Ahhh, June! Time to get your Pride on! Gay Pride celebrations are happening every weekend in the tri-state area and beyond. For those of us who have been around a while (you know who you are!), this era of unprecedented acceptance of gays in the mainstream media, pro sports, politics and entertainment is both humbling and empowering. Today’s gay youth will never truly understand the struggles of those who came before them; the drag queens who fought back at Stonewall, the radical dykes whose in-your-face attitudes helped advance women’s rights, and those who quietly blended into straight society, changing the public’s perception of gays to the point where many of those formerly opposed to the concepts of tolerance and inclusion, became allies to the LGBT community.
For many, Pride month is tinged with sadness because, despite advances, they still feel unwelcome in the churches, synagogues or mosques where they worshipped as children.
In the past, being ostracized by one’s religious institution could be seen as a generally accepted consequence of coming out. Today, however, GLBT people are reclaiming their place in houses of worship in large numbers. For some, it’s the sense of community that comes with membership in a congregation that they want for themselves or their children.
For others, it’s a realization that being gay and being religious need not be mutually exclusive. And for many, it’s the desire to carry on a family tradition of First Holy Communions, Bar or Bat Mitzvahs and other coming-of-age celebrations and religious holidays and to honor the spiritual origins of holidays like Christmas, Passover and Ramadan.
So, how does a GLBT person reconcile his or her sexuality with the perceived Biblical prohibitions of homosexual identity or expression? For those whose personal religious upbringing puts their or their family member’s, sexuality at odds with the core doctrine of their chosen religion, I highly recommend the documentary, “For The Bible Tells Me So.” Director Daniel Karslake’s award-winning film, takes on Leviticus and some of the other verses of scripture that are often quoted in anti-gay rhetoric espoused by radicals like Fred Phelps as well as those who are sincere in their concern for how GLBT people will be judged by God.
Acceptance of gay people into organized religions has been slowly increasing since the 1970’s. “Open and Affirming,” a term used to describe gay-inclusive congregations, has become much more common over the past decade. This indicates full acceptance of gay people into a particular affiliation, and differs from the traditional “Love the sinner, hate the sin” approach taken by some denominations. There are many options available to today’s GLBT singles and families seeking full acceptance, not mere tolerance, into a religious community. For those searching for a religious home, a quick Google search for an “Open and Affirming (Church, Synagogue, Mosque, etc.) will produce many results. But welcoming congregations abound, and with a little persistence, it is possible to find a spiritual home that fits your needs and those of your family.
By Chris McNamee