Our family’s commitment to be Open and Affirming (ONA) grew out of our own personal history and relationships. Experiences of feeling judged and rejected by peers during our early years inspired a core belief about extending true welcome to all people. And while we identify as cis-gendered and heterosexual, many of our friends, coworkers, and extended family members identify as gay, lesbian, queer, trans and/or non-binary. We celebrated with them and the broader LGBTQ community in June 2015 when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality. We took and shared this picture on that day, in solidarity, joy and hope.
Welcoming and affirming LGBTQ persons is part of our morality and our faith. We know that the work of ONA is far from over. Great fear and ignorance still feeds hatred, bigotry, and violence — breaking families, hearts and lives. Many LGBTQ persons still live in fear, denial and even self-hatred, internalizing hateful messages often promulgated and falsely justified by the church. Having witnessed the horror of HB2 here in North Carolina, we know that our active support of ONA, both as a church and as individuals, remains essential.
One of our favorite ways to celebrate and reaffirm our commitment to ONA is by marching annually in the Gay Pride parade. We began this family tradition with our UCC church in Gainesville, Florida. We walk and chant together, wearing “Gay and Straight Together” shirts, accompanied by a rainbow float and kids on decorated bicycles. The opportunity to proclaim our faith and love in this way often brings me to tears. This year we marched with UCCH for the first time, joining members of this church family and other UCC churches around the Triangle. United Church’s ONA members carried our rainbow-hued banner that reminds us of our call: to “Be The Church,” to proclaim love and acceptance and solidarity with the LGBTQ community and all other marginalized groups.
We welcome and celebrate this call as a path to collective healing. Only through justice and equity can we all be made whole.