I am cross posting this from Spartanburg’s Flying Oskar as I usually do. However this is a bit difference being in response to input requested about this years upcoming Pride Festival held to show support and love to our LGBT community members. The opinions I state her are naturally mine, and will not be agreed upon by everyone. That’s ok. I still believe that God thinks you are amazing, and that differences of opinion are not as important as we often assume.
I am skipping this week’s regularly scheduled Miss Mom, to join in with others who have already contributed to this conversation. You see I used to view the issues facing LGBT somewhat differently. Mostly it was because of ignorance. Except for a brief period when I was in college the first time around, and working at the World’s Fair in Knoxville Tennessee, I hadn’t interacted knowingly with anyone who was gay. I was like many Americans, believing that people who are LGBT were like the caricature figures one saw in TV or movies. I bought into the sames stereotype of them that many buy into, just like many buy into the stereotype that all southern people from rural areas are stupid and backwards, or that all poor people on government assistance want the government to pay all their bills so they don’t have to work. That’s the problem with stereotypes, they are almost always inaccurate.
Yet, something kept me from going along with the increasing push back that people in the LGBT were getting when they revealed who and what they were. I found it rather ironic that others had seemingly no problems when celebrities announced they were gay, but were quite upset or angry to learn that someone they knew was. When legislation was considered about traditional marriage, I was a bit dubious about the necessity. What was being suggested, at least to me, was that there was a nefarious gay agenda. I at the time didn’t understand what was being asked by the LGBT community, and wondered why a compromise couldn’t be considered when it came to issues like marriage. I heard repeatedly the phrase “traditional marriage” like it was the holy grail of intimate relationships, and an enemy was threatening to steal it. I knew there was something off about all of that, but I didn’t know exactly what, so I just went along. Something I very much regret.
Then I moved to the upstate of South Carolina, a place despite its strong conservative mindset is rich in cultural diversity. I met people here from walks of life quite different from what I had known before. I’d always suspected that there was more to humanity then the limited variety I had been exposed to before. It was confirmed to my delight, that people, despite cultural or ethnic background are not as different from my self as can easily be assumed. I’d long secretly harbored the thoughts that things were that way, but it wasn’t until meeting and working with people from other backgrounds then did I get confirmation.
Then I saw up close and personal how bigotry still plays a huge part in our culture. I didn’t until then realize how I’d been sheltered from how people can be so ugly to another just because they are slightly different culturally or ethnically. Most of the time it wasn’t aimed directly at the person in question, but as an aside to me because it was assumed I would be in agreement. The more I saw, the more I heard, the less I liked it. The more I saw, the more I heard, I compared to my own personal beliefs. The more I saw, the more I heard the more I recognized the wrongness of it. The more I saw and the more I heard, the sadder and angrier it made me.
You see I am a Christian, and much of what I had been told regarding the LGBT community I had heard from other Christians. I like many of my faith, didn’t really question what I was hearing, until given the opportunity to see things on a highly personal level. I discovered that, in a way, we’d been lied to. Why? I cannot answer, but it is quite possible for the same reasons, I had halfheartedly went along with their views, simple ignorance, which was blended with fear, a sense of superiority and out and out prejudice. I didn’t stand up then, because I didn’t know how to. I didn’t know what to say or how to say it. I know now.
My views on how I perceive my religion have evolved over the years. I have learned that a willingness to at least consider another viewpoint was quite healthy. Part of that evolutionary process was a move away from certain conservative leanings as I found that they were often inconsistent in practice and intent.
My faith is based on the teachings of a former Jewish Carpenter, whom I happened to believe had an amazing purpose for all of us. His teachings were revolutionary then, and they are still revolutionary today. He broke cultural taboos, by interacting with social outcasts, by talking and befriending people with life threatening and highly contagious diseases. He championed compassion, commanding that we love others with the same capacity we reserve for ourselves. He told a story of a man injured and left to die by a roadside, and being ignored by others who couldn’t be bothered with his plight for less then noble reasons, then rescued by someone who’s culture and social standings was considered offensive by those who passed the injured man by.
It is because of my personal views of my faith, and the cherished friendships of people who just also happen to be gay, that I no longer find myself on the fence. I don’t belong there anymore. In fact I never did. I believe with all my heart that it is important for us to practice respect and dignity to all that we meet. That is part of the reason for the event on June 4, and is an important reason. Our LGBT community members come from a wide spectrum of ideologies, political leanings, religious thought, cultural and ethnic background, income and educational levels, occupations and age groups. They are neighbors, our friends, our co-workers, our relatives and even sometimes ourselves. They like any of us only want to be treated as we expect to be treated. They are part of our community, this place we call home.
It is my hope and prayer that once again the Pride event is highly successful, that more people gain understanding of these members of our community, and how treating them less then someone of exceeding worth is counter to the faith so many of us hold dear. It is my hope and prayer that the first Saturday in June, is another event that brings more people together, new friends are made and this little southern city shows the world that we mean what we say when it comes to loving our neighbor.
I had planned on marching this year. I had asked for time off from work in advance in anticipation of attending this year’s Pride March. I may still be able to attend part of the later events, but another obligation will have me miss the actual march. I will be thinking of all of you and planning to try again next year. In the meantime you have my respect, my love and my support.