Boise Gay Pride Parade in 1990 — the first of its kind in our state — was hope-inspiring and exhilarating.
It was also scary.
There weren’t all that many of us — maybe several dozen — gay and straight together, gathered on the Capitol steps and parading our city streets, speaking out for equality for our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender sisters and brothers. A seemingly equal number of “counter demonstrators” gathered across Jefferson from the Capitol, shouting and carrying signs. I recall the man with the vicious-appearing dog, snapping and snarling at the end of the chain the man held; the man smiled as he loosened the chain, just a little, toward us. There were people with a truly terrible sign: “We killed 9 million Jews. How many f—s [epithet for gay person] can we kill?” Many people shouted curses and insults.
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About a half dozen or so of us from the Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship attended, cheering each other on as we waved our little ink-jet printed signs. We were there in support of the Unitarian Universalist principle of the worth and dignity of all, that age-old religious idea that all people have that of the Divine within them. We were there to support the UU principle affirming justice, equity and compassion. We were there to support the UU principle of the interdependent web of all existence, declaring how all of life has been created in ways that weave everything together mysteriously and beautifully.
We and our companions in the spiritual search for justice were excited and happy to be there — and we also huddled together, inescapably a little afraid of the hate coming at us from across the street, from the sidelines of the parade. (In all fairness: a feisty Unitarian Universalist woman walked over and engaged the dog man in conversation. The rest of us didn’t.)
How incredibly different was the Gay Pride Festival last weekend. In these turbulent times, when it can sometimes feel as though the spiritual center of love and compassion has collapsed into hate and dissension, it is truly soul-affirming to see how this change from fear to joy has developed — so quickly — in the past 27 years.
Thousands of people thronged the events. Tons of corporations participated. (I started counting one bank’s parade contingent and lost track at 30 or so.) The Unitarian Universalist church presence was joined by Presbyterians, United Church of Christ and the entire Episcopal Diocese of Idaho, perhaps others I missed. The Drag Queens were lovely and cheered by all. Wife and wife, husband and husband walked safely and happily through the crowd. Rainbow flags were everywhere. Lots of people in non-mainstream dress and hair and piercing were met with smiles and acceptance.
It felt wonderful to be safe and open-hearted and just having fun celebrating this amazing progress toward justice for everyone. It felt like a triumph of commitment to loving our neighbor and treating each other as we would be treated. I don’t know where the hateful folks are, but at least they don’t feel their speech is acceptable any more — maybe they have learned how many of their friends and relatives are LGBTQ?
Although Pride is a secular event and is just plain fun, it also felt as though the best of spiritual principles underlay the event, contributing much-needed love to this world of ours.
Thanks so much, Pride organizers. You really do us proud.
Rev. Elizabeth Greene is Minister Emerita of the Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Idaho Statesman’s weekly faith column features a rotation of writers from many different faiths and perspectives.