Pride Month from a “Cousin’s” Perspective
By Marie Sweeney, DignityUSA Board Member
It is June and the month for most members of DignityUSA to together stand proud of unique gifts that come with the sacred experience of being a minority. This month for me however, as a “cousin,” a straight ally, is a time of awareness, inspiration and profound gratitude. I cannot be proud of LGBTQ members, because pride comes from within and I have not been blessed with your unique perspective. Instead I am a witness to your faith, your pride, and in many cases your resurrection, precisely because you are a minority within the Body of Christ. For many years I have seen your faith made diamond-like under the pressure of being treated with such disdain, or worse, apathy, by the institutional church. You have struggled, and come to believe in the love of God when the hierarchical structure would decide otherwise. I have been honored to see your surviving transform into thriving; your reactions transform into self-assertiveness; and your losses transform into inspiring and energizing memories leading to courage. The members of DignityUSA are not perfect, but unlike many of American bishops, your words inspire your actions, which give voice to your experience. There is an integrity when words are reflected in actions, and vice versa.
Over the past dozen years my husband and I have been members of Dignity, both locally and nationally for a very clear reason. We honor the voice of Dignity speaking from deeply-rooted faith and wisdom in all things LGBTQ. We have been embarrassed, angry, and confounded by the majority of the American bishops' failure to engage and celebrate your unique perspective. And we are not alone. The latest poll I have seen states that 73% of American Catholics support LGBTQ civil rights protection. Even before marriage equality was decided, American Catholics were the most supportive of the larger American religious denominations. Most Catholics recognize justice when they see it. In our own experience here in Columbus, Ohio, we know Catholics of every age (teens through our 87-year-old friend) who presume that people of faith embrace one another's gifts with expectations of celebrating what each has to offer. When I became a DignityUSA board member this past October, I realized I now had a "pulpit" from which to address other "cousins," straight allies for whom DignityUSA speaks. We had not been asked (that I am aware of) to actively support Dignity in speaking for us too. So over the course of several months I worked to get several more hosts to invite allies to an information evening here in Columbus. Sam Albano, DignityUSA Board Member from Indianapolis, had created an outline and brochure to address the many ministries that DignityUSA has embraced. Using his materials and tweaking them for our unique community, I teamed up with Bob Butts, DignityUSA Secretary and Board Member from Dayton, Ohio for an evening of making friends, providing information and inspiration to like-minded people of faith to help them see how much Dignity is already doing in our name also. We were also very happy to collect financial contributions for DignityUSA's work. This wasn't a matter of charity, but justice. As Americans we pay for what we value. Many "cousins" were delighted and impressed with Dignity's outreach to fired Church employees, guilty of being LGBTQ; to global LGBTQ members of the Body of Christ who are subject to capital punishment for being who God made them; to providing a fuller faith conversation to so many media outlets who seek DignityUSA's perspective when the bishops or Rome demonize sacred experience; to supporting young LGBTQ leaders so that their unique experience finds its expression. The two words I heard most often as people were leaving were "Wow!" and "Fun."
As many of you reflect on your own unique sacred experiences and as you claim pride in your faithfulness to God's gifts during June, we straight allies celebrate you also. We, the "cousins" in the family, thank you for inspiring us, for allowing us to share in your gospel lives. We praise God for your challenge to our own integrity, and we celebrate that we are together becoming what we celebrate, the Body and Blood of Christ.