My Quaker meeting marching in a gay pride parade. Imagine that.
This was, literally, the challenge given when a friend of mine, a gay man who attends another meeting not too far away and who is very active in the unprogrammed Quaker community, gave a presentation at my meeting last Sunday. I had asked him to speak on GLBT issues and Quakers just over a year ago when we attended a national gathering of queer Quakers.
He didn’t give the talk I had in mind, but it was the richer and more powerful. He spoke of accompanying someone through a hard or challenging time and how it can be both very difficult and very rewarding. He spoke of helping friends and his sister as they went through the process of dying, and he spoke of assisting me several years ago to get to a gathering in a rural area in another state.
My friend pointed out that it is important to be open to the other’s experiences and feelings and not to presume to know what s/he is going through. Also important is being patient with the other’s anger and frustrated and not to take it personally.
What my friend did so marvelously was to relate all this to how Quakers can embrace GBLT people. He talked about not only supporting but being an ally to queer friends in their struggle for validation and equal rights. He mentioned that, as in many cases of accompanying, this involves recognizing privilege and moving beyond it. For example, it is important to see that, in sharp contrast to a common argument, a straight couple’s marriage is devalued when a gay couple isn’t allowed to marry.
My friend stressed that it isn’t enough for Quakers to say, as my meeting does in minutes deep in our files, that GLBT people are equal and that they can marry. He said that Quakers need to "hang out there" with queer folks.
As in a gay pride parade. And not as individuals but as a meeting. And with a sign proclaiming our name. (My friend mentioned that this would be ten times more powerful than a gay church, like the Metropolitan Community Church, being in the parade.)
I’ve been saying something like this for a while. The way I put it is that Quakers have been hiding behind their "No on Proposition 8" signs (referring to California’s initiative banning same-sex marriage) and behind their minutes. It’s time for Quakers to stop hiding and to come out.