The Real Jesus
The first time I was in a parade, I was in middle school. I had won some kind of an award with the Ohio Optimists Club (not really sure how). Part of the prize/honor was riding on a float for the 4th of July parade. It was a South Pacific theme. I remember wearing rolled up jeans, a blue shirt tied in the front (don’t laugh at me) and a sailor’s hat. I remember sitting on the float just waving (I was told to wave). I don’t remember much of it. In fact, I had totally forgotten about it until last week.
Last week I said yes to helping out the Center on Halsted. They do great work for the LGBT community. I signed up awhile back to volunteer with their youth and transgender programs. So when given the opportunity to walk with them in the Pride Parade, I said yes.
I feel like I need to preface some things here (and I’m aware that it’s no longer a preface since it’s already 2 paragraphs in). I hate parades. I didn’t like the one I was in (could be blamed on hearing “Bali Hai” over and over again and being downwind from the volcano “smoke”), I despise watching the Macy’s parade, or any other parade for that matter. I find them crowded, stressful, boring, and wasteful. I am not a parade kinda gal.
So why did I say yes? Because I am all for the work that the Center does. I’m excited that I’ll be able to be a part of that work in the future. There’s that. But, there’s also that I wanted to see what this parade was all about and marching for 3 miles seemed like a better choice than viewing it from the sidelines with roughly 850,000 other people (no joke, that’s the official estimate – which sounds like an oxymoron… official estimate).
At the beginning when we were getting the float all set up, I could already tell it was going to be way different from that parade in Ohio. First of all, it was fun. People were excited and happy and hugging… it was a great energy. Then I looked over at the other floats in our area… and was amazed at all the different organizations, churches, and services that were there. Gay hockey. Gay Rodeo. Free HIV testing. There were lots of churches. Then of course there were what I would classify as the “party floats”. These were the ones that my brain assumed all floats would be at the Pride parade. Guys in just underwear dancing, chicks only wearing stickers in lieu of shirts dancing… that sort of thing. The party floats though, were not the majority.
Even with a crowd of 850,000, I was able to see a few friends in the crowd. It felt great knowing that they came out to support me. I was proud of myself today. I forced myself to be social. I chatted with a few of my fellow marchers. I saw someone in another float that I knew and went up and said hi. This is a pretty big deal for me. I realize that the older I get, the more introverted I become. So marching in a parade… not my comfort zone at all.
Everything was going really well during the march. The forecast called for thunderstorms, but it stayed gorgeous and sunny the entire time (by the way, I’m totally burnt and crispy right now). Towards the end of the route on the right hand side, there was a “pastor” – I put that in quotes because I think that anyone that spews hate out of a megaphone should not be leading people and is just a “pastor” in name only – with a ton of signs condemning the LGBT community. He also was going on and on about how we’re evil and going to burn in hell fire forever. I cried. I can’t describe what that made me feel, but tears were the response. What saved that scene from being terrible were a few things actually. There was a man holding an arrow sign pointing to the “pastor” that said “Secretly Gay”. I loved it. It added a bit of humor to the situation. Then there were other churches around apologizing for his hate rhetoric and offering hugs, prayer, love, and inclusion. One had a sign that said “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” and they had a rainbow on it. That’s what my dad said to me when I told him I was going to start dating women. That if God and I are cool, then he can’t say anything about it. So seeing that sign brought a little bit more peace and a lot of comfort to me. Those groups definitely showed Jesus’ love to all and helped to squash out the negative from the “pastor”.
So all in all, I wouldn’t do it again – but that’s because I’m not a parade person. But, I am so glad that I went. I’m so glad that I could be a part of it. More importantly though, I’m glad that the real Jesus, the Jesus of the Bible, the Jesus of my heart was there today to squash the negative voices and to love on all people.