[Commentary] Pride is a Time to Connect as a Community

Refusing to Wear Melania’s Jacket…

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Rev. Mark Byrd of the New Life Metropolitan Community Church. (Photo: Eric Hause)

Somedays I “think” the “world in which we live” just cannot get any worse or crazier.  Then the news of the day proves me wrong… almost, to the point I become numb to it all.  “Almost,” I said, “but not quite yet.”  Because somedays “some things” happen that give me hope.

Just a couple of weeks ago, having faced apathy, non-engagement, being denied, ignored, and dismissed, by some – even some within our own LGBTQAI community, three young millennials persevered in organizing a memorial commemorating the second anniversary of the PULSE tragedy that so shook our community.  As one old enough to be a dad to each of them, I was touched, inspired, encouraged and felt pride in the way they “put themselves out there” with such determination, dedication, and commitment. 

I was reminded that as “scary” and impactful as PULSE was/is on those of us who lived through so much (from Stonewall, the loss, grief, hurt and anger during the height of the AIDS pandemic, police harassment, gay-bashings, trans-murders, and the list goes on…) that for our younger generations this tragedy represented not only a loss of innocence, but perhaps an even more intense experience of loss of safety and security than we realize.  I was reminded of how much we need each other – we (those who are older) need them (those who are younger) and they need us. 

To take this a step further, I was reminded how much, especially now, ALL OF US in the LGBTQAI community need each other.  We need each other acknowledging, supporting, and affirming each other (within the LGBTQAI continuum) with a mutuality of value, respect, and integrity.  Doing so, both as individuals, and as organizations, means we must give more than mere “lip service” or “tokenism.”  It means authentically listening to and hearing each other and being willing to work together in mutual support and cooperation without one trying to control or minimize the other.

Now more so in our recent lifetimes, reality feels like we have taken the proverbial “one step forward and two – maybe even three steps back.”  We worry and rightfully fear our gains for “equality and justice” are fragile at best.  It is exactly for this reason and in this context that the 6th annual Hampton Roads LGBTQAI Interfaith Celebration will focus on connecting as a community, remembering and honoring those on whose shoulders we now stand and working more closely together to be “sanctuary” for ourselves and others – and future generations.  Pride becomes how was come together to be present with and stand with each other – especially those most at risk, from transgender / gender non-conforming persons of all ages, queer teens… and yes, even “others” on the margins who cannot speak up for themselves and whom we hear echoed in the cries of innocent immigrant children.

May we all refuse to “wear Melania’s jacket” – because we do care and we refuse to give up!   

The Hampton Roads LGBTQAI Interfaith Celebration