By Ed Chinery
Do you know that feeling that everything’s okay? When you’re safe and loved? Feel like you belong? And the opposite. A sense of foreboding. Uneasy in mind, body or spirit. What difference do these feelings make in your thinking and behavior?
I was born in 1957 and have known since age five that I’m gay. I didn’t have a name for it then, but I knew I wanted what mom and dad had, except with a boy. It didn’t take long, even as a child, for me to realize that because of who I was, there was less belonging for me and less safety. Both at home and in the world.
In my teens, though, things began to change. Women, blacks, gays—no longer able to remain ashamed and hidden—we stood up, one after another, with what seemed a newly invented brand of pride. Pride was declared in both speech and action, and it was breathtaking. A new enlightenment was making for fresh understanding of common humanity, and it was happening just as I began to feel grown-up. Best of all, it meant I no longer felt I had to keep running to get away from that foreboding that comes of not belonging. My otherwise loving family hadn’t known how to help me, but what was going on in the world did. I still cherish those first inklings of pride in who I truly am and how that changed the world and me.
The fears I had as a secretly gay boy don’t live in the front of my consciousness anymore. And, honestly, I don’t think so much about ‘pride’, either. Sure, I totally work the Pride Parade in June. It marches right past the Episcopal church on Fifth Avenue where I currently serve. But for me—and I mean no disrespect—the parade has become about entertainment and marketing. Sure, there’s tons of belonging, which is great, but questions sometimes hang over it, for me, about how the event helps make connection with deeper meanings of love and safety.
I probably wouldn’t be making observations like this if it weren’t for quarantine. It has me considering lots of things differently and has led to hidden wonders about layers of pride deep within me.
“Pride inside” is partly my response to social movements that have wrought change. But the underlying longing to make manifest or strengthen safety, feeling loved and belonging—that longing is like a living energy field that won’t be contained. Experience of it is very personal, yet it’s definitely not something that can be mine alone. Neither can my pride be over and against yours. That living energy wants to expand and come to characterize all of humanity. Wants to be communicated in the world in ways that affirm shared vulnerability in the human need to feel loved and safe and that we belong.
Then maybe that’s the best part of the Pride Parade. It’s a celebration, the living energy of which also wants to spill over into all of life, so attendees will go forth empowered by our own pride inside, and know we can always draw from that well. Know we can adopt, as a result, kinder ways of thinking and behaving that generate and share the living spirit of pride, in our homes, neighborhoods, and city.
The faith community I serve celebrates being about 40% LGBT+. And our collective pride inside steadily leads to various hands-on ways of growing that living energy in ourselves and others. Whether it’s hunger relief (pantry program), subversion of immigration injustice (hosting New Sanctuary Coalition trainings), combatting voter suppression (film program/postcard campaign) or supporting local efforts to cure AIDS (go RFTCA!)—we’re all about joy-filled inward recognition and outward demonstration of making safety, belonging and feeling loved the reality for everybody!
Ed Chinery is Associate Rector of The Church of the Ascension – 5th Avenue and 10th Street. For further information on their programming: 212-254-8620, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org