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Pride, Prejudice and Pandemic

A 2020 Pride Message for the Dignity Community from Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director

I am surely not the first to note that this is a Pride Month like no other. With most Pride marches and festivals canceled out of well-placed concern for the health of our community and avoiding the risk of gatherings that might fuel further spread of a highly infectious virus, the jubilant displays of our community’s resilience, diversity and commitment to justice and equality will not brighten our streets and community parks this year. It is wise and responsible for these events to be canceled for 2020, but I know many LGBTQI people, allies, and family members will miss the exuberant celebrations.

As I reflect on how we as Catholics might best observe Pride this troubling year, I have become more deeply aware and appreciative of the many gifts our community has offered and can offer to a nation and a world experiencing a unique moment of social, physical, economic and spiritual crisis.

  • We know how to endure long-suffering. Those of us who struggled with or hid our gender identity or sexual orientation from family and society until it was the right time to come out can provide perspective on a crisis that leaves many isolated, has no clear end time, and no certain path forward. We embody the certainty that, over time, “it will get better.”
  • We know how to build bridges despite difference, especially in times of crisis. One of the great lessons of the HIV/AIDS crisis of late last century was increased cooperation between those who identified as male and female, people of all races and beliefs, and people across income and social spectra. The virus did not respect characteristics that seemed to matter for so much else. By focusing on the need to protect human life, and recognizing that those in desperate circumstances, no matter how these were defined, were most vulnerable, we found protection strategies, demanded political attention, and focused scientific resources on treatments. Our younger community members have shown us much about how people of various identities, cultures, ethnicities, even countries can be community to one another. We can bring this talent of bringing people together to the fore in this pandemic, as well.
  • We have found ways to weaken, if not entirely eradicate, cisgender heteronormativity in many societies. By speaking and living our truth, we have forced those who love us and those who hold power to rethink many traditions, social norms, policies, and laws. We understand the pain and dehumanization of having our realities and our needs discounted or made invisible. This should give us great empathy towards the struggles of our kin of color, within our own communities and on the national and global scales. For those of us who are white, the challenge is to stand firmly in that place of empathy, rather than accepting the privilege that comes at the expense of others.
  • We know how good Allies behave. Strides towards LGBTQI equality were only possible when Allies took up our cause. We benefited from straight, cisgendered people who made sure our voices and our words were heard, and then used their positions, money, and bodies to help bring about needed change. We can and must emulate this behavior on behalf of our Black and Brown kin, those feeling economic desperation, and all who lack access to social goods.
  • We know how to celebrate. Even in these deeply troubling times, there is grace and goodness. Whether it is manifested as a police official kneeling with and embracing those protesting racial injustice, communities celebrating virtual liturgies so as not to risk health and safety, reveling in the beauty of an ebullient hydrangea or affecting piece of art, welcoming a new baby to the world, or experiencing a real moment of connection in conversation with another, sparks of joy and gratitude help to make these very real struggles bearable. We know how to revel in such moments, how to stitch them together into a tapestry of vibrant color and wave these flags so others are lifted up.

Our nation, our church, and our world need our endurance, our outreach, our refusal to accept the status quo, our commitment to lifting up those made low, and our jubilation. These are the qualities that will lead us all out of this terrible time and bring a fuller measure of equity to the lives of many. So, march on, my friends, this Pride month and in the months to come. I celebrate your lives, your loving, your truth, your strength. Use them to heal and transform our world.