Rainbow Spirits

img_0266-1For LGBTQIA folks all over the world, June is Pride Month. This morning I led a worship service at Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church celebrating Pride and the colorful rainbow of LGBTQIA humanity. Here is a transcript of my sermon. (Links to source material are provided in the text.)

Rainbow Spirits: Celebrating Pride

Sermon – ORUUC – June 25, 2017
FOR PRIDE
Reading By Lois Van Leer

[http://www.uua.org/worship/words/reading/pride]

They will march, walk, wheel, dance, shimmy and shake
Block upon block of undulating color, flesh, banners, signs, clothing or lack thereof

Hands raised, hands linked, apart, together

Singing, shouting, chanting, silent,

Joyous, tearful, nervous, afraid, proud, defiant, angry, happy, delirious, tentative, ecstatic, courageous, brave, free
The stereotype

The unrecognizable

The flamboyant

The ordinary

The parent, the child

The runaway, the lost, the lonely, the found
Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual, Trans, Queer, Intersexed, Questioning

Allies

Those who taunt and jeer

Their banners of hate 10 feet tall:

“God made Adam and Eve; not Adam and Steve”

“Burn in Hell”

The other slogans:

“Straight but Not Narrow”

“I love my gay child”

“Standing on the Side of Love”
One day a year

One out of 365

Mardi Gras out of season

Festive, bacchanalian, tame,

Booths, food, shopping!
Underneath there is a history:

Resistance.

It was the marginalized of the marginalized,

Drag queens, transvestites, the butch and the femme

Who unlike Rosa Parks did not sit down,

But in their tired rage

Stood up, rose up

fought back

holding the police captive in the bars they had come to raid,

their weapons: their oppression, their hands, beer bottles

Stonewall

Six days of riots in New York

June 1969
A year later a march in Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, L.A., San Fran

And now, any weekend in June, anywhere around the world, PRIDE
Why do we march?

For those who are not able

For those who have been murdered

For those who are ravaged by disease

For those who are still beaten, still taunted, still harassed, still victims still targets
Why do we march?

Because some truths ain’t self-evident

Because all men ain’t protected equal
And we love a good party…
They will march, walk, wheel, dance, shimmy and shake

Block upon block of undulating color, flesh, banners, signs, clothing or lack thereof

Hands raised, hands linked, apart, together

Singing, shouting, chanting, silent,

Joyous, tearful, nervous, afraid, proud, defiant, angry, happy, delirious, tentative, ecstatic, courageous, brave—
Free.

************

In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a club in Greenwich Village that catered to the LGBTQ community. This was nothing new, bar raids happened frequently. In fact, the Stonewall Inn had been raided just a few days before. This time was different. For starters, the police ignored the arrangement with the bar’s owners to warn them of an impending raid, giving them time to cover the illegal activities going on inside the club. Thus, the bar’s staff and patrons were caught completely off-guard and unprepared.

Police raids had shut down most of the other clubs, leaving the Stonewall Inn as one of the few remaining places where LGBTQ folks could gather, drink, and dance. The bar was also one of the very few places that welcomed drag queens and LGBTQ youth. The raid went down as usual at first. People were rounded up, and arrested. Then a police officer struck a woman over the head, and incited six days of rioting from a community that had. HAD. ENOUGH. Tired of the way they were being treated, the community fought back.

Though the Stonewall riots were not the beginning of the gay rights movement, they were certainly a catalyst for renewed activism, leading to the establishment of organizations like the Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, and PFLAG. In June of 1970, on the one year anniversary of the Stonewall riots, the first Pride parade was held in New York City. There were also marches Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco and other cities.

Fast forward to 1978, San Francisco had just elected its first openly gay city supervisor, Harvey Milk, who had campaigned on a message of hope for LGBTQ youth. Milk challenged San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker to create a positive symbol symbol of pride for the gay community, an alternative to the upside-down pink triangle that had been used by the Nazis to identify, persecute, and murder homosexuals. Though it had been reclaimed as a symbol of pride (and is still widely used), the pink triangle, for many, represented persecution and death.

Baker’s original handmade flag had eight colored stripes: hot pink, red, orange, yellow, green, turquoise, indigo, and violet; the colors of the rainbow, chosen because it was a symbol from nature. Gilbert Baker recalls the moment when the new flag was flown for the first time:

Raising it up and seeing it there blowing in the wind for everyone to see. It completely astounded me that people just got it, in an instant like a bolt of lightning – that this was their flag. It belonged to all of us. It was the most thrilling moment of my life. Because I knew right then that this was the most important thing I would ever do – that my whole life was going to be about the Rainbow Flag.

A few of Baker’s handmade flags were carried in that first Pride march in San Francisco in 1978. On November 27, 1978, San Francisco woke up to the news that city supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone had been assassinated. Galvanized by grief and rage, activists decided that the rainbow flag should be flown from the light poles on Market Street during the next Pride parade. Soon after, the now six stripe rainbow flag was visible all over the city. Whenever a symbol of hope and pride was needed, the rainbow flag appeared. Gilbert Baker described the flag as more than just cloth and stripes; putting the flag on a house or car is not just flying a flag, it’s taking action. On a personal note, when I was in grad school, I hung a rainbow flag in my window. I didn’t really think anything of it, but one night, a young woman told me seeing that flag hanging in the window every morning as she walked to class gave her hope and helped her realize that she wasn’t alone.

Gilbert Baker died this past March. He lived to see his creation become something much larger than himself, a symbol transcending sexuality, gender, race, and religion. Its universal nature is multiplied by Baker’s desire to share the flag with everyone, even if it meant not making a profit. He never trademarked it, nor did he attempt to monetize it. The Rainbow Flag has appeared on all sorts of products: coffee cups, bumpers stickers, shoes and clothing, and even as a reaction symbol on Facebook.
The Rainbow Flag has become a universal symbol of acceptance and peace. Singly, the colors represent a different aspect of human experience; together they form a beautiful tapestry of hope and pride.

I would like to close with a meditation on the different colors of the rainbow flag, adapted by H. Adam Ackley from a prayer by Cherry Kittredge and Patrick Cheng, and further adapted by me:
[http://jesusinlove.blogspot.com/2014/06/rainbow-christ-prayer-goes-nationwide.html]

The Rainbow Spirit embodies all the colors of the world. In mythology, rainbows bridge different realms: East and west, heaven and earth, queer and non-queer. So we celebrate each color of the rainbow.

Red Candle

Lighting a red candle: The red of the rainbow reminds us to LIVE FULLY a renewed Life rooted in Spirit. We seek the grace of healthy well-being. We are renewed in body, mind, and spirit as we follow our own inner light and live as the person we were born to be.

 

candleOrangeLighting an orange candle: The orange of the rainbow reminds us to be thankful for the gift of creativity, including the fire of sacred human sexuality, We are open and free us to pursue meaningful and grace-filled relationships. We forgive the past and now embrace this present moment, freely expressing our passion and our desire in creative, healthy, grace-filled ways.

Yellow CandleLighting a yellow candle: The yellow of the rainbow reminds us to REJOICE in the very gift of self, each of us filled with the divine spark, empowering us, radiating in and through us. We value and trust ourselves and each other enough to “come out” continually from secrecy, shame, and self-rejection into the light that illuminates and affirms the holy in each of us.

Green Candle

Lighting a green candle: The green of the rainbow reminds us to LOVE. When we seek to fill our hearts with untamed, compassionate love for all beings, including ourselves and each other, in every area of our lives, we give and receive love with happiness, balance, grace, and harmony.

Blue Candles

Lighting a blue candle: The blue of the rainbow reminds us to GIVE VOICE to the liberating spirit within us. We seek to use gracious, prophetic, active, and just voices to speak out with calm, confidence, and power against all that demeans and oppresses.

candlePurpleLighting a purple candle: The violet of the rainbow reminds us of the inner vision that seeks and knows the highest Truth, which is LOVE, the deep intuitive wisdom of the universe. Love grants us the grace of interdependence, freeing us from isolation.

 

As all the colors of the rainbow are connected and yet distinct, we are connected with each other and with all of creation in ways that bring peace, wholeness, balance, and nurture of our spirits. Like the rainbow, may we too embody and reflect light, color, beauty and promise. So may it be.

***********
[music starts]
Several years ago, UU minister and musician Jason Shelton wrote a song in response to President Bush’s announcement that he was supporting the introduction of a Constitutional amendment to define marriage as solely between a man and a woman. Following the 2008 shootings at Tennessee Valley UU, the song, Standing on the Side of Love, inspired a public advocacy campaign, initiated by the Unitarian Universalist Association, to promote respect for the inherent worth and dignity of every person. Recently, Jason Shelton, in thoughtful, heartfelt response to concerns about the ableist language in the song, changed the words to Answering the Call of Love. It is those words we will sing together now. Please rise in body and/or spirit and let us join together in singing #1014 in the teal hymnal, Answering the Call of Love. [Click here for video.]

[Additional source material from: http://www.sftravel.com/article/brief-history-rainbow-flag and http://www.history.com/topics/the-stonewall-riots]


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