Duluth Superior Pride Festival is happening September 4 at Bayfront Park in Duluth, MN and we would love to have you join us in celebrating all our friends and family in the LGBTQ+ community. We understand that there might be some people who don’t fully understand why we celebrate pride and what impact showing up might have. So we invited two of our staff members at Neighborhood to share why they are showing up. If you have any questions please feel free to contact us.
Sera Jayne: A gender non-conforming queer white person
Learn: Quite simply put—the first pride was a riot, headed by Black trans women, protesting police brutality toward LGBTQ+ folx. Pride exists today because Black trans women fought for every person, every gender, every sexuality, every expression of love… to have space to be honest and fully themselves. As with….most things, there’s been an attempt (from places of whiteness and colonization) to capitalize and profit on the existence of LGBTQ+ people. There’s also been an unfortunate, but unsurprising, centering of cis white gay men in the media portrayals of pride. In my experience, pride celebrations and gatherings often rightfully center those who came before us, highlighting who has been on the ground, making changes on behalf of our community. The fight for equality has been a long one (and we’re not even fully there yet), but Pride celebrations have always been an opportunity for me to learn who to credit for the privilege of being honest—those who were and are more brave than I have ever needed to be—Black trans women.
Celebrate: Growing up in conservative/moderate small-town Minnesota, most people I knew approached LGBTQ+ folx with a “don’t ask, don’t tell” mentality. This led to many LGBTQ+ feeling shame, hiding in fear, and unable to express themselves truthfully.
Before I came out, I was openly affirming in a non-affirming church environment—and I was often met with arguments about Pride festivals and the Pride movement being “anti-Christ” because “pride” is sinful—and these movements were encouraging folx to step into sin.
Reverend Elizabeth M. Edman reframes the word pride by referencing Isaiah 6:8. She offered the lens of operating within the kingdom of God as your authentic self…as the only way to answer God’s call. You cannot say “Here I am, Lord, send me,” if you do not know who you are.
Pride celebrates knowing who you are, saying “Here I am, Lord, send me!” and participating in the kingdom of God by expressing love to all, specifically those who have been told God’s love does not extend to them.
Liberation and Freedom: In 2018 (before I came out), I watched the NYC Pride parade on an Instagram live video. I watched the Fab Five from Netflix’s Queer Eye shout to thousands of LGBTQ+ folx, “WE SEE YOU AND WE LOVE YOU,” and “YOU ARE LOVED EXACTLY AS YOU ARE. YOU ARE FREE TO BE YOU.” It was in that moment when I started to believe that maybe that’s how God feels about me.
In western culture, those not in “dominant culture” are repeatedly asked to make themselves smaller… on behalf of the patriarchy, on behalf of whiteness, on behalf of heteronormativity and Christianity, on behalf of ableism, etc.
Pride says come as you are, fully and completely. Be your loudest, proudest, truest self—whatever that means to you. We will never ask you to hide. We will never shame you.
All that we ask is that you extend the same love, acceptance, kindness, and joy to every other person in attendance. You are free, you are loved. We see you, and we love you.
Legacy: A 2019 study shows that 43% of transgender youth have been bullied on school property. 29% of transgender youth, 21% of gay and lesbian youth, and 22% of bisexual youth have attempted suicide (HRC Article).
We have come a long way—but the reality is that LGBTQ+ children are still actively suffering. And it is worth every ounce of our energy to fight to create a world that is more safe for these kids.
At every pride festival I’ve been to, I have seen adults wearing shirts that say “Free Mom Hugs” or “Free Dad Hugs”. I have seen drag queens perform to exclusively raise money for Trans Youth Housing Initiatives. I have seen countless adults (LGBTQ+ or ally) create space for, celebrate, and provide resources for young folx in the community.
Pride is an opportunity to love and invest in LGBTQ+ youth, doing everything in our power…in your power, to ensure these kids live to see their future. To ensure these kids get the chance to figure out who they are, find love and belonging, and live out their dreams.
Kris Sauter—A straight middle-aged white guy
Learn: For much of my life I have been taught by straight white people. I have had some incredibly positive experiences, but a majority of it has been centered by straight people. This will be my first ever pride festival and I’m excited I’ll have the opportunity to hear queer artists and speakers. To listen to their stories through song, dance, paintings and conversations I believe will open me up to a wider lived experience than my own. Anytime we take a position of curiosity there is an opportunity to grow.
Celebrate: I have grown to see how our communities are so much healthier and vibrant when everyone can be fully themselves. There are places where we put the work on others to show up like us. Talk, dress, laugh, hairstyles, expressions all centered around what makes us feel comfortable. As we continue to dismantle those systems, here’s a place where to be the fullest you is celebrated. As a straight person, I imagine there will be language, inside jokes, authors, and artists I’m totally unaware of. Perfect. I can celebrate without being affirmed or being in the center. We get to hoot and holler, dance around, laugh, and party…all of it celebrating a community of people who are living their fullest and best lives.
Liberation and Freedom: When any underrepresented group is centered, it can help others feel impassioned to move from the edges of culture and towards the center. To promote something like this pride festival, I can imagine gives voice to queer people who feel the need to show up as something less than their full selves, especially younger people in religious circles where they often hear that their dream of being their fullest selves is an abomination to the God they love and worship. I can’t, and won’t, speak as if I know what that experience is for the LGBTQ+ community. What I can share from my experience is when I share my values and theological views on the LGBTQ+ community, I get messages from people who are curious and feel similar but are afraid to ask questions in their circles because of what it could cost them. They (in a very dramatically different sense than queer people) want to move in freedom and be a part of moving the narrative of this angry God, towards helping people see the person of Jesus. Jesus moved in inclusion and love. Always. So by showing up, inviting, promoting, sharing pics helps others see and know that there’s room to evolve your theology and values and you can be a person (or reference to someone else) to process.
Legacy: What I want for my kids is for them to see that this is what love does. It shows up. It doesn’t just live in our heads, it moves from our heart to our feet. I believe that one of the holiest things we can do is show up. Show up to festivals, backyard BBQs, rallies, tables, couches….to show up lets the other person know that they are worth it. That you are in that space, in that breath with them. We can’t be a part of transformation if we don’t show up. I’ll be the first to confess that this is a great opportunity for our church. We talk a lot about equity, inclusion, and liberation. Most of it has been expressed through “come to us.” Marginalized people all too often have to do the work to show up. There’s opportunity for us to rearrange our schedules, think through where to park, maybe process some anxiety on who we’ll see or what will be happening. All of it belongs and it’s a good and beautiful thing. Because it’s what love does. It shows up and that’s the kind of legacy I want to leave behind for our community.