Oh hey, it’s Pride Month!
Since June of 1970, one year after the Stonewall Riots, Pride has been a beautiful time of parades, parties, mourning, protests, and glitter. This year is the first time I have been able to openly celebrate it as my super gay self, and let me tell you, it feels darn good. After a long year full of many difficult coming out conversations, I am proud indeed.
If you’ve never had to come out before, you might not realize just how strange and stressful the process is. It is a process that is further complicated by the fact that there seems to be two kinds of “coming out” occasions these days. First, there’s the kind that you have in the living room or over coffee, with loved ones who need to finally be told a significant and intimate detail about your life. This is the terrifying, vulnerable, awkward kind. This is the kind that can even come with a risk of losing friends and family. It’s the kind that usually ends in crying or hugging or both. This is the kind I have gotten REALLY good at.
And then there’s the social media kind, which, in the grand scheme of queer history, is a Very New Thing. I’ve never really hopped on this train. While I frequently reference LGBTQ issues on Twitter and Facebook, I don’t think I have ever explicitly said the words “I’m gay” on the internet, nor have I shared any of my personal journey to self-acceptance. It’s not that I’m embarrassed or ashamed. Not at all. The problem is that I know that my story matters, but I also firmly believe that I do not owe my story to anyone. I would love to put my life out there for people who could benefit from hearing about my experience, but I’m still pretty bitter that “coming out” is even a thing that anyone has to do in 2017. I’m angry about the fact that coming out means being pressured to prove myself as both a legitimate Christ-follower and a legitimate gay person (as opposed to a sexually confused sinner who has been led astray). While I am confident and secure in my identity in Christ as well as my identity as a gay woman, that pressure is still exhausting.
However, I have started to realize that the possibility of making a few queer kids feel less alone might outweigh the frustration of constantly explaining my existence. And I think that might be part of what makes Pride Month so beautiful. Parades are not a form of apologetics. We do not dance in the streets in an attempt to make ourselves more palatable to society. We do not hold hands or raise our fists in an effort to make straight people like us. We do these things because we are human, and we do them together because we need each other.
I am aware that this blog post is going to be read by two kinds of people: straight folks and non-straight folks. To my straight friends, I want to say that I love you. I want to dialogue with you. I want to talk about sexuality and theology and power and privilege and other important things. But not right now. This post is not for you. I’ll catch you in July.
Now…to my queer family,
I also want to say that I love you. Like, so much that it hurts. In fact, a LOT of people love you, even if that doesn’t always feel true.
I want you to understand just how strong you are, even if you haven’t “come out” yet, and even if you never do. Your survival is bravery and I’m so incredibly proud of you.
I want you to know that you are not alone in any of this and that you are not disqualified from the Kingdom of God.
I want to tell you that there is a space for you in the Church and in the LGBT community, and there are some great folks waiting for you with open arms here at the intersection.
I want to be a source of encouragement and a point of connection for you. I want to introduce you to the people who made me feel like I was gonna be ok. I want to let you borrow some books. I want to get coffee with you. I’ll tell you my story and you can tell me yours.
I honestly can’t think of a more beautiful way to celebrate my first real Pride Month. And I guess if I need to do this whole social-media-coming-out thing in order to make those connections happen, then so be it. I’m really gay, you guys.
Happy June, everyone! May your month be full of joy, glitter, and a deep awareness of God’s love.
Caitlin J. Stout