What Woke Me Up

9 June 2007 ~ Boston Queer Pride Service
Arlington Street Church
Mr. Barb Greve

It should have been enough when Sylvia Rivera, a 17-year-old, street-smart, Puerto Rican drag queen threw one of the first bottles at the police, fighting back for our dignity and rights in what we now call the Stonewall riots of 1969.

It should have been enough that in the aftermath of the Stonewall riots, transgender participation and the participation of people of color began to be erased from our histories in order to make our queer communities more palatable for the public majority.

It should have been enough when the “Twinkie Defense” was accepted as a defense to why Dan White, a former San Francisco Supervisor assassinated Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk on November 27, 1978.

It should have been enough that even as other mainstream churches were using their thea/ologies to justify the persecution and discrimination against homosexual and bisexual peoples, Unitarian Universalism was speaking out in support of queer communities.

But I slept…

It should have been enough when my kindergarten teacher told me I could not grow up to be the guy you see standing here before you today.

It should have been enough the first time I was kicked out of the women’s bathroom because I didn’t match the model of womanhood the other women in the bathroom ascribed to.

It should have been enough when, in 1979, the first national homosexual rights march on Washington, DC was held.

Or when in that same year Harry Hay issued the first call for a Radical Faerie gathering.

But still I slept…

It should have been enough when The Moral Majority started its anti-homosexual crusade.

It should have been enough when Massachusetts Representative Gerry Studds became the first openly homosexual member of the US Congress by coming out on the floor of the House.

It should have been enough when I learned more about HIV and AIDS in my church’s About Your Sexuality class than I did in my public school health class.

But still I slept…

It should have been enough when a lesbian couple was banned from attending their high school prom the same year I didn’t take who I wanted to mine.

It should have been enough when I came out publicly as a lesbian.

It should have been enough when Brandon Teena was raped and murdered in 1993, or when the third gay rights march on Washington, DC was held that same year.

It should have been enough when I came out publicly as a transgender guy.

It should have been enough when I heard a lone voice on a panel credit me for why he was able to come out as a transgender guy his sophomore year in high school.

But still I slept…

I began to wake up with the world as we responded in outrage after Matthew Shepard, a young gay man, was tied to a fence and left to die. I further woke up as I served the UUA’s Office of Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Concerns.

The Office served as my perpetual alarm clock. For it was not the atrocities against queer peoples nor the successes of the queer movement that woke me up, but rather the stories I would hear from our congregants and congregations who were working on queer rights issues or going through the Welcoming Congregation Program.

I woke up as day after day I received calls, letters, and emails telling me about the struggles in our own congregations. I woke up as I realized that the people on the other end of the correspondence were engaging in their struggles – our struggles – because that was what was needed to fully live our values and stay in right relationship with one another and the world.

I woke up as we Unitarian Universalists stated our commitment to justice, equity, and compassion in human relations.

I woke up as Unitarian Universalists recognized and proclaimed that some things are rights, not privileges:

Access to healthcare;
Physical safety at work, home, school and church;
Correct pronoun usage;
Freedom of choice to dress as one feels best expresses oneself;
The ability to perform bodily functions in peace without raised eyebrows;
The ability to marry who you want;
The ability to travel where you want; and
The ability to say what you need without threat or reprisal…

…We Unitarian Universalists recognize that these are rights not privileges.

We have woken up and because it is important to honor where we come from, we gather at moments like this to learn from one another and to celebrate. We continue to imagine how the world might be different so that we can bring that difference into being. We listen for dissonance, recognizing that life is pluralistic and through that pluralism is our strength. We celebrate queer communities and stay awake to our ever-changing needs.

I invite you to stay awake and join in moving the world further towards justice! And today, we honor all that we have been through and celebrate one another’s presence in our lives! Stay awake and join in the struggle and celebration!

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Published in: on 9 June 2007 at 11.25  Leave a Comment  

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