On June 30th, I will position my back against a police barricade, ready my arms to embrace strangers, and raise my voice so high that I will whisper for days afterwards. I’ve committed to this ritual for the past five years on the last Sunday in June. I lead a diverse group of volunteers in an effort to spread love, reverie, and affirmation at the Chicago Pride Parade through a campaign called #MakeLoveLouder.
The image of Pride most people focus on is that of happy parade goers covered in glitter and celebrating in their identities and that of others. What you may not know is Pride is also occupied by a group that threatens the joy and security of those observing the day: Christian fundamentalist protestors.
Every year at Pride celebrations across the country, Christian fundamentalists with xenophobic banners, stand atop ladders and use battery powered sound systems to amplify racist, misogynistic, transphobic, homoantagonistic hate speech. They make it their business to not just try and disrupt the sense of belonging found in this space but to do so in a way that provokes reaction they hope leads to shame, anger, and even arrest.
Their presence, actions, and speech are particularly vile because they violate the sanctity of the space LGBTQ folks have curated to escape the ways in which the world bears down on us. Pride is far from perfect and some celebrations have strayed from its origins rooted in liberation that inspired people like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera to riot. BUT the fact remains that Pride is the place where many of us saw ourselves and our identities reflected in others for the first time.
LGBTQ people seeing their image of God-ness being unapologetically centered, affirmed, and celebrated is why I position my body between paraders and the protesters taking verbal blows hurled at my back because that is an experience worth protecting.
How are you positioning yourself between people experiencing oppression and those calling for and actively engaging in their subjugation? How are you reflecting and affirming the sacred beauty present in those experiencing marginalization?
I ask these questions because I think it’s necessary for us to consider how we are physically, materially, and politically oriented as ministers of the Gospel of Jesus.
Who are we facing? Who gets our backs? How are we postured? What are we doing? How are we positioned to express solidarity and care?
I could pose these questions anytime, for any reason but I’m asking now because people associating June with Pride means I get to ask you to think about what pastoral care and presence looks like for LGBTQ persons. There are people who go out of their way to enter spaces we curate so that they can intentionally express their hate.
Let this knowledge and that of the social and political violence bearing down on LGBTQ people robbing us of our jobs, homes, families, security, and lives be what motivates you ask how you can work to #MakeLoveLouder in the spaces you find yourself.
Alicia T. Crosby (she/hers) is a justice educator, activist, and (sometimes reluctant) minister whose work addresses the spiritual, systemic, and interpersonal harm people experience. You can follow her work via her website or on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram via @aliciatcrosby.
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