Sunday, June 11, 2017

A Reflection for PRIDE Sunday

Rev. Kit Ketcham
PUUF, June 11, 2017
Pride Service

            Talking about sexual orientation and gender identity was a huge NoNo when I was a school counselor in Colorado back in the 80’s and 90’s.  I was so naïve that it took a long time for me to realize that there was something really wrong about that.
            The change in me began when my college friend Fern came out to me after her suicide attempt.  It began to grow when I attended an in-service put on by PFLAG, an in-service designed for counselors in our district, where I saw that the president of the local chapter was the mother of two of my students.
           It took another leap forward when a gutsy 9th grade girl sat defiantly in my office, perhaps thinking I was going to scold her, and said “Yes, I am a lesbian and I’m in a relationship with another girl.  So?”
            Leap after leap kept me changing my understandings and my attitudes toward a group of people that had been unfamiliar to me, except in terms of stereotypes.
            There were Brooke and Robert and Nikki, talking about their suicide thoughts.  There was Marilyn, our school psychologist, who trusted me enough to come out to me, at a time when she could be fired for being Out.  There was Harold who became Carol and who asked female friends to help her become more feminine.  There was 9th grader Don, whose birth name was Donna, and who kept his birth gender a secret from his girlfriend.
            In seminary, there were numerous fellow divinity students who were gay or lesbian or trans  and had to stay in the closet because of church laws which forbade their ordination or even membership in the church body.
            Luckily, my own church, my denomination, Unitarian Universalism, has been open to so-called “sexual minorities” for several decades, and I found I had strong church support when I voiced my concerns about gays, lesbians, and trans folk who were being rejected by their  own religious traditions.
          So I collaborated with my minister at that time, the Rev. Robert Latham, to bring a group of singers from the Denver mixed chorus “Harmony” to present songs from David Maddox’s “Boys and Girls With Stories”. 
This was the summer of 1994, when HIV/AIDS was decimating men in the gay community and fear and sorrow ran rampant in both gays and straights.
          We put the word out in the local newspaper and when I looked out at the congregation the morning of the service with Harmony, I realized that my life had truly changed dramatically. 
“Gayness” was no longer an abstract concept.  In the congregation that morning were friends  who had dared to attend, despite the danger of outing themselves publicly by doing so, friends I had not known were gay.  I realized I could not ever ignore that pain again.
            Initially, it was students who needed to talk, colleagues who needed me to keep confidentiality, and then, when I thought hard about the fact that my dear friends Jan and Chris, who had been together for over 40 years did not have the human right to be married,  another change began to burn in my heart.
            I am thrilled to have been part of the sea change that occurred in June of 2015---two years ago---when the Supreme Court ruled that the marriages of same-sex couples must be recognized by the state. 
And I choked up when I heard the pastor of their Lutheran church utter these words to my friends Dave and Ervin:  “And now by the power invested in me by the State, I pronounce you husband and husband, partners for life”.
Now, when I marry two women or two men, I also say those thrilling words:  “and now by the power invested in me by the state of Oregon….” What a long time it has been, in coming.
My life has been changed radically by my growing understanding of the challenges of being gay or bi or trans or lesbian or questioning or intersex or non-binary or queer.  Because I stepped into that stream of awareness---awareness of the pain and the joy and the need for justice---my life has been transformed and I am happier and ever more grateful for those experiences.

HYMN #1053  “How Could Anyone Ever Tell You”

            Our worship service, our time of shaping worth together, is ended, but our service to the world begins again as we leave this place.  Let us go in peace, remembering that the changes that give us the freedom to be our most authentic selves are good changes.  May we embrace those changes as welcome, allowing ourselves to grow, being gentle with those who do not yet understand, and helping those who are struggling to be free.  Amen, Shalom, Salaam, and Blessed Be.