A year ago, I shared a blog post titled "The Pros and Cons of Pride", which discussed both the good that results from Pride events, as well as the ways in which Pride does a disservice to the queer community. In my post, I shared that the two areas that I felt did the most harm included the anti-religious tone that I felt when attending, and the overt display of sexuality and sexual content.
There is little I can do regarding the latter, though I have decided that I can take steps to address the first.
Three weeks ago, the annual Pride Celebration was held in Salt Lake City. Though I had no real interest in attending the festival or exposing myself to the overt displays of sexuality that I have seen in the past, there were a few events at Pride that resonated with me that I did want to attend.
Two years ago at Pride, I attended the Interfaith Service and March. Much of what was shared in the Interfaith Service resonated with me. In contrast to the anti-religious tone I felt the first year I attended Pride, here was a place where people were coming together to celebrate their spirituality, and combat the message that coming out means one can no longer be a person of faith. For me, it was great to see so many people from so many different spiritual backgrounds come together and offer a contrast to the tone I felt at many of the other events at Pride.
I was interested in attending the Interfaith Service at Pride this year, though unfortunately my schedule did not permit it. But I was free at the time of the Interfaith Rally and March. And I also had the time available to march with Mormons Building Bridges in the parade.
As I considered attending events at Pride this year, I had to make a decision. Would the positive that I experienced and was able to share with others outweigh the negative that might come of it?
On the positive side, I would be giving myself the opportunity to spend time with and connect with others in the queer community for whom spirituality and faith was important and I would be able to take action to show others that there are people of faith (including people of the LDS faith) that show love, compassion and acceptance to those in the queer community.
On the negative side, I would potentially be exposing myself to the displays of sexuality that I mentioned (which I would prefer to avoid), and my attendance at both the Interfaith Rally and March and with Mormons Building Bridges in the parade could be potentially misinterpreted as messages that either I am open to or intend to pursue romantic and/or sexual relationships with men, or that I am lobbying my church to change its doctrines, policies or positions on same-sex relationships and marriage.
In the end, I decided that the positive outweighed the negative. I decided that by attending only these events, I could limit my exposure to sexual displays and content, and that I would be very clear that the only message I was sending was that of the sign I carried in the parade: "Love One Another."
I attended the Interfaith Rally and March with a couple of friends. There were things that were said or shared that resonated with me, and there were other things that did not. Likewise, when I marched with Mormons Building Bridges, there were others around me carrying signs that had messages that resonated me, while there were others that did not. And that was okay. With any group or organization that I associate with, I have learned to take what fits and leave the rest, and allow others to do the same. Someone else having a different opinion or belief than my own does nothing to diminish or threaten my own opinions and beliefs.
One of things that resonated the most with me was an exercise on compassion shared at the Interfaith Rally. The invitation is to look on someone who is different than me and that I may be tempted to judge, and take these five steps:
1. With attention on the person, repeat to yourself: "Just like me, this person is seeking some happiness in his/her life."
2. With attention on the person, repeat to yourself: "Just like me, this person is trying to avoid suffering in his/her life."
3. With attention on the person, repeat to yourself: "Just like me, this person has known sadness, loneliness and despair."
4. With attention on the person, repeat to yourself: "Just like me, this person is seeking to fulfill his/her needs."
5. With attention on the person, repeat to yourself: "Just like me, this person is learning about life."
I was glad to take a part in building bridges of compassion, love and understanding. Though I have long expressed so what I've said and written, it has been far more powerful to express it through my actions. I look forward to further opportunities to participate in building bridges.
As always, your feedback and comments are welcome.