the words, “I’m proud of you,” just for being you – from the ones you’re supposed to hear it from the most – it takes a whole month of parades and people around the world recognizing you to even begin to make up for the loss.
So if you’re wanting to know what to think about Pride, ask your LGBTQ+ child what it means to them. Then tell them that you’re proud of them for being your lesbian or gay or trans or queer child (however they describe themselves), for making it through all the extra struggle that comes with being different in a world that often doesn’t understand. Ask them if and how they want to celebrate Pride. And then join them in that celebration.
Because it meant the world to look out into the crowd and see my mama grinning at me while I was playing the drums. More than any parade could ever make up for.