The post below is by my friend, Kim Messick. Kim is married and the mother of three young adults. She did not grow up in church, but when she married, she began attending a conservative church with her husband. She has been attending the same church for 27 years, and has served as an elder there until 2015. It was there that Kim and I met. The elders at her church began working with LOVEboldly several years ago, trying to create a more welcoming place for those LGBTQ people in their community, and so we became to be friends.
Some time after our first few meetings, about a year and a half ago, Kim was shocked to discover this “issue” we had all been discussing with one another had become very personal when her daughter came out to the family. Kim started a blog to share her journey, and to provide resources for people who are trying to work out their faith, and their love for their LGBTQ family, friends, and neighbors. You can (and should!) follow her blog at: graceandasafeplace.wordpress.com/
When I invited Kim to participate in our series this month for LGBTQ Pride, she discovered that there are lots of misconceptions that straight, conservative Christians have about Pride. So she shares here what she wants straight Christians to learn about Gay Pride.
By: KIM MESSICK
Editor: HEIDI WEAVER-SMITH
It has been quite a journey for us since my daughter came out. I am so thankful for the work that LOVEboldy (and others like them) do everyday, in trying to build a bridge and in making the conversation more civil, loving, and respectful. It has become my passion to minister to others, especially parents, who are striving to help our beloved children live in a more peaceful, loving, and equitable place. I want my child to have the same opportunity as anyone else – the opportunity to belong to a church that welcomes her and that strives to help her have a stronger faith, and a stronger marriage and family.
When Heidi asked me to write a blog about what straight Christians should know about Gay Pride, I know I must have looked at her like she had three heads! She asked me if I knew what Gay Pride was about, or what the history behind it was. My first thought was, “There’s history behind it? It’s not just a big party they do every year?” All I knew was what I’d seen portrayed on television. I admit that I, a straight Christian, knew nothing about Gay Pride! So, she gave me the challenge to go find out about it. I love history and I love learning about other cultures and other peoples. My curiosity was very high, so I accepted the invitation. If you’re like me, you may be surprised to learn what you didn’t know about Gay Pride. As an introduction, I’d like to share a little about the history that frames this celebration.
Through the mid 1950’s, homosexuality was a felony crime, punishable by death. You could be turned in not just for what you did in public, but for what you did in private, too. You could be arrested for what some described as making eye contact, or speaking to other suspected gay people. It was illegal to serve alcohol to a gay person because their very being was considered “disorderly.” If arrested you could go to jail, or you could have “medical treatment.” It was in the mid 1950’s when some states began reducing “being gay” to a misdemeanor crime, but these laws were not entirely abolished until 2003 by our Supreme Court. During WWI and WWII, our Armed Forces dealt with gay soldiers with the “Blue Discharge”. Recipients of this type of discharge had a hard time finding jobs, housing, etc. During the Red Scare, anyone suspected of being gay was included on the list of people to be monitored because it was thought that they were more susceptible to being blackmailed by spies.
For some time, the medical and science world labeled homosexuality as a disorder, or a mental illness. LGBTQ individuals were portrayed as child molesters. A few doctors and scientists declared that being gay was not a mental illness, that people were born gay – but they were drowned out by the many other voices.The teaching of the time was that being gay was a “learned behavior.” Courts often ordered “medical treatment” – electric shock aversion therapy, hormone “therapy” (chemical castration), religious counseling, electroconvulsive therapy, and psychoanalysis.
So how did Gay Pride celebrations begin? On the night of June 28, 1969, riots broke out at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village in New York City. The Stonewall Inn was a mafia owned bar that was known as a “gay bar.” Given the cultural climate at the time, the Inn was raided regularly by police. Raids were usually fairly orderly with little resistance. Some people were released, others were arrested. Reasons for arrest included wearing women’s clothing (if you were a man), wearing men’s clothing (if you were a woman), having any contact with someone of the same sex, or if you were gay and drinking alcohol. Most nights, those who were released went home, but on this night they hung around. And more people gathered. By the time the first police wagon arrived, there was a growing crowd gathering outside. When a scuffle began between a lesbian and the police officers, she yelled at the crowd, “Do something!” Rocks and bottles began flying. Police began beating back rioters with their sticks. The riots continued for several nights, birthing the modern LGBTQ rights movement.
If you watch interviews of those who were there that night, you’ll hear them say, “For the first time we weren’t just going to be carted off to jail, we began fighting back.” “We had had enough.” “It was the first time we stood up for ourselves.”
Remember, at this time in history, equality and civil rights were being fought for – for everyone except gay people. The Stonewall riots were the birth of the modern day Gay Rights movement. Organizations were founded to seek equal rights for gay people. In those days, they wanted to be free from the harassment and violence that they endured simply because they were gay. One activist stated that, “Beating up gay people was a national sport.” Another said, “We just wanted to be left alone; to live our lives peacefully, and to be free to form our own community.”
On the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots, the first Gay Pride parade took place in New York City. The following year more cities joined the movement, and it continued to grow each year into the international event it is today. For the first time, the word “gay” was used in naming these organizations and events. There had been organizations to help gay people before, but they would not use the term “gay” in their name.
Unfortunately there are still some who still hold to these older beliefs and attitudes towards the LGBTQ and same-sex attracted community. Sadly, we have seen this in the recent Orlando shootings which took place in a gay bar. There’s no mistaking the intention – the LGBTQ community was targeted on the night of Gay Pride. But most of us have come a long way and now can live peaceably in community with our LGBTQ family, friends, and neighbors, even if we still sometimes have questions about what it looks like in a polarized culture and within our faith communities.
My challenge to straight Christians reading this is to consider a few questions I have often asked myself in my own personal and spiritual growth.
- What are my own biases?
- Is my spirit a teachable spirit?
- What is my posture towards scientific and medical evidence, especially if it challenges some of my religious beliefs?
- How can I be better educated about the history that informs LGBTQ community?