Pride month is here! It’s a time of year when the subversive joy and liberated love of LGBTQ+ communities are displayed. It is also a time when Bank of America, Google and Walmart wave rainbow flags in an effort to turn a profit and pad their PR cred. The lament I hear from the queer community is similar to what I hear among Christians concerning the commercialization of Christmas. Christmas has so thoroughly and successfully been colonized that huge numbers of people now picture God as Coca-Cola’s Santa Claus. Pride month, however, has a cadre of vital advocates who refuse to surrender the month to capitalist and imperialist forces.
While some practical benefit accompanies corporations, government entities and (to some degree) liberal churches signing up for floats in Pride parades and flying rainbow flags, it is an acceptance that comes at a cost. Dominant cultures intentionally demand assimilation as the price of admission, especially to movements that threaten their hold on power. The argument that queer love or sex is “not anybody’s business” has been usefully employed over the years, but it is not the impetus behind Pride month. As subversive LGBTQ+ prophets have been saying, the first Pride was a riot led by trans women of color who refused to be shamed and harassed by the state (the police in particular). It was not a buy-one-get-one sale. It was a political event.
I love the name Pride, because it provokes a direct confrontation with traditional, dominant culture theology, where pride is viewed as the ultimate, original sin. The traditional church hierarchy has interpreted the garden of Eden story as one of prioritizing human pridefulness over obedience to God. But mystical theology, and particularly womanist and queer theology, has flipped how Eden is interpreted. Marginalized groups have seen the struggle not as Eve refusing to listen to God, but Eve believing the serpent’s lie that she is deficient, unworthy and flawed. These thinkers assert that shame is the ultimate source of strife, not pride.
Lil Nas X’s music video “Montero” demonstrates this subversive theology: He flaunts his queerness while striding through Eden, then pole dances his way to Hell and gives the Devil a lap dance before snapping Satan’s neck and taking his horns. It is not through deception that Lil Nas X defeats the evil one but through unflinching authenticity, unapologetic pride and a refusal to internalize shame. The dominant culture Church carries tremendous responsibility for producing repression and violence. May it open its ears to the LGBTQ+ prophets who have a message of liberation for all of us. And may the beautiful parts of you that have been most repressed under society’s shaming eye be brought into greater liberation and pride this month.
Rev. John Helmiere is co-convener of Valley & Mountain in South Seattle.
Read more of the June 9-15, 2021 issue.