Photo by Carlos de Toro @carlosdetoro on Unsplash

Here we are again. Pride Month 2024. Since coming out in 2016, I have tried, to varying degrees of success, to write about my relationship with Pride here on my blog.

In 2017, I wrote about my first San Francisco Pride Festival.

In 2021, I wrote about the concept of “Pride” and why LGBTQ+ Pride is so different from the harmful pride the Bible speaks against.

In 2022, after surviving a stroke, I wrote about “a different kind of Pride Month.”

Last summer, as trans rights in the United States seem to be increasingly under attack from right-wing media, religious leaders and politicians, I invited my friend Natalie to share her story and then went on to have a more in-depth conversation with her on my YouTube channel.

And this year Pride seems more urgent, more necessary than ever, doesn’t it?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had the hardest year I’ve had in a long time. It’s been one thing after another. Just when I think things might be settling down, another challenge comes around the bend. I’m a generally upbeat and positive person, but some things are genuinely overwhelming, and this is all in the context of having to live separated from my husband while we wait for his green card… which feels like it will simply never arrive.

And Alejandro is facing really difficult challenges of his own. As we sit together every night on Zoom, knowing there are literally thousands of miles separating us, we can talk and pray, we can be as close as two long-distance spouses can be, but at the end of the day, we still can’t even share the simple human comfort of a hug. Wouldn’t that make everything so much better? To face all of these challenges together from the same home base?

A friend texted me last night and asked how I was doing. I chose honesty:

It’s been an incredibly rough year, to be honest. I keep thinking that it can’t get worse, and then somehow it does! So I’m grateful that I have the relative spiritual maturity that I do… I can breathe and rest in the love of God and try to believe that all will be well. And I look forward to some good news or some breakthroughs or whatever post-evangelical language we want to use. I still pray, and I still seek, and I still hope for the best. And when and if that relief comes, I will be very grateful. Thanks for asking, and I hope that response wasn’t too real.

And I know I’m not alone. Mine is just one life. As I sit day after day with spiritual direction clients, I am honored and humbled to bear witness to their real lives, their joys as well as their struggles. It’s rough out there, y’all! I won’t put you through the secondhand trauma of reading a list of painful scenarios my clients are facing, but I will share this: In so many situations, there is one common theme: “It’s too difficult. I can’t do this. I should never have come out of the closet. I don’t know If I can keep going.”

I’ll admit it: I’ve been there.

Sometimes the challenges of my day-to-day life feel overwhelming. For good reason! This world has been conspiring against LGBTQ+ people from the beginning. But when I feel like quitting, sometimes it’s helpful to remember the first part of Hebrews 12. We are surrounded in love, cheered on by a “great cloud of witnesses” who have gone before us and show us the way. I especially like the way Eugene Peterson put it in his paraphrase, The Message:

 Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!

And I like to take it one step further and remind my clients – and myself – that we are surrounded by a great cloud of QUEER witnesses. When we are hurting; when we are oppressed and marginalized; when we are struggling to make ends meet; when we are told that we are abominations, that our identities and relationships are somehow broken, dirty, sick or sinful; when nothing seems to be going our way, we are not alone.

We are surrounded in love and rainbow light, cheered on by a great cloud of queer witnesses who have gone before us and show us the way.

Kittredge Cherry, a lesbian Christian author, minister and historian who writes regularly about LGBTQ spirituality and the arts at Q Spirit, has created a beautiful “Litany of Queer Saints” that encourages me sometimes when I feel alone and overwhelmed. You can read all about it here, but I want to type it out here too. Maybe it will encourage you today and give you strength to keep going a little bit further down this road. You are never alone, my friend.

Loving God of the rainbow promise, thank you for the lives of the LGBTQ saints and martyrs. May they shine forever in your rainbow light, inspiring us live with courage and compassion..

Saints of Stonewall, who performed the miracle of transforming self-hatred into pride, pray for us. May the saints of Stonewall continue to inspire all who seek justice and equality!

Saint Joan of Arc, courageous queer warrior who defied gender norms, pray for us.

Saint Sergius and Saint Bacchus, Roman soldiers united in love and death, pray for us.

Saints Perpetua and Felicity, who shared a kiss before dying, patron saints of same-sex couples, pray for us.

Saint Mychal Judge, gay chaplain who lost his life while ministering in the 9/11 terrorist attack, pray for us.

Our Lady of the Rainbow, Mother of Diversity, we your LGBTQ children call on you.  Comfort, guide, inspire, liberate and protect us.  Wrap us in your rainbow mantle as Our Mother of Pride.

Saint Sebastian, faithful even when stripped naked and pierced by arrows, pray for us.

Saint Marsha P. Johnson, Stonewall instigator, revolutionary black trans activist, Andy Warhol model, drag queen, pray for us and come to greet us when our mortal life is over.

Saint Francis of Assisi, gender nonconformist who loved all creation without limits, pray for us.

Saint John, Beloved Disciple, apostle who shared special love with Jesus, pray for us.

Holy Harvey Milk, martyred gay rights pioneer and San Francisco politician, pray for us.

Saint Simeon Bachos the Ethiopian eunuch, who was welcomed by the early church as part of God’s creative diversity, pray for us.

Saint Matthew Shepard, crucified by men who hate, young forever, pray for us.

Our Lady of Montevergine, patron of queer people since medieval times, protect us when we are rejected and keep us safe from harm and hate.

Saint Alan Turing, British computer scientist whose wartime codebreaking saved millions of lives, pray for us.

Saint Desmond Tutu, South Africa’s strong LGBTQ ally who taught that racism and homophobia are connected, pray for us.

Dame Julian of Norwich, who celebrated “Mother Jesus,” pray for gender fluidity.

King David and Jonathan, examples of same-gender love in the Hebrew scriptures, whose love was wonderful, surpassing the love of women in the Hebrew scriptures, pray for us.

Madre Juana de la Cruz, genderfluid Spanish saint who said God changed her from male to female in the womb, pray for us.

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, great literary nun who advocated for women and loved a countess in 17th-century Mexico City, pray for us.

Saint Aelred, who found divine love through his friendships with other men, pray for us.

Saint Brigid and saint Darlughdach, women soulmates whose life together was aflame with the Holy Spirit, pray for us.

Saint John Henry Newman, you are an example of true friendship and Love. Pray for us to appreciate and hold our friends closely even in Death.

Like Saint Bayard Rustin, may we stand up and speak out for our LGBTQ dreams…

Saint Pauli Murray, we join you in asking for a song of hope in a weary throat, and a world where we can sing it.  Pray for us.

Faithful centurion, whose boyfriend was healed by Jesus at your request, pray for us!

Saint David Kato, Ugandan LGBTQ activist and martyr, pray for us.

Saint Valentine, help everyone to find and keep their true God-appointed love. Guide the church to affirm and bless all those whom God has joined together, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Saints Jeanne Manford and Adele Starr, mothers of gay sons and co-founders of PFLAG, thank you for the healing power of your great love!

Saint Philip, who welcomed the Ethiopian eunuch to the early church, role model for LGBTQ allies, pray for sexual minorities and cast your Welcome into their hearts.

Saint Vida Dutton Scudder, educator and welfare activist, help us to be social reformers.

Two-Spirit people, whose indigenous cultures recognized alternative genders and whose tribal nations continue today despite colonization, inspire us to reclaim gender diversity.

Martyrs of the Club Q shooting in Colorado, who died when gunfire shattered love and dancing, pray for us.

Pulse 49 Martyrs of Orlando, shielding those you loved with your own bodies, pray for us and lend us your courage.

Martyrs of the UpStairs Lounge fire, whose memory burns in our hearts, pray for us.

Martyrs of the pink triangle and the black triangle, sent to concentration camps by the Nazis for homosexuality, pray for us.

All who have lived and died for love, peace and justice, pray for us.

All our holy innocents and martyrs, pray for us.  Blessed be all the queer lives lost due to ignorance and hatred.

Jesus, friend and liberator of outcasts, tortured and killed on the cross for loving beyond limits, pray for us.

Prophets in our midst usually get marginalized and thumped down by the powers that be. Thank you, Holy Sophia, for blessing and encouraging them to witness and reveal aspects of your sweet mercy and love!

Thank you, Great Teachers, as we continue to grow in knowledge of those who have gone before us. May you be surrounded by the Divine Light especially as we give thanks for you.

All you LGBTQ saints, named and unnamed, pray for us. Empowered by your spirit and your example, we move forward in solidarity with all creation to embody justice, love, integrity and peace. May your memories be a powerful call to action.

On your shoulders we stand!

Blessed be your memory!

May your rainbow light shine upon us!

Amen. Amen. Amen.