First things first, there is still need to fight for racial justice. Look into your local sheriff/police chief/whoever election, donate to bail funds, read minority voices. This will not go away because white people say they’ll do better and then forget about it.
Our learning link for the week is here. Not the most comprehensive description of microaggressions in the world but a handy introduction if you’re not familiar.
This Pride Month has been substantially different than I expected–first because pandemic, second because protests for justice (which, to be clear, I absolutely think are the thing to do right now, and all our liberation is tied up together) but I did want to have a time set aside specifically for this, for me.
June is a good time to think about the stories I tell regarding my sexuality and things. Stories I tell others, stories I tell about myself, stories I tell to myself. This past year or so has been interesting on that last front and I hope you’ll pardon me if I muse here about it for a while.
I feel like I’ve come a long way since coming out four-ish years ago, in terms of coming to be a part of a community. I have resources and relationships now that have brought me into a deeper understanding of myself, others, sexuality, faith, justice, intersectionality… you name it. There is a kind of belonging in that community that can’t be matched anywhere else because there’s a common bond that is unlike others I, at least, have ever experienced. But at the same time, I feel a bit like an outsider at times.
I guess part of what I’ve been trying to understand is how to be a part of a community while having a different story. Sometimes, minority communities can become very rigid in their definitions of self. That is, they have an identity that creates the community and, to preserve that community, adherence to that identity is sometimes overemphasized.
For a majority culture, that’s called assimilation. In some respects, it’s the same principle in operation though it takes on very different mechanisms and meanings when working on a sub-culture or minority group. But the message is mostly the same, in one way or another: your belonging here is dependent on you exhibiting the behaviors and attributes that we have deemed acceptable.
Sometimes, these are pretty overt things. Cultural referents or shared norms of socialization that can cause outrage when transgressed. Take, for example, two gay men talking. When one hears that the other has never seen High School Musical or something (it’s true that I’ve only seen parts myself), he exclaims jokingly, “I have revoked your gay card!” Like, it’s a joke but also very telling the way in which that joke it told. Again, your membership in this community is contingent. Fragile. It’s insidious, if you ask me.
That kind of stuff annoys me but generally, in the circles I move in, it’s not super prevalent and I do feel confident in people really not meaning it when it does occur. I try my best not to do anything like that but I do slip up from time to time. Forgive me those times. There are other things, subtle and totally unintentional, that do strike me a little harder, however.
In many conversations with friends in the queer Christian community, I am made aware of how different my experience of both those things has been than how I see sexuality and faith interact in most others. A recent example: talking about the difficulty of father’s day as many gay Christian men have a strained relationship with theirs. Or talking about the struggle of reconciling faith, the anguish of being closeted, the pain and fear of homophobia and rejection.
There is so much for me to learn from those friends. And I do strive to learn, and to comfort and to care as I am able. And I rejoice that those things can be healed, in part, by sharing with friends who understand. But there are questions that I ask in the silence of my mind. How do I relate? How do I listen? How do I make room for others but maintain space for myself? I feel it’s important to keep quiet in those times when I can’t really empathize, but when things that are really different from my life dominate conversations time and again, should I really be there at all? How can I participate without bragging or minimizing pain or seeming either preachy or self-centered?
The thing is, after all is said and done, that I do belong. I belong to those people in ways that I can’t explain to others. Those spaces are my spaces–not all the time, not for everything, but my voice is welcome there. It is a kind of fitting in that I have lacked in most all other environments I’ve been in and that is the kind of pride I want to celebrate today.
In the midst of all our current difficulties around community (the impossibility of gathering, the stress of life and events, the uncertainty of it all), I have been lucky enough to be welcomed into a group where I have pride of place. Not that I am most important but that I can show all of myself, all of my story, and know that I will be welcomed unconditionally. That’s Pride and, while we’re at it, that’s love.