Here we are again. PRIDE 2023. In some ways it feels like it PRIDE 22 was just a few months ago and in some ways it feels like it was a decade ago.
I admit that I've put this post off quite a bit this year. I've been really struggling to come up with what to say this PRIDE. I don't know why PRIDE posts can seem so difficult. I rarely feel like I'm at a lack for words. Last year's was difficult too but it still was easier than this year.
And then, as I showered this morning, a seed of an idea started to blossom, and it was watered by the hot waters of my shower.
I think I'm coming to realize that each year, the "why" of PRIDE is little different for me. Last year I talked about the strides we've made in terms of queer representation in the media. The year before was more of a response to a single situation.
This year, I want to talk about what in the 'queer world' that makes me feel PRIDE.
I don't talk much about my husband on here, mostly because I want to respect his own privacy. But since I'm talking about things that make me feel PRIDE, I'm gonna dote on him for a moment.
My husband, Joseph, is a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. And I know. I know. The word 'evangelical' is pretty terrifying for a lot of queer people. But this is one of those places where the real meaning of words matter. The ELCA is not a fundamentalist evangelical church, even if the 'E' is for evangelical. In fact they've been ordaining gay folks since 2009. (And had an outside procedure called "Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries" to help ordain gay pastors even before that.) Any way moving on. This year, Joey's synod held a PRIDE event on the 1st of June. They invited Joey to be the guest preacher!
Now, this is the part where I'm a bad husband, because I actually didn't go to the event, I stayed home and packed for a whirlwind trip to Chicago that we left on the next morning at an ungodly time.
But despite the fact that I didn't go, knowing who my husband is, and knowing how he preaches, I know that it's given me a feeling of PRIDE.
Next up is a friend of mine. Who is also a pastor. And some of you might actually know who he is! A few years ago, the Netflix show, Queer Eye, spent an entire season in Philadelphia. If you watched that season (season 5) you'll no doubt remember the gay pastor, the Reverend Noah Hepler. Well, Noah is a friend of mine. I'd go so far as to call him one of my best friends. I watch the following Noah has and how he engages with folks on social media, as well as when we talk or get together. Despite the trolls and those who try to tear him down, Noah always deals with those situations with dignity, and a level head. Seeing how he deals with that and how he maintains his beliefs gives me the PRIDE feeling. Also, those of you who watched the show know he was working on his PhD. Well, he finally got it.
Both Joey and Noah are shining examples of faith and sexuality not being at odds, but being interwoven.
Another is my editor, Janel. Janel works an incredibly difficult job as an educator. And then after teaching, reads my mess of drafts and manages not to wring my neck or the students. Janel is a brilliant mother who puts every ounce of energy into be the best mom, professor, and editor possible. Janel is a brilliant example of queer parenthood, of a queer teacher, and honestly, one of my very best friends. Janel makes me feel PRIDE.
But the things that make me feel that queer pride aren't just the people I love. They're people who I've never met, people who I'll never meet. Stories of kids standing up to their school boards to protect queer books. Young queer actors who live their lives genuinely and authentically, who tell queer stories that we deserve.
I also feel PRIDE when I listen to straight members of my family. Members who have learned so much about queer life in order to understand queer loved ones. I feel PRIDE when I open my professional Facebook page and I see all these amazing author colleagues making Pride posts and celebrating queer diversity.
I'm gonna tell a quick story now. It happened several years ago. But when I think about it, it gives me the feeling of PRIDE. My cousin has a young son (well actually now she's got a whole herd of kids). Joey and I had gone back to Ohio for a visit, about two years after we got married and moved to Philadelphia. We were with my aunt and my cousin (this aunt is also the cousin's aunt, not her mom) I was in the front seat of the car with my aunt. Joey, my cousin, and her son (who is maybe 6 at the time) were in the back seat. He asked her "Mommy, are you and daddy married?" My cousin says, "no we aren't." He thinks about it for a moment. "Is uncle blah and blah blah married?" Again my cousin says no. "Okay, what about Mark and Joey?" She answers yes and thinks about it before laughing and saying 'if that doesn't blow up 'traditional values'' and we all laughed. Years earlier the same group of us were in the car, and the same son of my cousin looks at Joey and me and then says "Yoey, are you Mark's girlfriend?" Now, we all laughed about it for a second and my cousin said "Joey's a boy so he's Mark's boyfriend but it's the same." He smiled and simply said "Okay!" Regardless of not fully getting the language of it, he was able to recognize the relationship and his mom had done a great job of making sure it was simply normal - whatever normal means. The idea of two boys or two girls in romantic relationships wasn't something he ever questioned. Now fast forward a few years, just after Opportunity came out. This same cousin messaged me to tell me that the son had been suspended from school for a day because he slapped a classmate who was making fun of a queer classmate. My cousin wasn't angry with him. And yes, I know, violence isn't the answer. I get that, but damn it, some times you've just gotta revel in homophobes getting smacked around a bit. That all made me feel PRIDE.
Here's another one. Alan Turing. Plenty of people know that Turing is considered the father of modern computers. It was his work that helped crack the Nazi codes in World War II. Turing was also a gay man (and isn't that delicious that Nazi codes were cracked by someone they hated!)
Another one for you. Since you guys already know how much I love space and the space shuttle. Sally Ride. In 1983 Dr. Sally Ride became the first American woman to go into space on the shuttle Challenger. And while Dr. Ride chose to keep her personal life private, when she passed away just a few years ago, her obituary confirmed that she had been in a monogamous relationship with the same woman for 27 years, making Doctor Ride not just America's first female astronaut, but the first known queer person in space.
But science isn't the only field where queer people exist that make me feel PRIDE. Writing is filled with queer folks who've mastered the use of words to paint incredible pictures, either with books, screenplays or with songs. The first that come to mind are the likes of Oscar Wilde, Lee Daniels, Russel T. Davies, Alice Oseman, Christopher Isherwood, Steven Sondheim (caveat: I am not a big fan of Sondheim, but his contributions to music and theatre can't be overlooked), Albert Atlee, Becky Albertalli, Adam Silvera, Sir Francis Bacon, Christopher Colfer, Sir Elton John, James Baldwin, Emily Dickenson, Allen Ginsberg, Larry Kramer, Terrance McNally, Jonathan Larson, Wilfred Owen. The list goes on and on. This is just a miniscule sampling of the contributions we've made to story telling.
And then there's singers and actors. People like Elliot Page, Matt Bomer, Ben Whishaw, Janelle Monae, Sarah Paulson, Kate McKinnon, Titus Burgess, Wilson Cruz, Lee Pace, Yazmin Finney, BD Wong, Samira Wiley, Billy Porter, Sam Smith, Sir Elton John (again), Tig Notaro, Lavern Cox, Troye Sivan, Joe Locke, Rock Hudson, Anthony Perkins, Kit Conner, Jonathan Bailey, Sir Ian McKellan, Jodie Foster, Stephen Fry, Olly Alexander, Jane Lynch, Freddie Mercury, Rufus Wainwright and more and more and more.
These lists are in no way comprehensive.
My point with this is that we are at the cutting edge and forefront of every major field. We've revolutionized the world, fought tyranny, and we've contributed to global culture, and in many cases, created it.
This makes me feel PRIDE.
PRIDE in who we are, PRIDE in what we've done, PRIDE in what we're doing, and PRIDE in what we will do.
So let's have PRIDE in who we are, and what we've done.
But also, let's keep talking about it. What queer person makes you feel PRIDE? Seriously, I'm truly asking. Comment!
Keep your PRIDE about you, not just in PRIDE month, but always, because only you can be you. And that's something to be proud of.
And above all, remember:
You are seen, You are loved. You matter.