Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Will This Pride End the Prejudice?

This is an historic weekend for the LGBTQ+ community. President Barack Obama has designated the Stonewall Inn, a once-seedy little gay bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village, into a national monument as we mark the 47th anniversary of the uprising that started our modern day gay rights movement. Pride parades held across the country and all over the world saw marriage proposals (we hit the one year anniversary of that law in America on Sunday) and joy and presidential candidates marching with us. OK, just one presidential candidate who happens to be a woman.

There are 49 Florida flags, flying for 49 days, to honor the victims of the attack on Pulse nightclub. There is no mention anywhere about the intersection of these being mostly gay, Latinx people.

And there was the recognition that our celebrations are still happening in a world where a person can kill forty-nine people out having fun at a gay nightclub, and elected officials and church leaders struggle mightily with identifying the victims as members of the Latinx LGBTQ community. If it were any other minority group, would there be this reluctance?

These past couple of weeks, I have been fortunate to be immersed in my community of the Mickee Faust Club, a collection of artistic misfits of all kinds who come together to make the smartest and most relevant theater seen on any stage in this country. 

Faustkateers gathering before the start of a performance.

Our “Queer as Faust 9” cabaret couldn’t have come at a more needed time as we honored the dead and wounded by continuing to live out loud and proud and rejecting the political narrative that what happened at Pulse was about terrorism. Instead, we named the oppression we continue to live under in Florida that has been propped up and supported by the very people who stood in front of TV cameras and talked about the “victims” and seeking justice for “the victims” without acknowledging the most important intersection of their victimhood: they were…almost all of them…gay!

The tears are now drying up, and I can feel myself moving into the next level of processing my grief around this hate crime. I admitted to my spiritual director that attempting to keep up with my regular routine of prayer was greatly challenged. Tragedies such as Pulse are so horrid that one really does wonder, “And where were you, God?!”

I have asked this question before, and I’ve often encouraged other people not to be afraid to ask that question because if there’s any entity that can take a painful and agonized and angry cry of “Where are you?!?!” it’s God.

For me, the answer is that God was also being gunned down that night in a hail of bullets.
God was in Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, who put herself in front of her son to protect him and ultimately gave up her life.
God was in the bouncer who rushed people to the staff exit door, saving at least 50 people.
God was in the first responders who both surrounded the club and helped get the wounded to a nearby hospital.
God was in the surgeons, some of whom have had war time experience, who saved the lives of all the wounded.

God has appeared and emerged in many ways in this period. There is “not so religious” way of finding laughter and connections with Faustkateers as we each grappled in our own ways with grief. 
Modern Major General cast from "Queer As Faust 9." 

There is the out pouring of love from people at St. Thomas, a community that has been friendly enough toward me since I’ve been with them, but a few of them have intentionally sought me out the past two Sundays to hug me. And, when I was cyberstalked by an unstable person last week, there was an immediate online uprising of friends who wanted to let me know that they had my back. And one of them, a former newspaper bureau chief, made the observation that it is no longer OK for the straight community to sit on the sidelines and let us queer folk defend ourselves. It is time for them to also call out homophobia when they see it, and not allow bullies to get in a few licks before they step into the ring with us.

But this also goes beyond good feelings and seeing posts online. The deaths of 49 LGBTQ+ people cannot just be about words. There must be action. At all levels and in all corners of the country, in city halls and state houses, and Congressional chambers, and the White House. And—yes—even in the churches, and synagogues, and mosques, and temples, and Wiccan circles.

The gospel lesson in the Monday morning daily office was from Matthew and it was what I’ve been thinking about lately. Jesus, upon arriving in Jerusalem, sees that the Temple has become a center of commerce instead of a place of prayer, and he goes wild, kicking over tables, sending money and doves flying. This is when activist Jesus has had all he can take of how the people have debased the holy, and he displays a righteous rage which upsets the order of the day. And he doesn’t care because the order was out-of-order.

We have been out-of-order when it comes to the LGBTQ+ community. Like all groups that do not fit into the category of “majority,” it’s easy to forget that I can still be fired from a job, or denied housing, or refused services because I am a lesbian. Florida and the nation have refused to pass bills to make us a protected class. Instead, they adopt “religious freedom” laws to give cover to people who want to use their religious beliefs to justify discrimination. Or they pass “bathroom bills” to require transgender and gender-queer people to produce proof of their biological sex in order to use a public restroom. While there have been religious leaders who have spoken out against these laws, there have been many who have insisted they need them. And then they wonder why the LGBTQ+ community might be a little leery of their expressions of thoughts and prayers during a time of tragedy.

If there can be any good out of this horrible event, maybe it will be the work of God to open the hearts and minds of those on their knees in prayer…and soliciting our support this election…to quit being the stumbling blocks to our full humanity and not just tolerate us but recognize and accept us as part of the mosaic of God’s human creation. Pope Francis has called on the Roman Catholic Church to apologize to the LGBTQ+ community for the centuries of mistreatment and seek forgiveness. While that might be great PR for the Pope, I want to see the Roman Catholic Church not only apologize and seek forgiveness; I want it to repent of its attitude toward our community, quit with the fear that seems tied to the rejection of “the flesh” and understand that “the flesh” is the container for “the spirit” while it is here in this realm. Hating on the body seems to be a root cause for the animosity toward LGBTQ+ people. We are so “earthy” because our identity is tied to our sexuality. Has the Church forgotten to teach that our sexual selves are also gifts from God and should be celebrated and treated with honor and glory?

The common theme I have had running in my head for more than a week comes from Psalm 80: “Restore us, O God of hosts; show the light of your countenance and we shall be saved.”

Come, Holy Spirit, come.

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