This has quite possibly been one of the most challenging couple of weeks in the Gender and Sexually Diverse community of Regina’s history.
For those of you that may not know, our local pride committee selected two grand marshals this year. One was Aids Programs South Saskatchewan, the other was a football player from an NFL team who’s originally from Regina. This football player was selected as having showed qualities consistent with what some might consider an ally to the GSD community.
Then tempers flared.
On one hand members of the community were happy that an ally with a big name and possible draw quality was selected. On the other hand, members of our community were frustrated and angered by the idea of walking behind a cis-gender heterosexual person. Last Wednesday, there was a town hall meeting where some members of the community gathered to voice their frustrations, pain, and opinions.
Where a lot of us felt like there was going to be shouting and yelling, what ended up happening was just about everyone was able to voice their opinions, express how they felt, and to do so in a way that was constructive, safe, and community-building. A lot of things were said in the meeting that brought together diverse communities that exist within the greater community, something that has needed to happen for a long time.
A statement was released to the press (who were in fact hovering outside the meeting looking for a story, and when one wasn’t provided to them in the time frame they required, created one in the style of what I would consider tabloid journalism), the community once again reacted. This time, words and phrases were bantered about that were not only divisive, but contained the kind of sting and anger that we as GDS people would only expect from the extreme right or fundamentalist Christendom.
The virtue this week is imitation of Jesus. A lot of us within the GSD community have experience pain, trauma, and rejection from religious organisations through the years, so the idea of imitating the figure head of the organisation behind that suffering seems contrarian, seems indignant, seems frustrating at it’s best. I’m not writing this blog post for those people.
This post is for the people who do walk that knife edge of being both queer and Christian, or in my case, queer and Catholic. Part of the challenge we have to live is that we potentially face rejection and scorn from both our GDS community and our religious and/or spiritual community. As much as this pushes many of us to practice in secret, or in ways that may compromise the strength of our faith, we are in fact called to preach the gospel at every opportunity–and to use words when necessary. Rather than announce our faith verbally, the community has to come to know who we are by what we do, why we do it being secondary.
And that means emulating Our Lord when He said, “Forgive them, Father. They know not what they do.”
It means forgiving people whom we would instead rather lash out at, lash out at with the support of community, for beliefs and actions that are contrary to the innate right to existence we as GSD people have (that in fact every human being is entitled to). It means forgiveness of the most vicious, the most hurtful, the most painful–especially and even when these comments come from people we considered to be allies or friends.
I have been made aware of shameful behaviour that has occurred in our community, committed by members of our own community towards other members. There are groups who at this moment are watching, waiting for the opportunity to strike at our rights, waiting for the moments when we are most divided, and most in conflict with each other. As my partner so prolifically quoted, “A house divided against itself will fall.”
If in the next few weeks we suffer setbacks at the hands of other individuals or organizations, we have no one to blame but ourselves: not the press, not the right, not the fundamentalist. Ourselves. Our community has shown great promise and potential, but in the same light, has said things that cut to the core of who we are, what we are supposed to be, in ways that I can only conceive to be described as fascist.
When individuals behave in this kind of way to their own community, they turn their backs on where they came from. In effect, they turn their back on the people who had to work and to sacrifice so much for their rights.
To people who use words like terrorist to describe people with differing opinions in the GSD community of Regina, to people who confine people to what they can and cannot do within the GSD community because of the limited opinions of their limited binary thinking:
You have turned your back on your roots, on your heritage, in exchange for the comfort of the illusion of righteous superiority.
When people in our own community revert to treating people of our community as second class citizens, they allow and give permission for the GSD community to once again fall into a condition of not being taken seriously, and for those of the extreme opinions to act against us confidently.
Wake up. Wake up. Wake up.
Pray. Love. Learn. Be ok with being uncomfortable, be ok with recognizing anger and frustration at an opinion or an action as possibly being a trigger to recognize your own privilege. It happens to me all the time, and it bothers me, and I’m grateful for it.
We must be like Jesus, but we have to be like Saint Francis of Assisi as well, and literally challenge ourselves to see our own faces in every human being that we encounter. Especially the people we are most afraid to see our own reflections in. Be that a football player, a reporter, a protester, someone struggling to find their identity, or someone who’s confidence in their identity possibly shakes our confidence in our own.