Sunday, 30 June 2013

Full-colour Pride

I'm trying to reflect on my first day at Pride, and finding it quite difficult.  I was quite emotional this morning, while walking around the Civic Centre in San Francisco, and I'm not sure why.  It's not like I haven't faced all of my own demons, and come to terms with who I am. I am comfortable in my sexuality, my faith, and my identity.

Still ... it was that positive an experience, being surrounded by literally every outfit, shape, colour, size, height, gender or gender expression, where everyone was comfortable, interacting positively and affirming of each other ... that I found myself close to tears a few times.  The rest of the time, I was wandering around with a grin on my face.

I saw men dressed as women, women dressed as men (with varying degrees of both), people wearing nothing, some guy wearing a single gold sock (not on his feet), goths, families with kids (dressed in rainbow colours), people in tutus, people with body painting, people wearing masks, people holding hands, dancing together, commercial sponsors affirming their customer base (no doubt for financial impact, but still positive and more than many commercial enterprises do), religious groups interacting in a positive and affirming way, and equal rights campaigners.

I'm guessing that some of my more evangelical counterparts may struggle to be exposed to someone wearing a gold sock, or even see the naturism stall, but none of it came across as sordid.  It wasn't about sex ... it was about variety, about expression, about identity and about acceptance.

Again, it seems to be highlighting to me how important it is that we not try to force people to separate their personal identity from their working or worshipping lives.  That fragments people and causes wounding and stress.  When we allow them to be whole in every sphere, they flourish, and as a result - our communities and our faith communities can flourish, too.

I reflected with Paul, an Episcopalian priest, the other day, that for many years of my life, I approached prayer and my relationship with God as an imperfect straight man with something to be ashamed of and to hide.  When I decided to change that, and approach God as a gay man, thankful for the gift of my sexuality, and learned to relate to God as a gay man, it was a profound moment of watershed in my life, and a real marker in my own healing process.

If we allow people to come to worship as themselves ... with their partners, their whole lives, then they can truly be who they were created to be!

And I haven't even moved on to the afternoon in Mission Dolores Park yet ...

The gathering at Mission Dolores was a warm-up for the San Francisco Dyke March towards the Castro.  It ran all day, with the march beginning around 6pm.  I got there at around 3.30pm and the first thing that struck me at Mission Dolores, was the large number of people ... I think estimating in excess of 30,000 would not be far off the mark (although my counting ability is impeded by a lack of attention span ... 1,2,3,4,5,10 ... lots!).

Again, there were people of every shape, colour, size, gender, gender identity, gender preference, culture and race.  They came on foot, on crutches, in wheelchairs, on mobility scooters, skateboards, stilts, inline skates (and two rather impressive electric bicycles with Li-Ion batteries!). The noise was incredible, but everybody was happy.  People were picnicking, catching up with friends, sitting with families, making new friends, buying food, dancing, raising awareness of campaigns & community groups.  It was called a Dyke march, but it was equally well supported by gay and straight men, straight women and trans men & women.  Again, people were wearing (or not wearing) all sorts, but the focus seemed to be on celebrating being together as a community.

The celebrations seemed heavily influenced by the recent ruling on Equal Marriage in California, and people were happy to gather together and rejoice that they had a future.  That's almost too heavy a concept to type quickly ... how different the atmosphere would've been if the ruling had been different.

Again, I was struck by the sense of joy, affirmation and community. It seemed that even the homeless were enjoying the event.

I waited to see the beginning of the march, and then - having spent the day surrounded by SEVERAL thousand people - needed to retreat to a coffee shop for some quiet time to reflect.  I keep coming back to that thought that it is so very important to allow people to bring their whole selves to every part of their lives, so that they can experience every part as a whole, and give themselves as a whole to every part, and be WHOLLY human.  It is deeply wrong for any faith community to adopt the attitude where they force people to leave their private lives behind closed doors, and attend services quietly, without people knowing who they really are, lest it offends a few.  So very deeply wrong.

Here's a few pics from today ...

Hugging someone at the Civic Plaza
He was giving away free hugs.

Civic Centre with rainbow flags

Thousands of people filling Mission Dolores Park
People as far as the eye can see
The drummers lead the parade onto the streets
Drumming group leading the parade onto the streets

The Dyke March for San Francisco Pride 2013 hits the streets
The start of the parade towards the Castro

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