Last year, I marched with and organized a group of local Mormons in the Lethbridge Pride Parade. We marched under the Mormons Building Bridges banner.
My reasons for marching were varied. Our daughter had publicly come out the previous summer. The LDS church had released their divisive and damaging policy update on marriage equality just months before. I thought it might be an act of solidarity to show the local LGBTQ community that some Mormons wanted to be supportive. I also considered that marching openly as a Mormon was an act of protest, co-opting “Mormon” from the church and redefining what it meant to be Mormon.
I realize now that marching was wrong.
I had planned to march this past June. I was even organizing a group of Mormons again. Then I had a discussion with some friends of mine (who have Mormon ties and are members of the local LGBTQ community). I learned that for them, seeing Mormons dressed in “official” attire and under the “Mormon” banner brought pain, reminding them of the hurt the church laid on them in previous years.
After some reflection, I cancelled the group’s organizing.
I admit that I took it personally. I felt hurt and sidelined. But after the hurt subsided, I realized that being called on my actions was an opportunity for me to reevaluate my role as an LGBTQ ally. I took the last 2–3 months to do some research and some introspection.
Why it was wrong
First, Pride is an act of protest. The first parades (if they can be called that) were held in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, and San Francisco on 28 June 1970, as a way to commemorate the Stonewall Riots the year before.
Anyone watching a Pride parade today would have trouble finding that connection. Pride today has been commercialized, overrun with floats from companies, politicians, political parties, and other non-queer organizations.
If you ask anyone attending Pride what Pride is about, you’ll invariably hear the word “inclusion”. But why must Pride include everyone? Why must the event include companies that used to fire employees for being queer? Why must it include the political parties that used to oppose marriage equality? Why must it include the same institution that used to arrest and imprison them for just being who they are? Why must it include the churches that used to (and often still does) excommunicate, ostracize, and even encourage violence toward their queer members?
Pride is an LGBTQ space
Pride is an LGBTQ space. It always has been, and it always should be.
Too many people are trying to co-opt it. I literally saw organizations handing out branded rainbow flags at this year’s parade. One longtime Liberal Party candidate had the gall to say that the Liberal-branded rainbow flag was a better flag than the generic flag we had already received from organizers.
I realize now that my marching under the Mormons Building Bridges banner took space away from the LGBTQ community. I was trying to appropriate Pride to make a political point. And that was wrong. And I am sorry for my ignorance and actions.
If Mormons (or anyone for that matter) want to show support to the LGBTQ community through Pride, they should do so in collaboration with the community. They should be willing to participate in the floats and marches of LGBTQ-specific organizations, arm in arm and hand in hand. Show them that they are willing to be supportive without being selfish.
I won’t be marching under Mormons Building Bridges anymore. But to be clear, this isn’t really about Mormons Building Bridges. I feel exactly the same regarding similar organizations, such as Mormons for Equality. It’s not the specific organization; it’s the message we’re sending when we want to be allies while still remaining in our comfort zone.