When is Straight Pride?
Updated: May 23, 2019
by Tim Haworth
This weekend the city of Springfield will celebrate its annual Pridefest. And, as always, First Presbyterian will be a part of things. Each year we have a booth which gives us an opportunity to reach out to the community. And for the second year in a row we will have a contingent marching in the parade. Both activities allow us to show the community that we are an open, affirming and inclusive church for LGBTQIA+ folks and everyone else. We are living into our theme “God’s doors are open to all.”
I know that not everyone, both inside and outside the church, is completely comfortable being an open and affirming congregation. For the first 45 years of my life I held to what is now called the conservative or “traditionalist” non-affirming view. Even as I was coming to a better understanding of my sexual orientation, I believed that homosexuality was a sin and poured myself into Christian work as a means of atonement. It took me a year with a Christian counselor to learn that I was neither broken nor an abomination before God. It took me another three years of intensive study, prayer and fasting to be able to reconcile my faith with my orientation. I eventually came to a place where I found the honesty and courage to step into God’s light and say, “Here am I” and accept God’s love and acceptance.
If you are an uncomfortable traditionalist wrestling with what you have been taught and where things are going, I invite you to talk with me. I would love to share what I learned and how I got to where I am. You might agree with me or you might not. And that’s ok. By talking together, we can find common ground in our desire to love and serve God.
Some might be concerned that having such an outward presence at events such as Pridefest will lead people to see us as “that gay church”. I would like to push back on that. I have heard those with traditionalist views use this as a derisive term. But when I have the opportunity to represent us in public settings the perception of this church is that it is a place where you can go and be loved and accepted regardless of who you are or whom you love. And isn’t that what we are called to be as the church? And isn’t that what we are working on becoming? I’m proud that we are perceived that way but I am also mindful that I (we) have more work to do to live up to that perception.
Since we are talking about public perceptions I want to close by addressing something that comes up every year. Someone has to ask the question, “Why don’t we get to have straight pride?” And the answer is: you don’t NEED to celebrate straight pride and for that you should be thankful. Pride celebrations are more than parades and parties. These gatherings are called Pride because they were created to counter the shame, social stigma and discrimination that were and still are a part of many LGBTQIA+ individual’s lives. They are called Pride because these events are designed to affirm and promote the dignity and equal rights of LGBTQIA+ people. They are necessary because half of American LGBTQIA+ individuals live in the 30 states that still do not have non-discrimination protections. That means they can be fired, denied housing and refused services simply because of who they are. As one of my favorite memes says: “Gay pride was not born of a need to celebrate being gay, but our right to exist without persecution. So instead of wondering why there isn’t a straight pride movement, be thankful you don’t need one.”