Tuesday, June 7, 2011

My First Pride: Living Honestly

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.


  1. That service was just what my soul needed to set the tone for the day, I had never been to a Methodist church in my life so it was overwhelming to experience being told at church that God wasn't just ok with me, HE loved me.

    Everything about the service, the music, the simplicity of the sermon, communion (where the pastor went out of his way to make sure anyone was welcome), the circle at the end...I'm still very emotional just thinking about the service alone and the rest of the day's events. I'm trying to put together a posting just about that experience and it was very touching (and dare I say healing?) to be there and share this experience. Love you man!

  2. I look forward to reading your post, Miguel. I'm so glad I was there to share that wonderful experience with you. Love you too!

  3. I'm glad you had such a meaningful experience at the interfaith service- I heard good things about it from another source as well.

    I think it makes sense to describe being gay as who you are. However, I'm not convinced that God rejoices _every_ time someone lives honestly, to the extent that honesty means acting in harmony with an aspect of one's identity such as sexual orientation. Some people, for instance, really do have a sexual orientation (emotional, sexual, romantic) towards children. I'm convinced God is displeased when adults act on this identity by developing romantic/sexual peer relationships with children, who are almost always deeply harmed by such action.

    I think God rejoices when we live honestly, and when we act in harmony with our identity, in ways that increase net human benefit. Homosexuals are merely more lucky than pedophiles, because morally acting in harmony with their gay identity is much more feasible (e.g. they can choose a lifelong committed partnership). Pedophiles (by nature, not necessarily by behavior) are, in my view, truly unlucky. I can see them looking wistfully at a homosexual: those whom pedophiles wish to partner with can't even give meaningful consent. I am grateful that the unnecessarily stigma of being gay is fading; I am at more of a loss for how to help some of the more marginalized groups whose identity, were it realized by behavior, would generally prove net harmful, rather than net beneficial. I am saddened to think of the closeted, lonely, and frustrated lives I imagine many pedophiles live.

    One could also consider polyamorous folks, whose identity often leads them to form loving, sexual, romantic relationships with several partners. This type of behavior, if open and committed, might be morally acceptable or advisable. However, the morality is greatly hindered because of natural human jealousy of the first spouse, and the normative expectation that marriage entails an exclusive commitment in the arena of sexual/romantic/emotional intimacy overlap (hence, poly folks often break commitments to be true to themselves). For the polyamorous and the pedophile, I think the morality of their behavior is affected by the reality of their identity: however, the calculus is far from complete after that lone consideration.

  4. Re: I had pretty much the same stereotypical expectations of Pride that are probably held by most straight people

    I hate to keep picking on you on this one point, but, really, you're just telling us about your assumptions about straight people -- not about actual straight people's real attitudes.

    Straight people are all over the map on this. You have your allies who think pride is fab, you have your right-wing conservatives who find gay pride shocking (along with being shocked by a bunch of other things), and then there are those (my guess: the vast majority of straight people) who don't care one whit about what happens at gay pride because it doesn't concern them. It's my impression that conservative gay people have a whole lot more "stereotypical expectations of Pride" than most straight people do.

    Remember that now the majority of people in the US favor marriage equality -- and that majority includes a lot of straight people. Positive visibility (including gay pride parades) has been a big part of turning indifferent straight people into your allies.

  5. Wow, glad you escaped your riptide and found your Pride! Still looking for mine...

  6. @CL - I hear what you're saying, believe me I do. However, you need to keep in mind where I live. Salt Lake City is not Denver or Seattle or Dallas. But, again, I take your point: I should have written "straight people who live along the Wasatch Front." (Actually, I did write, "particularly those who live in this valley.")

  7. With all due respect to CL and oh how I wish I could agree with her, but even my straight, non-LDS, non-Utah, liberal friends and relatives think of decadence when they are confronted with an issue regarding Pride. One out-of-stater asked me yesterday if it's "easier to get some" on pride weekend and was I one of the guys in bottomless chaps....

  8. Right after posting that comment, I spent some time contemplating the fact that I'd get annoyed enough about you stereotyping straight people to post a pair of comments about it. After all, I'm speaking from a position of [straight] privilege, so how is this different from the men who like to mansplain to the feminists that they should be nicer to men? (Especially considering that on this same thread you got someone comparing homosexuals to pedophiles...).

    One of the things I've learned, however, from my experience as a feminist is that it's not helpful to lump the "other" group together (even in your own mind) as "the enemy". I don't like it when feminists claim (or act like) men are the enemy. Men are not the enemy -- the enemy is ignorance. Same with gay rights: the enemy is not "straight people." the enemy is ignorance.

    People correctly point out that the less-privileged group is required to understand (even feel empathy for) the more privileged group -- and that that understanding/empathy is rarely reciprocated. And that's not fair. And yet the empathy I've gained (as a woman in a man's world) is priceless to me. I wouldn't exchange it for any amount of additional privilege.

    Gay Pride in particular is the moment to reach across the aisle to your straight allies. There are plenty of events that are by the queer community and are meant more-or-less exclusively for the queer community. The Gay Pride parade isn't in that category. It's the moment for the queer community to introduce themselves to the general public, and say "Hey, we're a part of the community too -- get used to it!!" In SLC, tens of thousands of people turned up, which means that quite a lot of straight people (including straight parents with their kids) were there to say "Fabulous, we're happy that you're a part of the community."

  9. I am a little late coming to the party on this particular post, so I apologize. Invictus, as usual, I am so moved by your journey; so thankful to be able to call you my friend; and was thrilled to be able to walk down the street with you in the parade! I love you bud.

    Brad, I don't know you, but I have not been as offended by anything in a long time as I am by your post here. To bring pedophiles into a conversation about a natural, God made, sexual orientation is beyond my imagination. Pedophilia is the deepest of perversions, and you are right, God IS displeased. If you are going to talk about pedophiles, almost 90% identify as HETEROSEXUAL.

    Also, and I can only speak for me, but I have never had a stronger relationship in my life with Jesus than I do today. His grace and mercy and faithfulness are more overwhelming to me today than they ever have been, a d yes, I am a totally open, out, gay man! And yes, I AM a Christian!! Thank God, NO ONE can dictate to me what my relationship looks like.

    If you want to talk Bible, I would love to. I did a two year study, back to the Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic, and there is nothing I found in these Holy writings that condemn being gay.

    So please, going forward, be a little more aware of what you are saying, especially if you are trying to speak on the side of God.

  10. Thanks, Kevin. I'm glad I know you, too. Thanks for marching with us!