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Pride, Pronouns, and How the UUA Helped Lead the Way

Sermon by Gretchen Johnson

With June being Pride month and Harmony sponsoring a booth at the Lebanon Pride event in July, a sermon about LGBTQIA+ seemed appropriate. I’d always considered myself an Ally until I started working on this sermon and realized what Allies do. My self-rating went further down when I learned the letters TGQNB were added after LGBTQIA+ because I didn’t know there was a new acronym and I didn’t know what the new letters meant.

Disclaimer: Normally I don’t get uncomfortable preparing sermons but this one makes me nervous since I’m not an expert on this topic. When a friend read my sermon, they called me on my privileged lens. Nowhere did I state it was written from the perspective of a white cis-gender straight middle-class female. My reference to only the HRC was ageist as other organizations such as them.us have younger demographics. I learned terms vary by region, age, and other factors such as the word Queer which is preferred by some and offends others. I tried to use the acronym from the source where I pulled information so you’ll hear lots of variations. There will be things I misunderstood and I don’t want this to reflect negatively on our Harmony community. Please remember everything I got wrong and share the correct them during discussion time.

Religion

“Neurologist, psychiatrist, and Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl taught that our religious self is intrinsic to our being. To deny its power, he said, is as debilitating as denying our sexuality, or any core element of our identity.” For that reason, rejection by a beloved faith community can be a devastating experience.” Unfortunately, there are still many religions with church doctrine that states non-straight sexual orientations or gender variance is immoral. Imagine growing up in a church where you no longer feel welcome for something you can’t change. There are churches that are welcoming to all. Those sponsoring the Lebanon Pride Event are Harmony, Lakeview UCC, Resurrection Lutheran, & Saint Patrick’s Episcopal Church in Lebanon.

Let’s take a quick look at how UU’s helped lead the way in this area. Notice my title wasn’t UU’s “led the way”, it was “helped lead” as there were many organizations and people working to bring about change. A brief overview of history:

  • 1950’s UU minister performed union ceremony for same-gender couple
    1969 Stonewall Uprising (which police called “riots”). A raid occurred at the Stonewall Inn frequented by homosexuals. There is one photo from the event and it’s left out of many textbooks.
  • 1970 on the 1-year anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising the first Pride parade was held as a peaceful protest. During this year:
    • The UUA recognized LGB clergy
    • A UU minister came out nationally
    • The Vatican reiterated their stance that homosexuality is a moral aberration.
  • 1971 UU’s incorporated gay education into the youth OWL program letting them know homosexuality is ok. At the same time:
    • The American Psychiatry Association considered homosexuality a mental illness
    • The government was banning homosexuals from civil service jobs
  • 1972 the UCC church (Lakeview), was also a strong supporter of gay rights and ordained their first gay minister.
  • 2004 UU minister officiated the first gay marriage for the plaintiffs in the case that led to Massachusetts legalizing gay marriage.
  • 2009 UUA launched the “Standing on the Side of Love” movement to harness love’s power and to challenge exclusion, oppression, and violence based on sexual orientation, gender identity, immigration status, race, religion, or any other identity. Two people together taking a stance standing together is more powerful than one. This movement rolls our UU principles together – lifting the inherent worth and dignity of all because we don’t just love some. Side of Love calls us to affirm compassion and care, and to lift issues of justice. (Standing on the side of love became Side with Love to include people who can’t stand.)
  • There have been many other changes since detailed on the UUA website.

UU Welcoming Community

Harmony became a fully-recognized member of the UUA in June, 2011 and earned Welcoming Congregation status just one year later. That demonstrates the commitment our founders had to welcoming “all” which you see on our website. Part of being a Welcoming Congregation is not just opening our doors, but finding ways to invite people to “come in”. The UUA now asks congregations to “reaffirm” their Welcoming Congregation commitment yearly. Just 18 of the 800 Welcoming Congregations have renewed and with the activities we have underway this year, it’s something the board will discuss (I’m willing to complete the paperwork if we decide to proceed.)

What’s required to renew?
1. Hold two services a year that uplift the themes of LGBTQ+ / TGQNB* welcome and inclusion.
2. Observe six “Welcoming Days of Observance” which can mean including them on the church calendar & recognizing them during joys and sorrows like I did today (Pride month, Day of Remembrance of the Pulse nightclub shooting, Juneteenth, and anniversary of Stonewall Uprising/Riot.)
3. Educate the congregation/community to raise awareness about issues by holding a movie Q&A or a book club read (our book club has this covered)
4. Donate money or time like we are doing to an LGBTQ+ / TGQNB organization, campaign, or project such as Lebanon Pride.

Legislation

The HRC began 44 years ago and for the first time ever, they declared 2024 a state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people. In 2023 there were 500 proposed anti-LGBTQ+ bills and 75 became laws. The Winter edition of Equality Magazine said the HRC and others defeated about 85% of anti-LGBTQ+ bills. The tide will turn because according to the HRC in 2022, 27% of people in Gen Z (currently age 21- 27) identify as LGBTQ+.

If you’re wondering which states are the most LGBT friendly, the HRC has a State Equality Index with 4 categories. Guess where Ohio falls? 20 of 50 states (40%) are in the highest category “working toward innovative equality”, 5 of 50 (10%) are “solidifying equality, 2 of 50 (4%) are “building equality”, and 32 of 50 (46%) still haven’t achieved basic equality. Yes, Ohio is in the lowest category. There is only one protection in Ohio – gender markings on records.

Marriage equality around the world

In the US, full marriage equality arrived in 2015, with a 5-4 Supreme Court decision.

Two years ago, Pew Research studied 32 countries to gauge public support for legal same-sex marriage. 40% were more supportive than the U.S. with Sweden at the top. We tied with Mexico with a 63% support level and 56% of the countries surveyed had lower approval ratings. It surprised me to see Italy where same-sex marriage isn’t legal had an approval rating 10% higher than the U.S., especially with it being the home of the Roman Catholic Church.

Being an Ally

Don’t just say you’re an LGBTQ ally, be one. Supporting people who are queer requires more than just tolerance. You can’t just throw a pin on your bag and paint a rainbow on your cheek to say “I’m an ally”. Allies believe LGBT people face discrimination and are socially and economically disadvantaged. Allies stand up and take on the problems of oppression as their own by engaging in social justice.

8 things the LGBTQ community wants Allies to do this Pride

This list was compiled from various sources referenced below:

  1. Support LGBTQ+ people, organizations, and look at who you support financially (rather than purchasing a Pride t-shirt from Amazon, support the HRC shop or even better, a local queer-owned business.) Try to avoid places that are “Rainbow Washing” – using a pride flag to increase business when they do nothing to support the cause.
  2. Understand and support each letter of the acronym, not just one or two groups.
  3. Understand the issues and lobby for legislation. Vote in all elections, not just the big ones. (You can stay abreast of legislation by signing up for the HRC newsletter)
  4. Donate time or money to support LGBTQ+ causes.
  5. Advocate for LGBTQI+ education in schools and fight for policies that protect kids from discrimination. (Example- school dress codes prohibiting the rainbow flag on t-shirts.)
  6. Ask “what’s your pronoun” or “how do you identify” rather than assume
  7. Come out as an ally. Small gestures of visible allyship mean a lot. Wear a pin that champions support, display a Pride flag. (Added after the sermon from discussion group feedback – add pronouns to your email signature demonstrating you are an Ally and a “safe space”.)
  8. See something say something – don’t wait for marginalized people to react. When you witness discrimination don’t wait to approach the victim later to offer sympathy. Give them support in the moment and don’t tolerate inappropriate statements, jokes, or behavior.

Pronouns

Your first thought may be “do they really matter”? They do to me. For six years I worked for someone who made it clear he did not want a female on his staff. Every email from this person started “dear gentleman.” I told him I found it exclusionary and suggested “Team” or “All”. Nothing changed so whenever I opened an email, I felt disrespected. My plight was nothing compared to the burdens the LGBTQIA+/TGQNB community face.
In the book “A Quick and Easy Guite to They/Them Pronouns” the author said “it doesn’t seem like big deal to many folks but if I’ve made my pronouns known so it’s hurtful when people purposely avoid them.”
We label many things by gender unnecessarily (the lady over there rather than the person in the red shirt). I’m trying to not use a gendered label and if needed, I try to use “they/them”. According to new grammatical rules, they/them can be singular or plural which sounds funny to my ear but It takes years of practice to retrain our brains.

When meeting someone new I’m learning to say “I’m Gretchen – I use she/her pronouns. What pronouns do you use?” Saying “do you prefer” implies a choice which may not make people feel respected.

When I make a mistake, I over apologize saying “I am so sorry. I’m just learning and doing my best” which makes it all about me and my failure and nothing about the impact on the other person. Instead, an “oops, I’m sorry” will do.

If someone misgenders someone else, what do you do? If you thought “ignore it so nobody is uncomfortable” that’s not the right answer. Being an ally is correcting others when they make mistakes even if it makes you uncomfortable. (Darn – I wanted my “good ally” sticker without having hard conversations and being uncomfortable.) uncomfortable).

Did you know there is more than one “Pride” flag?

The RAINBOW flag is used widely but there are more than 20 other flags, each with a special meaning. These are the 16 flags most frequently seen.

The UUA website says “Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect” and UU’s “Side with Love” campaign continues advocating for LGBTQ+ equality and inclusive policies while challenging discriminatory legislation. Civil rights movements work when people stand together to fight bias. Making the world safer and more fair takes effort. Together we can ensure every individual in every state is afforded the same rights, protections, and opportunities as their fellow citizens. Remember – Pride isn‘t about rainbows and unicorns. Pride started with protest.

References

History/Religion

 

Legislation

 

Pronouns

  • “A quick and easy guide to They/Them Pronouns” by Archie Bongiovanni & Tristan Jimerson


Same sex marriage


Ally Information