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Brian Hodder: Out in faith — together

Sights and sounds from the 2018 St. John's Pride Parade
Sights and sounds from the 2018 St. John's Pride Parade

As I sit at my computer to write this column, events for this year’s Pride Week are just getting into swing.

I am sometimes amazed at how much things have changed for the better since my first Gay Pride here in the 1990s.

I can still remember standing in front of a microphone on the steps of City Hall before a crowd of around 50 people and protesting the lack of rights in this province for members of our community.

I remember the feeling of butterflies in my stomach as I considered that what I was saying was being recorded by media representatives and would later be broadcast across the province on television and radio newscasts.

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Although I was out at the time to my family and was working with the AIDS Committee, meaning I had a supportive employer, this meant that there would be a lot of people in my hometown who may be learning for the first time that I identified as gay.

It also meant that my face would become publicly identified with the gay community, which meant that anyone in the city who disliked gay people and was looking to take their frustrations out by beating up a “faggot” now had an easily identified target.

While this did not happen to me, it was a real concern and there were other men and women in the city who had been subjected to physical violence once they had been identified as gay or lesbian.

I did experience strangers yelling “f**ing faggot” at me out in public on a couple of occasions and I vividly recollect the feeling of fear that if I responded to such taunts, I could be facing a severe beating just for walking down the street or on a walking trail.

In 2018, Pride Week has become a celebration of diversity as the entire community comes together to recognize and support the broad spectrum of humanity.

From a group of barely 50 brave community members and supporters, Pride March now has participants numbering in the thousands and has representation from a wide range of groups, including political parties, businesses and faith organizations.

It is this latter group that is particularly significant for me as much of the resistance to the acceptance of the LGBTQ2 community in our society comes from within certain faith communities. In order for this to change, bridges need to be built and, for the third year in a row, a multi-faith service will be held tonight at The Gathering Place beginning at 7p.m. Under the name Out In Faith, this service brings together speakers from a number of faith groups to share their experiences and beliefs in a safe and supportive environment and it hopes to facilitate the growth of additional faith groups becoming involved with Pride activities. They are already meeting with success as, since its inception, participation has grown so that groups from the United Church, Quakers, Anglican Church and the Jewish Havura planned to march together in this past Sunday’s Pride March.

I sincerely hope that Out In Faith continues to grow and expand in the coming years. Members of the LGBTQ2 community are no different from other members of the general community and many of us place a great importance on our experience of faith. For many in this province, despite the advancements made in other areas, exclusion from open participation in certain faith groups remains a source of pain and rejection.

This can only change if faith groups who are not presently supportive are willing to engage in a dialogue with our community and work to find areas in which we can work together instead of focusing on where there is disagreement. I would invite them to come to tonight’s service and be willing to at least listen to what is being shared as a first step in this process. The theme of this year’s Pride is “TOGETHER” and there is no better time for us to come together in faith and in Pride.

Brian Hodder is an LGBTQ2 activist and works in the field of mental health and addictions. He can be reached at bdhodder@hotmail.com.

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