Pride Still Matters

Posted on June 18, 2019. Updated on June 18, 2019

When I first started to come out publicly in my college days (1988-1992) a big part of that process was attending Pride celebrations every summer. The ability to march in the parade and make a public declaration of this truth of my identity was part of my journey of accepting and loving the fullness of my humanity. I felt I had found a place where I belong. I had found and claimed my tribe. I had come home to myself. I didn’t have to shoulder the constant burden of fear and secrecy any longer – at least not in discretely “queer” spaces.

As I got older I found that Pride celebrations seemed to carry less and less personal emotional import. I had done my inner work and no longer felt the need to make such public declarations. And most Pride parades seemed to become increasingly an excuse for another drunken party on the streets, tinged by overt commercialism as more and more corporations started to sponsor Pride events as part of a marketing plan to mine a new customer base.

I happily “retired” from marching in Pride parades, and chose to mark the occasion in a more subdued and personal way each year. And then I came to San Francisco to join the Society of Saint Francis.

Located on Dolores Street on the fringe of the Castro, I moved into San Damiano Friary in 2007 and started a life of public witness of my Christian faith. Walking through the Castro in the traditional brown habit of Franciscans with a white cincture and a large habit rosary, I drew my share of attention – even in San Francisco. As publicly religious people we were often the object of others’ projections of their feelings about the Church. Seen as representatives of an institution that had often demonized and ostracized them, gay people would regard us friars with indifference, disdain, and sometimes open hostility.

It was not easy, especially as I was also working to reconcile and integrate my own sexuality with my spirituality. But what I treasure of those experiences was the blessed opportunity to witness to the painful gulf that continues to exist between the Church and the LGBTQIA communities – particularly those who might never feel comfortable enough to enter through a church door, no matter how welcoming and inclusive we proclaim ourselves to be.

Now, even though I no longer wear the Franciscan habit, I welcome the opportunity each summer to participate in Pride in a more visible way as a person of faith. I sometimes find myself in uncomfortable places, and it is still not easy. The hurt inflicted by “the Church” is still very real. But it is our call as Christians to try and heal Creation by proclaiming and living out God’s radical love for ALL. There is still much reconciling work to be done. And Pride is a critical place where we get to incarnate that truth and embody our proclamation that “the Episcopal Church welcomes YOU.”

I hope to see you out there along the parade route this year! And if you would like to connect with other opportunities for witness throughout the year, check out companionsofdorothy.org to find out more about The Companions of Dorothy the Worker, to support our work, and to see what we are up to.