The Episcopal Church teaches that we respect the dignity of every human person. We promise to strive for justice and peace for all God’s people. June is Pride Month, and many Episcopal parishes and dioceses are participating in Pride events. Phoenix celebrates pride in October because June is simply too hot here.

               When I was a kid, I loved to watch movies, television, and sports. Based on the movies, TV shows, and sports that I’d watch, my friends and I would create games of our own. We pretended we were Batman and Robin. We pretended we were Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. We pretended we played for the San Diego Chargers and our opponents were the Los Angeles Raiders. When I turned on the news, I believed I could be President of the United States if I wanted. I could be a doctor or a lawyer or even a priest. I believed I could graduate from high school and then go play college football at Notre Dame. I believed I could be a stand-up comedian or a singer or a movie star. I could be an astronaut or a scientist, or even my childhood dream job: paleontologist! As a side note, the biggest draw to being a paleontologist to me was studying dinosaurs. A close second was wearing shorts to work every day. It doesn’t take much to please a kid. Anyhow, what I’m getting at is that nothing seemed off limits to me. And in my mind, nothing was off limits. I could do whatever I wanted and I could grow up to be whatever I wanted. I could dream big and then go out and make it happen. Sadly, this is not everyone’s shared experience.

               Why did I feel comfortable pretending I was a character from a movie or a TV show? Why did I think I could quarterback the San Diego Chargers someday? Why did I think I had a chance to be president or a paleontologist? Why did nothing seem off limits to me? Because growing up, I saw people who looked like me doing all of those things. Males with European skin tones were visible everywhere. Virtually all of these men were married to women. The unmarried men were revered for their perceived virility and their history of serial dating. Even men who were married were sometimes praised for their infidelities (remember President Bill Clinton?). While I wasn’t interested in serial dating, I was attracted to women and I believed someday I would grow up and become married to a woman. The life I lived was consistent with the lives of so many successful people in this country. As a white, straight, Christian male in the United States, I believed I could do anything I wanted. All I needed to do was to work for it.

               Among some of the things that happened during my childhood in the early 90s was an increase in awareness about the LGBTQ+ community. President Clinton signed litigation for something called the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in the United States Armed Forces. Essentially what this policy meant was that a person could not be asked about their sexuality, but also ought not disclose their sexuality when serving in the military or instead face dismissal. Seen as a compromise, the policy later became recognized as unfair and unconstitutional. President Clinton also signed legislation called the Defense of Marriage Act, a policy that banned same-sex marriage federally and did not require states to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions in the same way that opposite-sex marriages are recognized from state to state. There was a lot of rhetoric surrounding LGBTQ+ persons, and I was taught that their “behavior and lifestyles” were wrong. Clearly, by the aforementioned legislation and other harmful polices that exist even to this day, I was not the only person who was taught this.

               I’m happy to say that both of these policies have since been stricken down. I’m also happy to say I’m an ally for the LGBTQ+ community. If you’ve seen an uptick in the prevalence of rainbow flags and clothing lately, then you are well aware that June is known as Pride Month. It is a month when people from the LGBTQ+ community are celebrated for who they are and acknowledged for their contributions to the world. During Pride Month, it’s not uncommon to hear things like, “Why isn’t there a straight pride month?” or “What about our veterans?” or “Why do they have to shove it down our throats?” These questions often come from people who, like me, grew up with plenty of examples of people who were like them doing just about anything in life that they wanted to. The attitude suggests something like, “No one is paying any special attention to me, why should I pay special attention to someone else?” And the reason can be found within the question. The reason there isn’t a specific month to celebrate straight pride is because it isn’t necessary. Straight people have been celebrated for years. We’ve seen examples of straight people in sports and in movies and on television for years. When two people meet, there’s an assumption that the other person is straight. For years and years and years, heterosexuality has been seen as the default. This is something called heteronormativity. Because straight is already seen as the default, there is no need to raise awareness for “straight causes”. People are already plenty aware that straight people exist and can live their lives as they please. The same is not always true for LGBTQ+ people.

               Let me assure you that Pride celebrations in no way take away from supporting military veterans. Our military veterans are deeply important to our country. This does include many LGBTQ+ veterans who served before, during, and after Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It is possible to celebrate more than one thing at a time, and we certainly do celebrate our veterans every day. In fact, May is Military Appreciation Month, so there is an entire month dedicated to celebrating our military members. And when people complain that Pride “shoves something down their throats,” then they’re kind of missing the point. By celebrating Pride, we’re not suggesting that straight people change who they are and become gay. That’s not how it works. A person doesn’t simply “become gay.” Instead, it raises awareness that living as an LGBTQ+ person is a perfectly valid way to live.

               Pride is celebrated in June in remembrance of the Stonewall Riots. In June of 1969, the Stonewall Inn in New York City was raided by police. The Stonewall was a popular gay and lesbian bar. While police raids on gay and lesbian hangouts were common prior to the late 1960s, the Stonewall was reportedly run by members of the mafia (the Genovese family, in fact). This meant the patrons of that establishment had backup to protect them. Rioting as a result of the police raid lasted several days and police eventually backed off. This sparked a feeling of empowerment for LGBTQ+ people who had previously felt nothing but marginalized. A year later, in commemoration of the events, parades and marches were held in cities around the country. These annual celebrations eventually transformed into the Pride events we celebrate today.

Pride is the emotion opposite of shame. When we celebrate Pride, we’re stomping out shame. No one should feel shame for being the person God made them to be. Pride for the LGBTQ+ community takes nothing away from people who are not LGBTQ+. If everyone on earth was the same, then wouldn’t the world be a boring place? I believe God celebrates diversity. After all, diversity was his idea! When we celebrate Pride, we ensure there is visibility and representation for people from the LGBTQ+ community. This is the same kind of representation I always had growing up. The representation that convinced me I could be or do anything I wanted to in life. LGBTQ+ people can do anything they want to do in life as well. LGBTQ+ people should be seen, heard, and celebrated. Celebrating people for who they are, and promoting visibility and representation, are simple ways to share the love of God in the world. Every June, I fly a Pride flag outside my home (on national holidays I fly the US flag). Won’t you join me in celebrating Pride this month? If you are a member of the LGBTQ+ community, then I love you for who you are. If you are not a member of the LGBTQ+ community, then please join me as an ally. There is plenty of room for everyone at the table of the Lord, and I want as many people as possible to feel welcomed and loved when they arrive.

Pride in the Name of Love