Friday, September 9, 2016

Pride Sunday 2016

An adaptation of this past Sunday's sermon given just before celebrating Communion and then heading out to march in the Pride Parade. Scripture reading: Psalm 139
I recently discovered the Netflix series, Grace and Frankie. The premise of the show is revealed as two women, Grace and Frankie, are waiting for their husbands to join them for supper. Apparently hey have known each other for many, many years, as their lawyer husbands own a law firm together but is clear they do not really like each other. The husbands arrive and, in short order, the men announce they would like to divorce their wives as the men have been in love with each OTHER for the past 20 years and would now like to get married because it is finally legal to do so. The show then goes on to explore the reluctant friendship that develops as Grace and Frankie attempt to move forward from this devastating news.
Grace & Frankie
Sam Waterson as Sol and
Martin Sheen as Robert

As crushed as the women are, their former husbands are experiencing moments of liberation in finally being able to be publically together after years of secretly declaring their love for one another. Of course they are sad at the hurt that others are feeling and they feel grief themselves over the loss of their 40 year-long marriages, but their joy in no longer having to suppress their true selves is certainly evident. At one point, Sol tells Robert that he feels so thrilled that they are free of their heterosexual constraints that he wants to go up on the roof and yell, “I am a homosexual who is in love with Robert who is also a homosexual!!”

At this moment in the scene I wasn’t really watching the TV. I was working on the binding of a quilt and had my head down. But these lines made me stop what I was doing and back the show up to actually watch it again. Because it struck me that at no point in my life have I ever had the urge to shout from the rooftop my sexual orientation or the sexual orientation of my partner. It has never occurred to me to do so because I have never felt it was necessary to suppress or hide that aspect of myself and so have never felt the need to declare what it is. I get to just live my life out in the open and people’s assumptions about me are usually correct.

My latest tattoo
Except for this one time recently in a church San Francisco when I was told by a fellow churchgoer that he thought I was a librarian but when he saw my newest tattoo he decided I must be something more wild. He was a bit flummoxed when I explained I was a minister. Which goes to show you how we categorize other people. Subconsciously and automatically, we make significant assumptions.

But, because I am not a homosexual or, in fact, a librarian, I do not fret about whether my  ‘lifestyle’ is acceptable or not to the general public. Because my lifestyle—how I present my gender and choose my life partner falls within the same realm of lifestyle as the majority of society. It just does. Not by my choosing but it means that I don’t have to worry about it. Ever.

I have found recently that there seems to be a sort of push back against certain kinds of awareness campaigns, reminders or declarations of equalities—like the equality of women with men, or about racism—particularly around black people—or about homosexuality. Why, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, do we need to be constantly reminded that women are equal to men when they already are? Or that black lives matter when they clearly do? Or why do we have to have a Pride Parade but we don’t have a Straight Parade? None of these things are an issue for US, so why do we need to keep harping on them? You’re preaching to the choir.

Because stuff like this keeps happening:
  • university campuses have safety awareness courses on how to not to get raped but do not have courses on not raping others
  • Gabby Douglas with teammates
  • female athletes are referred to as ‘girls’ when in similar circumstances, the male athletes are called men.
  • a black 20 year old American Olympian woman doesn’t hold her hand over her heart when the American anthem is played and is then vilified in the news cycle as being unpatriotic and disrespecting her country, but a white 31 year old American Olympian male vandalizes a Rio gas station, requiring a security guard to intervene using his firearm and then the male Olympian lies about it all and abandons his fellow perpetrators to get to the safety of the States, and his actions are dismissed as the actions of a KID just blowing of steam
  • despite our best efforts, women are not yet seen as being equal to men
  • black people’s lives are not on par to white people’s lives
  • when a teenager or adult, comes out to their loved ones, there is not necessarily a set of people who understand that each of us is made the way we are made and that if there really was a choice, it would be much more preferable to blend in and not have to explain yourself when the people you deal with automatically assume you are heterosexual and put you into a binary gender category.

This is because so many of us, even here in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, live with a privilege that is difficult to separate from our everyday living. Privilege is “when you think something is not a problem when it’s not a problem to you personally.” So, in other words, if it’s not a bother to you, it’s not a bother to anyone else. And when you are a member of the majority, you experience privilege. It is not a judgement on you or a criticism. It is a fact. It is happening right in front of us:
  • Olympic commentators this summer often referred to adult female athletes as girls. Who would dare to call Usain Bolt a boy? No one.
  • Ryan Lochte
  • Gabby Douglas was so reviled over not placing her hand over her heart for the national anthem but Ryan Lochte’s criminal activities were dismissed as the foolishness of a kid despite the fact that’s over thirty years of age
  • and why does it matter which bathroom people use? The irony is that fear of assault is used as the excuse to prevent people from using the bathroom of the gender they identify with but, if we were to look at levels of assault, we would quickly find that it is the transgendered person THEMSELVES who are most at risk of being assaulted in a bathroom.
We can easily think none of these differences amongst God’s people matter. A parade is not needed because we are all equal and loved by God--regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, whether we are librarians or not--but maybe we think that because it is not a problem for us. What we are in danger of forgetting is that it IS a problem.

Outside of this loving and caring faith community in which we understand that God has known each and every one of us since we were knit together in our mothers’ wombs. We believe God has known each and every one of us in our sitting and in our rising and knows our innermost thoughts. Outside of our church building, where we know that God loves us without question and we love one another as we would love ourselves, the privilege of equality is, unfortunately, not known by all people. And in our forgetting of this, in our assuming that how WE think and believe is how others think and believe, in THIS we diminish the struggle that others go through. Just because it is not a problem for us, does not mean it is not a problem for others.

And so, we NEED feminism—which is not limited to equality between genders but strives for equality for all people. The poor, the ill, the hungry, the mentally ill, the widows, the children, the lame and those left behind.

We NEED Black Lives matter because we need to remember that racism exists today. It is real. Racial profiling gets peaceful Muslims removed from planes. It gets black men shot.

We NEED Pride Parades because transgendered people have to come to our congregation to transition. They have come here because their parents, their faith community do not see what we see—a beloved child of God. They do not believe that God has known every one of us from the moment we were created. Not from the moment of our birth but from the moment of our very existence.

God has known who we truly are and has loved us fully. Fully. Without question. Regardless of gender. Race. Sexual orientation or identity. God loves us. We know this. And we can’t forget it. Nor can we allow others to forget it. Ever. And so upholding feminism matters because it matters to the girls across the world who do not have access to education or health care. Speaking against racial profiling matters because fear is not truth. Nor is it reality. Our fear can is perpetrated when we allow stereotypes to become reality. And Pride Parades matter because it is an opportunity for allies and advocates to walk alongside those whose every day living involves checking themselves before they talk about their loved ones, their life partners, their children. Before they talk about themselves, what they believe and who they truly are in the world. Before they can express who they are known fully to be before God.

We, as Christians, as God’s people, must walk out of this place of worship and always remember that if it’s a problem for others, it is a problem for us. For me. For you. Because we cannot help to make our world whole until we are whole. And we are not whole until our world whole. The whole of it and everyone on it. This is God’s call to us. Let us make it so. Amen.
SVUC congregation members marching in the 2016 Pride Parade