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Pride More than Ever

Words by HATCHer Joshua Lesser

Happy Pride! My first Pride coincided with the end of my junior year at Northwestern University. A friend coaxed me to march, despite my fears that I would be seen by someone, particularly my football fraternity brothers who were at a Cubs game in adjacent Wrigley Field. I have little doubt that if I had been seen, it would have landed me in the hospital. 

The shame coupled with the real threat of harm was so stifling that I could not enjoy the parade. I was trapped in my head, until I saw this woman in the crowd. She was unremarkable, except she held out a sign that read, “I love my gay son.” That message was like a lone ray of light breaking through the thick fog of stigma. I broke from the march and ran into the crowd to give her a hug. It was pride embodied.

Over the years, I have wondered how necessary Pride still is. Or more explicitly, why don’t we expand our communal values beyond pride. But that sense of unabashed pride is needed now more than ever. Let me tell you why.

Bear with me as I do so by sharing with you a line from a prayer (ok, a full-blown run-on sentence) that has been incredibly important to my community for almost three decades:

…Creator of the Universe, we ask that our hiding draw to an end, that we no longer feel we have to pretend, to promise falsely, to renounce ourselves, and that our fullest creative expression as Jews and as gay, lesbian,  bisexual, transgender, and queer people be among the blessings you bestow upon us. Amen.

This is not meant to trigger, I too deeply know how much religion has been used as a weapon to cudgel people. And how “thoughts & prayers”, too often are excuses to do nothing, but this is not any prayer. This prayer is called The Prayer for the End of Hiding. It was (and still is) said as an act of rebellion against all of those things. It speaks to how oppression creates hiding. Hiding deadens our ability to tap into our authentic expression and contribution. Pride has been the antidote to the venom of hate.

Just like the origins of Pride come from a revolution of queer people being fed up, this prayer bubbled up from that same energy. Once again, we need to conjure that zeal this pride to confront a year where we had an unprecedented and astounding 300+ anti-LGBTQ bills introduced around the country, with over ⅓ of them specifically targeting the transgender community. 

Many of these laws target our kids and our schools trying to prevent a more inclusive way to teach gender under the guise of “parental rights”. But the real impact demands that LGBTQ children and parents go into hiding.  We are talking about laws that ban books, limit what teachers can instruct, define LGBTQ participation in sports, restrict bathroom use and deny health care for transgender surgeries. These hundreds of laws serve as a legal firehose of hatred and oppression aimed to submerge the LGBT community. Pride this year is literally a lifeline –especially for the transgender community.

When hate comes at us with this kind of force, we need to call on all of our resources, especially our “full creative expression.” This I believe is the HATCH way for all human beings. The human spirit was designed to offer its creative gifts for the benefit of a better world. I encourage all of us to use our power of advocacy (here’s one way) to make it a safer world for LGBTQ youth. Just as important is showing up with enthusiastic love and support during Pride and all year long letting those in your life who are LGBT know that you are an ally. A happy Pride is one where we are all celebrated!