Monday, June 3, 2013

I'm Sorry - Pride 2013

Yesterday afternoon I took part in my first Pride Parade.  

The lead-up to it has been years in the making.   
Though I have never had homophobic thoughts, feelings, or attitudes -
I am part of something bigger that has.

The church universal has a long and sordid history of shaming, hurting, rejecting, limiting, judging, and in some cases, even hating, members of the LGBTQ community.  Though much of this has taken place in conversations and sermons, letters and Bible Studies, some of it has been done with words printed on signs.  Words of hatred and venom.  (Fred Phelps, anyone?)

This was the second year that a group of Winnipeger's decided to physically make the presence of the church known at a Pride event.  Not to say, "you're wrong", or "if you'd change....", or something even stronger and much more hurtful.  The point was to say, "We're Sorry".  We're sorry for the way the church has hurt you.  We're sorry for the way Christians have used the Bible as a weapon against you.  We're sorry for putting conditions on you.  We're sorry for standing in judgement of you and making you feel afraid, shameful, or "less than".   On behalf of the church... we're sorry.

Parades are celebrations.  And so this motley group of Winnipeger's met up on Saturday night at our friends Jamie and Kim Arpin-Ricci's and the hub of Little Flower's Community and shared a meal together.  We ate, we played, we talked, and we got our craft on and made some signs.  Everyone who wanted to be was included.  Even our girls.  And though they personally have nothing to be sorry for, they understand how words can hurt, debilitate and immobilize you.  

We met up at the Legislative grounds on a beautiful sunny afternoon, and got ready to take our place as the parade passed us by.  

It really was a celebration.

As soon as the parade began, I was significantly impacted by what I saw and experienced.

Near the beginning, there were two middle-aged women walking hand in hand.  One had her head on her partner's shoulder and was openly sobbing as she passed us by.

There were huge crowds of people walking together.  A mish-mash of members of the LGBTQ community, allies, family members and friends.

There were older people and teenagers.  Lots of teenagers.  Amazingly, there were plenty of GSA's represented which made me so proud.  Despite all of the controversy, fear, anger, and disapproval, they were strong and brave enough to walk tall in the parade.

There was creativity.

There were high-fives and smiles.
Lots of waves and "thank you's".
Free hugs were also in abundance.

Parade-walkers snapped pictures.  I hope to think they wanted a memory of the words - the apology, and the spirit from which  they came.

There were babies and dogs and toddlers.   I was thrilled to see lots of school-age kids.
Imagine the different world our kids are going to be growing up in!

There were friends that I could call out from the crowd and share hugs with.

I had lots of emotional moments during the parade.  One stands out for me the most...
Two young women holding hands walked toward me and smiled.  One, through tears said, "can I have a hug?".  I wrapped my arms around her and she said, "Oh my god.  You have no idea how much this means to me."  I told Mike and when I got back to my post and we shared a tear and then continued to wave our flags and hold up our signs.

There is so much to say "I'm sorry" for.

The atmosphere really was one of celebration.  Celebrating who you are.  Celebrating the relationships that fill you with love.  Celebrating a community that has endured.  Only 21 years ago at the first Pride parade in Winnipeg, paper bags were passed out before the event so that anyone who wanted to remain hidden could do so.  20,000 smiling walkers in the parade tell me we've come a long way.

But we still have a long way to go.

On our "I'm Sorry" facebook page today, someone who walked by as part of the parade left this as part of a message:

"After years of being out of the closet and working in both education and advocacy to make the world a better place for all LGBTTQ and allied folks, the impact of the importance of movements like yours hit in a way that I never expected. 

I somehow felt a touch of the weight of all that we as humans do to each other that is hurtful - and the importance of doing something positive about it, regardless of who we are and where we stand on any issue.

The power of an apology is amazing and even though I don't think I have met any of you personally, your presence and willingness to apologize for a history that you have inherited was truly appreciated."

I was humbled and impacted and made better by sharing in the celebration yesterday.
I was so thankful to have my family with me.
Our girls are growing up appreciating, celebrating and honoring diversity.

Hopefully by the time they are adults, their generation will have far less to be sorry for.

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