June 24, 2012, I not only attended, but I marched in my first Pride Parade. That winter I had finally stopped wrestling with the theological implications of being attracted to women. I finally felt loved by God and free to begin to pursue a relationship.
I was 32 years old and hadn’t dated in 12 years. I longed to feel loved. I longed to feel a part of a community. I saw something online about The Center on Halsted looking for people to march, so I signed up.
As I marched down the parade route with the group and surrounded by an estimated 850,000 people, I felt proud that I stepped out of my comfort zone. A reporter for the Chicago Tribune talked to me as I marched and when asked what I felt marching in my first Pride seeing people from all walks of life gathered in one place – I was quoted “It makes you feel not so alone”.
I craved community. Previously, it was easy. I had been a member of a church for almost a decade. I worked as a youth group leader. I did all kinds of tasks and regularly brought the pastors coffee. I felt like community was built into my life. When I moved to Chicago in 2010, I lost that. I couldn’t find it. Looking back on that Tribune article, I see that I was still desperate to feel connection.
April of 2015, I found a subreddit that started to give me a feeling of community. I would read the posts of guys like me who were questioning their gender identity or beginning to transition. This group would answer my questions, ask me for my take on their situations, and give me support when I felt I had no one who I could talk to.
September 8, 2015, I finally started my medical transition to male. I got my prescription for testosterone and gave myself my first injection. I felt like I finally was doing what I should be doing. I remember after texting my wife that it was done my next task was to tell that group of guys on reddit that I finally had my prescription. I got to share my joy.
February 6, 2016, I stepped out of my comfort zone (and against my social anxiety’s wishes) to a meetup with other trans guys. Malcolm (the FTM Traveler) set up a dinner with some brothers, so I went. The next morning we had another meetup for breakfast. I got to bring my wife and met more amazing guys whom I now consider friends. My community was expanding.
June 12, 2016, I awoke to the hateful massacre at Pulse in Orlando. The count of dead souls rose from 20 to 50 as I was reading the news.
June 12, 2016, I came home from a day of church and a neighborhood festival to read about a man who was arrested on his way to commit a similar act at LA Pride.
The truth is, whether I felt it or not – whether I was lesbian, gay, cis, trans, bi, queer, etc. – what happened in Orlando, what could have happened in L.A., it is still my community. We are all connected. We are connected through our humanity. We don’t need a certain facet of our life to be what connects us. The mere fact that we were born and breathe oxygen is enough – or should be anyway. Yes, it is much easier to relate to someone who has gone through similar struggles, but we are to love our neighbor – not just the one with the similar roof – the one with the peeling pink paint and Munsters themed doorbell chime (I made that up, but wouldn’t that be amazing???).
Community is a choice. Let’s choose to be in community with others. Let’s choose to love. Let’s choose to protect those who are the most vulnerable. Use whatever privilege you have to help the oppressed. Last week I was riding the L and saw a situation that I felt required action. I have the privilege of being seen as a white male, so I used that to try to help some women on the train feel safe. It ended up not being a big thing that I had to do, but I could see the relief on one particular woman’s face and knew it was a big deal to her.
I’m not saying it is right that there is such a thing as white privilege or male privilege (especially white male privilege), but I am saying that it does exist and until we can dismantle the patriarchal system, we need to find a way to use it to the advantage of the oppressed.