Sorrow and happiness. Rejection and acceptance. Despair and joy.
Emotions and states of mind in conflict and sharp contrast were shared during the first evening of Unabridged: Crossing Together, A Celebration of Stories. At an event exploring religion, faith and spirituality as experienced by the LGBTQ+ community, a group of individuals opened their hearts and shared their lives with friends and strangers alike.
I was at the opening event for a number of reasons. For one, I’d signed up a month and a half ago for the Friday celebration and the Saturday workshops, so naturally I would be there. But why did I sign up in the first place? That gets into the other reasons.
Mostly those reasons tie into the fact that I’ve long been a supporter of the LGBTQ+ community. Long enough that when I first offered support it was basically referred to as ‘gay rights’. It was 1979. I was planning to go to Vancouver with a friend for New Year’s and visit a few discos – remember, it was still the ‘70s! While in the planning stage, Ian asked if we could meet because he had something to tell me that might impact plans to go to Vancouver.
We met for drinks and he told me he was gay. Later, he told me that he thought that would be it for our friendship as he’d lost other friends when he shared his orientation. My actual response was more along the lines of, “Yeah. OK. So why wouldn’t we still be going to Vancouver?” We went and we had a blast.
Since that time, I’ve felt linked to a community of people that has been persecuted, condemned and faced struggle for a heck of a long, long time. I loathe prejudice against any group of people because they are seen as being outside the norm. I’ve attended Pride events and, without taking any sort of deliberate action, I’ve continued to make friends with people who travel along the rainbow. In different ways, to me, each has been the treasure that exists in myth at the end of the rainbow.
I plan to take a more active role in supporting my friends in the LGBTQ+ community. I have to. After years of feeling I’ve been supportive, I heard stories on Friday night that were heart breaking and revealed to me that, although an ally, I still did not fully appreciate the challenges individuals face.
Imagine being rejected by your own parents. Or the very church in which you grew up. Or losing friends. Simply because you didn’t fit within the confines of what is considered the norm by many. The people who shared at the Galt Museum on Friday night have experienced all of this and more. They were brave enough to tell their stories.
How can I possibly now just stand by and not put my support into action rather than just words?