Celebrate Pride!
June 25, 2024

Celebrate Pride!

It’s wonderful to share with you and “Celebrate Pride” at Evergreen for what I think is the first time? I remember standing up at PNMC exactly a year ago and giving the exciting update on our church to our larger community - “We are now an open and affirming congregation!” - the joy from our sister churches was tangible, and that we have articulated this together is truly something to celebrate.

I’m going to start with a painful story first, though. Planning this service, Jacob and I talked about what happened to him with his youth group in South Africa. He said I can share it with you this morning. I have loved that my kids grew up in the church, and we supported them attending whatever built up their faith and faith community through the years. However, I knew that one day Jacob would meet Christian leadership that would judge him for being gay, and make him feel unwelcome at church. This is a sad commentary on the church, and we had talked to him about it. He’d already joined Pink Menno at MCUSA Convention, and felt support, even at a distance, from his Mennonite family.

We drove him to a weekly youth group where he had friends and enjoyed the evenings. Sure enough, one evening he came straight home and burst into tears, so shocked, so hurt, so betrayed by worship leaders that not only let a guest speaker say things about gay people going to hell, but didn’t stand up for him and the potential other queer youth in the room, even though they’d known him for years. We cried with him, and wondered what we could do. He did the followup himself - firmly but respectfully calling out the problem on the group chat. Other youth responded right away, coming forward and thanking him for his strong voice.

However, saying we want to be open and affirming does not magically create welcome and safety. Jacob had always felt welcomed at that Youth Group - exactly as he was, and the shock that they were not was the biggest hurt. There’s a lot of homework for us all to do - learn new terms, try to catch ourselves from hurting others with microaggressions, learn new theology. Yes, as we become aware of the patriarchy and misogyny in old theology, this should help us to, using words from the apostle John, “pull the wool from our eyes.” Some food for thought:

  • The original wording in Genesis is God as plural, not singular, and certainly not masculine - We are made in “our image”
  • Paul mentions that we are “neither male nor female” very intentionally
  • And speaking of Paul, I’ve heard pastor’s suggest he was quite possibly a-romantic or asexual, the “A” in LGBTQIA. That could help explain his stance against marriage.
  • What if the word homosexual was never meant to be in the Bible? The new documentary “1946: The Mistranslation that shifted culture” poses this important origins and translation question
  • Should it really be so hard to change pronouns and names for people? People change their names all the time - go by a new married name, start going by a middle name instead of a first name, grow out of childhood nick-names, etc.

Speaking of which, we were much less prepared to navigate having a trans daughter. We had not seen it coming, and didn’t have people to process with that our seventeen year old felt she was not her real self in her body. Counseling, the TransFamilies support group, listening and lots of reading have helped equip us so that we are at least less likely to hurt Claire now. As an adult, she says she doesn’t need a whole lot from us, but as our beloved daughter, there is so much advocacy we need to do.

One of the first helpful books I read was Outside the lines: How embracing queerness will transform your faith, by Mihee Kim-Kort, a queer Presbyterian pastor. She talks about how, growing up, she loved the annual kid’s Christmas pageant:

These performances of the nativity story ever so slightly shifted the way we all experienced the world... We were able to act out in bodies and voice... Children in drag. Boys draped in wings and long shimmery dresses sang in choirs of angels. Girls donned beards and crowns and played the shepherds or wise men. Their voices rang out, proclaiming the good news of Jesus’s birth, from a space that normally allowed only males to preach and teach. As a result, there was a flattening effect: the normal hierarchies that structured the community disintegrated as our bodies presented new identities. Pg 123

I’ve attended several of the online worship services of Community of Hope Mennonite Church in Bellingham, our newest PNMC church plant, and you might remember Rachel Weasley, pastor. They intentionally gather to do church in a Queer way, and speakers and guest adult Sunday School teachers have been fascinating to learn from. From Kim-Kort again:

A queer spirituality breaks through borders, through boundaries that mark out what’s safe or what’s real, that cut people off, that prevent people from connecting to something deeper... I think about how much Jesus crossed over into what is prohibited and forbidden in his ministry, in all his dining, traveling, consorting, working, living, and partying with those who would fit that category of banned. And every time he crossed over, he created community by making space for everyone. Pg 195

Understanding what it means to be queer also means taking on some dark things - such as the violence against queer people. The sheer hypocrisy behind the “bathroom debate” is very upsetting to me as a mother. Not only is there zero evidence that trans people are more likely to be sexual predators than others, my Claire is twice as likely to experience sexual violence herself, simply by being a trans-woman.

I said “take on” just now, something deeper than simply “understand.” Because being open and affirming means standing alongside, being an ally, advocating for and taking on as many of the struggles as we can help with. Four years ago, I helped drive Claire to the DMV to get her ID - seeing she was changing her gender on the card, the guy serving us kept calling Claire “son”. I needed to stand up for her and speak out, but I failed - I didn’t have the words. Remember when we learned last year in God and the Gay Christian that homophobia is actually about defending patriarchy? Well, Transphobia is rooted in toxic masculinity, something that affects all of us.

Some of the best insights I’ve heard on toxic masculinity is from a trans man, perhaps because he has the unique perspective of experiencing manhood after being raised first as a young woman. Schuyler Bailar, from “He/She/They: How we talk about gender and why it matters,” says toxic masculinity grows from the human yearning to be included and valued, but then society instead doles out shame and isolation to our boys. On this he says,

“Man up,” “Grow a pair,” “Boys don’t cry,” these are the seeds for violence and destruction, beginning with young boys and infecting everyone else... Demanding accountability from men is not awful or destructive; it is absolutely necessary. But, the problem is not cis men; it’s patriarchy and transphobia. The problem is not straight men; it’s homophobia. The problem is not white men; it’s white supremacy. Understanding these distinctions is crucial to dismantling the systems.

And as always, it’s the personal change of heart that is most important. We all know people who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community - knowing them is not enough. We are to be present and show up for them. And if you want to join me in learning about activism, I can recommend the books by trans woman biologist activist, Julia Serano. She has been brilliantly critical of everything from the mis-diagnosis of gender dysphoria as a mental illness to the lopsided way traditional trans care has been more about protecting the sensitivities of broader hetero society than about trans health. Ms Serano:

I have been fortunate enough to have had the rather rare experience of being perceived by others as both a woman and a man, as homosexual and heterosexual, as feminine, masculine, and gender-ambiguous at different points in my life. People treated me in vastly different ways in each case, and the assumptions they made about my gender and sexuality often had little to do with my own identity and life history. As a gender activist, I believe that it’s crucial for us to finally recognize this massive difference that exists between perception and personal experience.


While I do not believe that there is an impenetrable wall that separates women from men, or queers from straights, I do believe that one exists between our own experiential gender, which we live, feel, and experience firsthand, and the genders of others, which we merely perceive or make presumptions about but can never truly know in a tangible way. We must stop projecting what we wish were true about gender and sexuality onto other people, and instead learn to yield to their unique individual identities, experiences, and perspectives.

Using binary opposites is not always helpful, such as referring to people as short and tall - my mother is short, my father-in-law is tall, but there are so many more of us that are in between those two! So moving away from the binary opposites we were brought up on, being accepting of (and hands off!) what we don’t understand about the sexuality of others, and embracing ALL the children of God, feels like how Jesus might celebrate pride. I conclude with a reminder of the statement our committee compiled and we’ve put on our website to best describe what we are trying to be:

Evergreen Mennonite Church welcomes and affirms the belonging of LGBTQIA+ folk in the life and work of our congregation, believing that everyone is a beloved child of God and that we are called by Jesus to be a community that embodies this divine love and embraces all of God’s children.



Julia Serano - Whipping Girl: A Transexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity

Schuyler Bailar - He/She/They: How We Talk About Gender and Why it Matters

Mi-Hee Kim-Kort - Outside the Lines: How Embracing Queerness Will Transform Your Faith


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