Friday night, I marched with a contingent from my Unitarian church in the Gay Pride parade in Louisville. This annual event is very special to me. It’s not only because it expresses my deepest values that we all have the right to be accepted and celebrated for who we are and whom we love. It’s also because it’s just such a “feel-good” occasion! There is something quite magical about folks of diverse ages, races, sexual orientations, and gender identities coming together to celebrate love in a hug-filled, colorful way. For a few hours, I feel as though I’ve stepped into a judgment-free zone. We are who we are—gay, straight, neither—and all have seats (well, make that floats) at the table.
I couldn’t help but compare this experience to the one my husband and I had the week before when we attended an evening of cutting edge performances by artists who’d spent a year in a special mentoring program. The program’s theme was “Dis/Comfort Zones.” We’d come to support a former modern dance colleague, Theresa Bautista, who performed her brilliant solo, “I am a pretty girl.” Afterward, we wandered over to the art gallery where viewers were invited to add comments to white boards on what makes them comfortable and uncomfortable. My husband, probably the least sexist, traditional white male I know, not to mention being a strong supporter of gay rights, visibly drew back when he read some of the comments. One person wrote that what makes him/her/they uncomfortable is “straight men.” And another wrote that makes him/her/they comfortable is “the destruction of the white male patriarchy.”
I can appreciate the level of woundedness from which these comments came. Even as a privileged white woman, I’ve certainly experienced being the brunt of discrimination and poor treatment from white males in the work place. And if you’d asked my husband if he’d like to see a world in which the playing field were level, he would of course say “yes.”
But what I think made my husband feel badly is the sense of being judged and labelled for something over which he had no control. He didn’t choose to be white, male, and heterosexual any more than someone else chose to be a person of color with a different sexual orientation and gender identity.
In a way, the comments he read are symptomatic of our times in which we are busily judging one another and shoving each other into boxes of “good/bad,” “worthy/unworthy.”
My hope is that instead of inflicting judgmental labels and stereotypes upon one another, we can use our anger, hurt, and woundedness to work for positive change.
The labels don’t help. What does help is building alliances and engaging in authentic dialogue and action on behalf of social justice for everyone.
And of course, I also recommend pride parades in which we genuinely come together to “stand on the side of love.”