I actually knew someone who was at the Stonewall riots. His name was Vito Russo. He told me that he climbed a tree and watched the police arrest the drag queens as they rioted after Judy Garland’s funeral. I remember being incredibly impressed and awed that I knew someone who had been there at the beginning of the LGBTQ+ movement. Vito died in the early 90’s like so many of his generation but lives on through his seminal work on the queer history of film The Celluloid Closet.
I often wonder what his generation would think of where we are now. They were outcasts and illegals hiding in mafia-controlled oases of secrecy. For Vito’s generation of activists their symbol was the pink triangle (a symbol of Nazi oppression) and their slogan as a pandemic raged in an indifferent world was silence=death. The idea of Pride was an aspiration not a reality.
While there are still battles to fight our progress since Vito’s time is simply amazing. Our progress has been on many fronts – legal protections, social acceptance and a positive visibility in popular culture undreamt of . We also have a much richer queer identity – now we have a wonderful family of so many identities that allow us the freedom to be ourselves in all our wonderfulness.
We also have tools like intersectionality that help us understand (and hopefully act) on the multiple and complex systems of oppression that still stop our queer siblings (and so many others) living in dignity and freedom that is their right as co-heirs of creation.
There is so much to celebrate!
We have the right and obligation to celebrate Pride this month. The right to glory in the rich diversity of humanity that God has created. The obligation to send a message to all those still living in fear and uncertainty that they are loved by a God who revels in diversity. All we need to do is look out our windows to see God does not create in monochrome.
Increasingly denominations like our beloved URC are recognising this. We have always been there from the first non-Jewish Christian – a queer Ethiopian official on his way back to his ruler waylaid by a strapping young missionary called Phillip. Of queer saints like Polyeuct and Nearchus, Sergius and Bacchus, Brigid and Darlughdach and Uncumber.
In our own times we are increasingly so unremarkable that we are able to freely give our unique gifts, graces and insights to a church that so desperately needs them (as well as so many other voices) in order to begin the work of renewal and relevance in this post Christian era.
So whether you identify as queer, ally or simply a fellow human being celebrate this month. Celebrate that humanity does move towards tolerance and recognising that there is always more that unites us than divides us. Celebrate that we have gone from the necessity of a young man having to hide in a tree to avoid being arrested to sunny joy filled parties and parades where all are welcome. Celebrate that sometimes we do get it right!