Back in the summer of 2006 when I had only been out to myself, friends and family for a couple of years I got another one of those a phone calls from my mom. As soon as I picked up the phone she spat “So I guess you were down there at Piedmont Park.” I had not been there but figured she was hoping to pounce on me for some imagined debauchery with other Pride attendees. “No ma’am” I said flatly and she jumped in “well the stage collapsed – too bad no one was REALLY hurt.” In the gaping moment of silence she had time to get in one more jab. “Pride, ha, proud of what?” and I hung up.
See, by this point I had long since given up any hope of a relationship with my parents even though my dear therapist told me to keep hoping (any southern, Christian lesbian worth her salt has a good therapist on speed dial). Hope at that time felt like a reoccurring self-inflicted injury. When I gave up hope I thought I was choosing reality over the constant disappointment and pain from encounters like that summer afternoon. I was determined to let that be the very last time I picked up the phone when she called.
Fast forward to Easter morning, 2009. As my wife and I sipped our coffee, the kids scurried around the house looking for hidden eggs. In the O’dark:30 hours I was startled to hear my phone ring. It was my dad. I didn’t pick it up but as soon as the voicemail chime sounded I listened to his message (hope persists, sometimes against our will). And dad said “Kimberly, we want you and LeAnne to come to Easter Sunday supper.” I was stunned, breathless, tingling. He had never before called my wife by her name – only as “that woman” – and had not spoken MY name in years. I took a chance and called back right away. Mamma answered the phone and her voice cracked as she said “Kimberly, the first bible verse I memorized as a little girl in Sunday school was ‘judge not lest ye be judged’ – please come home, we miss you.” I cried, she cried – kids and wife looked on, at first worried then beaming as I laughed through my tears. Hope, resurrected on Easter morning, shone a light on parents who turned to scripture again and again, first find new ways to prove I was an abomination but finally to find a way back into relationship with their daughter. It was a huge first step and took a lot of work on everyone’s part but I was able to spend the remaining year and half of my mom’s life getting reacquainted and recalling all they ways she had loved me in her own way.
So why this Easter story smack dab in the middle of Pride season? Aren’t we all just supposed to be running around half nekkid, fully sauced and acting a fool in the streets? It’s just a big party right? That’s what my mom thought, that’s what a lot of folks still think. And yeah, it really is an outrageous party with folks’ fine china hanging out all over the place, but what lies underneath is an unstoppable surge of love of self and neighbor. It is a massive celebration of our lives and being able to claim our beautiful and messy selves just as we are created to be. June 28 marks a date when Pride exploded in the early morning hours, just months after I was born, as the Stonewall riots began and broke the dam of silence around severe and dangerous LGBT oppression in the US.
Mom is gone now, but six years later I can finally answer her question “proud of what?”
Mamma, I’m proud of accepting who I am in the face of certain rejection by family and friends.
I’m proud of people who’ve gone before me, some who’ve died for being who they are, and how they stood up and we are all standing up against hate and violence masquerading as Christianity.
I’m proud of all the beautiful people celebrating who they are – just as God made them.
I’m proud of allies who keep on standin’ up for what is right, no matter the personal cost.
I’m proud of a faith, one you instilled in me, that abides even when doubt stomps her petulant feet.
I’m proud of being in community with others who love, affirm and welcome everyone, everyone, everyone into the FULL life of the church.
I’m proud to keep tellin’ folks that God loves them.
I’m proud of kids who are smart, strong and proud to be loved by two mammas.
I’m proud of a wife, and to be a wife, who keeps on loving when, just sometimes, we don’t act so lovable.
And perhaps most of all I’m proud of you mom, and you dad, for the incredible courage you had to allow the love in your hearts to win out over a lifetime of understanding the world so very differently.
Readers, I wonder, what are you proud of?
A little reminder from my very first post as to the nature of commenting on this blog…
This blog will never address hateful comments – we will delete them. If you act too ugly you will be uninvited from the conversation. First and foremost, this blog is a place to find healing and share in the journey with real people, with bold hearts and tender stories. Please act nice, please treat one another with kindness and respect. If you’re not sure what that looks like I’m not sure this is the right dialogue for you at this time.