Pride Month: A Chance to Move Closer to the Promised Land
Pride Month, celebrated annually in June, offers an opportunity for LGBTQ folks and their allies to celebrate increased visibility. This year, Pride Month comes at a time of deep frustration for many in this vibrant community. In February, the Trump administration rescinded federal guidelines instructing public schools to welcome and create safe spaces for transgender and gender non-conforming students. Directly thereafter, the Supreme Court announced that it was sending an important case about the right of transgender high school students to use the bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity back to the lower courts, delaying a decision that would have nationwide impact. In the majority of U.S. states, it remains legal to discriminate on the basis of real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity, and although federal non-discrimination legislation has been introduced to address this unacceptable reality, it is unlikely to garner enough support to pass during the 115th Congress.
It is difficult to comprehend why prejudice and bigotry continue to plague our communities, and how we as an inclusive people can tread a new path toward equality. Given such questions and the current tenor in our country, it is understandable for people to lose faith.
This week, we read the Torah portion Sh’lach L’cha, in which Moses sends scouts to survey the land of Canaan in preparation for the Israelites’ arrival. When the scouts return, many concede that while the land is flowing with milk and honey, there are people already dwelling there, who appear much mightier than the Israelites. Only two of the scouts, Caleb and Joshua, argue that God will bring the Israelites victory in battle and they should continue in their quest to Canaan. The Israelites reject the notion that God will protect them, and threaten to stone Caleb and Joshua. God is infuriated with the Israelites’ lack of faith, and concedes that their generation will not be allowed to enter the Promised Land. Instead, they will reverse course and wander in the desert for 40 years, during which time all males over the age of 20 – with the exception of Joshua and Caleb – will perish.
Faith is indeed powerful, offering perspective and guidance in even the most intimidating circumstances. Caleb and Joshua knew they were in the minority when they advised the Israelites to continue into Canaan, but their faith in God and in themselves inspired them to persevere. Thus, they lived to enter the Promised Land while others perished. Meanwhile, their entire generation suffered because Joshua and Caleb were unable to influence the rest of their community.
We live in a trying time for many LGBTQ people, one in which progress and inclusion are met with increasing opposition and hate. But if we lose faith in our work and in our struggle, then we surely will never reach our own Promised Land of full inclusion and equality. The road is long and paved with challenges, but if we don’t stand up and make our voices heard, there is no way we will influence our society and bring all of us out of the desert together.
Pride Month is a time to relish the successes of the past, even as it inspires us to jump-start year-round advocacy toward LGBTQ equality. Here are some ways to get involved:
- Urge your Congressional representatives to support the Equality Act, federal non-discrimination legislation that would explicitly prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, federal funding, education, credit and jury selection based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
- Join the Religious Action Center’s campaign to protect transgender and gender non-conforming students facing discrimination in schools.
- Ask your state and local elected officials to support statewide legislation that protects and defends against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
In addition to working to change policy, we all should:
- Avoid assumptions about individuals’ gender identity and use preferred gender pronouns for everyone we encounter. A preferred gender pronoun is the pronoun people choose to use for themselves. Some transgender and gender non-conforming people prefer not to use pronouns typically associated with men (e.g., him) and women (e.g., her), preferring instead that others used their names or a non-gender pronoun such as they, them, or theirs.
- Help to explain to those around us why the use of preferred gender pronouns, access to gender neutral facilities, and implementation of non-discrimination legislation is essential to the lives and well-being of LGBTQ folks.
Caleb and Joshua teach us the importance of staying true to our beliefs, and the importance of bringing our communities along with us. By engaging our communities in the important celebrations, lessons, and calls to action of Pride Month throughout the year, we can make a lasting, positive impact on the lives of everyone around us.