Well, ok, I’ll admit that, prior to this past weekend, I had pretty much the same stereotypical expectations of Pride that are probably held by most straight people, particularly in this valley: scantily clad go-go boys strutting their stuff on floats; outrageously dressed drag queens; leather boys with butt cheeks hanging out, a whip in hand; etc., etc.
It was partly because of this that I woke up on Sunday morning and contemplated the day ahead with mixed emotions. I was already feeling disoriented about gay life (not for the first time since coming out), as I described in yesterday’s post. I was frankly somewhat apprehensive about whether those feelings of angst and disorientation might increase as a result of the day’s activities.
The first activity on the agenda was attending special early-morning services at First United Methodist Church. A couple of friends would be singing, so I agreed to come. I have been to church there before, and I have always left feeling better for having been there; but, again, I was in a funk yesterday morning, and I carried this into the sanctuary.
This fog started to lift a little, however, as soon as I saw and sat down next to a couple who have become dear friends these past months. I hadn’t expected to see them there, and it was a nice surprise. And it turned out that sitting next to them is part of what made the next hour a very special experience.
After the opening songs, Rev. Lee led the congregation in reading introductory prayers, and I felt as though the words had been written specifically for me:
“We believe that God is loving and healing through our tears
And we believe God can make us whole again.
For we believe in the great healing love of God.
We believe that God has made us who we are.
And we believe that God rejoices when we are able to live honest lives.
For we believe in the creative love of God …
In your creation you declared all,
Each and everyone, each and everything, to be good …
In this world of so many names, faces, places, spaces,
May we remember that there is room enough,
There is love enough,
For all, each and everyone …
I wasn’t prepared for the emotion that came. And it didn’t help matters that my friend next to me had also obviously been affected by these words. Though nothing was said between us, I could intuit, as his boyfriend put his arm around him, that he, too, was feeling the power of these words.
To a straight person, or perhaps even to many gay men, these words would not have been particularly significant. But to me, in that time and place, as we Mormons would say, the Spirit bore witness to me of their truthfulness. God has made me who I am: gay (not “same gender attracted” or “same sex attracted” or someone who experiences feelings of attraction for men; but GAY). God rejoices (not tolerates, mind; rejoices!) when I am able to live my life honestly.
I am not accustomed – to put it mildly – to hearing these kinds of things said to and about me in a church service. To stand in a sanctuary, in the company of other gays as well as accepting straights, and to say these sorts of things out loud – and mean it – was very moving to me, particularly on the morning after writing about the riptide I had been experiencing in my life over the past few days.
And as I have been writing this, I feel like I have experienced additional insight: We Mormons have been taught that the primary role of the Spirit is to bear witness of truth. But as I look back on that memorable service at First United and the feelings I felt that morning, it occurs to me – wouldn’t a much more powerful and logical (but not exclusive) role of the Spirit be to convey to us, in channels that only the heart can understand, the magnificent, mysterious and all-consuming love of God towards His children, and particularly, in that time and place, the love He feels for his gay sons?
These are words I needed to hear; the feelings I felt are some I needed to feel. There is more I could write about what I heard and felt during that service, but suffice it to say that I left that building with a renewed sense of who I am and what my course is.
There is also much I could write about the Pride parade and the festival. I’ll simply say this: I hope I will never forget what it felt like to walk down Second South with a bunch of other gay fathers and their kids and to be cheered and applauded by people lining the streets. It was … amazing. I don’t know that I’ve ever in my life felt better about myself. Proud of who and what I am.
And then it hit me: this is what this is all about. Pride. (Duh.) I may be slow, but I usually get there. But, of course, it is one thing to talk about Pride. It is quite another to feel it. And boy, did I feel it.
Yesterday, I wrote about a riptide. That crisis has passed; my equilibrium is restored. I’m sure there will be more challenges in the future, more periods of disorientation. But today, I’m grateful for what I experienced on Sunday: love, acceptance, affirmation and … pride.