Thistlethwaite: Happy Pride Month
It is time for something happy and June is Pride Month, a joyous time for celebration of the self-affirmation, dignity, and equality of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and queer people. Follow this link to find events near you.
These past weeks have been so sad, marked by unrelenting tragedies of the killing of school children and adults at school, racially motivated killings in Buffalo, as well as other horrors of our gun-mad society. We need to resist the gun culture of this country as it is literally oppressing our communities and wrecking our country.
Pride events are rooted in resistance to oppression. June is the official month of Pride because the original organizers chose this month to pay homage to the Stonewall uprising in June 1969 in New York City, which helped spark the modern LGBTQ rights movement. In the early morning of June 28, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a bar in Greenwich Village, a common occurrence in those days. The patrons fought back, and that resistance was a watershed moment that led to the modern LGBTQ movement and the organization of Pride marches on an increasingly greater scale.
I have been to many Pride events over my life, and they have always been so much fun, though sometimes also poignant as at a Colorado event years go where a transgender singer led people in singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” the anthem of the LGBTQ movement. Many started to cry. In the beloved film, “The Wizard of Oz,” Dorothy sings about wanting more than the life she has and asks, “If happy little bluebirds fly, beyond the rainbow why, oh, why can’t I?” That song was adopted by the LGBTQ movement as it gave voice to a whole community naming their pain at being a persecuted minority and hoping for equality.
Pride is a religiously significant term in my view as a Christian pastor and teacher because it directly counters the idea that being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer is sinful. It is a much-needed theological critique. Historically, churches have considered pride as one of the “seven deadly” sins and preached against pride for centuries. But surely people should be proud of the person God made them to be.
Pride gets to the heart of the issue, whether you are a person of faith or a person of secular values. Be proud of who you are and do not let anyone shame or blame you for being true to your full identity.
There is a shaming, blaming political campaign going on now about being transgender and it is accelerating. It is part of the “pick a non-issue and make people angry about it” politics pursued by the Right. Last year was a record year for anti-transgender bills, and 2022 is well on track to surpass it. Especially dangerous are the anti-transgender medical bans.
More than 58,000 transgender youth and young adults across 15 states are in jeopardy of losing access to gender-affirming care. In February of this year, the governor of Texas, instead of signing bills banning assault weapons that would actually save children’s lives, signed an order restricting access to gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth — including the use of hormones to delay puberty and to promote physical development that is consistent with a child’s gender identity.
One in three transgender youth report having attempted suicide in the past 12 months, but research from the Trevor Project shows that receiving gender-affirming supports may cut that risk in half.
Frankly, states that ban gender-affirming care have blood on their hands, just like they have blood on their hands from refusing to pass sensible gun legislation.
So, Pride Month is also lifesaving. It is ever more important so that these youth, as well as LGBTQ adults, see the outpouring of love from their whole communities and know that they are valued.
Pride events are happy events, they are fun, and they save lives.
What better way to spend a day?
Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite is president emerita and professor emerita of Chicago Theological Seminary. She and her husband now make their home in the Vail Valley.