Proud of What?


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 commentswe 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.

About Kimberly Knight

Kimberly has a long history of back-pew sitting, Wednesday night supper eatin' and generally trying God’s patience since 1969. She's lucky enough to have made her technology addiction a career and serves as both the Director of Digital Strategy as a southern liberal arts college and Minister of Digital community with Extravagance UCC.

  • Michael Raburn

    You.

  • Pingback: A picture on my desk

  • Susan Pitchford

    Kimberly, I’m proud to be a Christian because the church has people like you in it. Thanks for this blog, and for sharing who you are and what you’ve lived. Your gifts are gifts to us all.

  • Moi

    I’m proud of the fact that despite growing up in a super conservative family, society has changed enough that when I came out to them this year it was entirely uneventful.

    • Kimberly Knight

      THAT is wonderful! Blessings to you and your family full of grace :)

      • Moi

        Thanks. And honestly, looking back on my teenage years in the ’90s surrounded by AFA activist types, getting from there to the present seems almost unimaginable yet here we are. And with the whole courtship thing convincing me for the longest time that I was just really good at guarding my heart, I arrived at this point with a whole lot less baggage than would be expected given that background.

  • Heidi

    Thanks, that was beautiful.

  • http://whiteladyblog.wordpress.com WhiteLadyBlogger

    I LOVE THIS BLOG.
    :)

  • http://fromthoughtsintowords.blogspot.com/ Rose Kahendi

    This was inspiring, Kimberly. As an ally, I have never experienced anything remotely like the heartache you felt. But I do think the symbolism of Easter is powerful. The idea that there is renewal, and that hope has a place in our lives is something worth holding on to all year long. :)

    • Kimberly Knight

      Thank you Rose, I appreciate your kindness. Though my heartaches have been deep and sharp I believe that each heart feels it’s own breaks so sharply that I never imagine my own shards are any more jagged than another’s. May your week be filled with peace and joy.

  • Jake Horner

    Kimberly,

    I am proud that I ended the cycle of abuse that ran in my family and raised my children in a loving home, and that they know they are loved.

    • Kimberly Knight

      Jake,

      That is indeed something about which to be very proud!

  • Matt

    When my dad came out to me at 19, I turned to everything my education at a private Christian school taught me. Instead of seeing him as he was, – still my father and still a man who sacrificed so much for me, including his happiness – I immediately began pointing out how he was going against everything that was right in the world. We didn’t talk for a couple of years, but through that time I found myself working with a number of gay men and women. They all displayed such zeal for life, and proud sense of who they were that I started to realize the flaw wasn’t in my dad (or anyone else), it was fear in something different based on an absolute, albeit a misinterpreted one.

    Eventually, I visited my dad and saw how happy he was with his partner and came to terms with the fact that, as my dad had taken to saying, “Love is love.” My father and I are closer than ever and I am proud to have him, not just as a father, but as a friend.

    Last year, for the first time, he took part in Orlando’s Gay Pride parade. As I stood on the sidewalk and watched him walk by, I realized I couldn’t just be a spectator and ran into the parade, hugged him and walked the rest of the way with him and his church. He will be marrying his soon-to-be-husband in October, two weeks after my wedding, and I am thrilled to stand at the altar with both of them as they take this step.

    What I’m getting at is that I’m happy that you had the chance to reconcile and revel in the love you had with your mother. Your mom has a legacy of love; love that can change people and open doors. I hope you live that legacy as well, and carry that happiness with you at all times.

    • Kimberly Knight

      Oh Matt, what an incredible story and journey. My heart just cracked open with sadness and joy at the reading of your post. Thank you for sharing and thank you for the journey you’re on with your father. Love!

  • http://marthaspong.com Martha Spong

    I went to Pride for the first time this year in my adopted home of Portland, Maine. I’m a Virginian by birth, and I was with a college friend and her wife at the parade. I was proud of how many church groups were marching in the parade here. It’s that witness that gives me the courage to be out now. Thank you for your witness, Kimberly.

    • Kimberly Knight

      Martha,

      You are so right! There are more and more church’s showing up and supporting the Pride participants. I saw a particularly moving image of a young man in tiny underpants hugging a parade spectator who was wearing a tshirt that read something like “I’m sorry for the way Christians have treated you…”.

      My own UCC is seemingly busy all summer joyfully attending Pride events. Grace abounds!

    • Kit Wang

      Martha! So please you could be with us at Southern Maine Pride! It was bracing and delightful to have SUCH a presence of the faith community. Keep an eye out for prayer opportunities as election season approaches, and for our next Pride Worship at St. Luke’s Cathedral (Episcopal), with our bishop, the Rt. Rev. Stephen Lane presiding.

      Kit+

  • http://bonniemcnair.wordpress.com Bonnie McNair

    Kimberly, I was not in relationship with my mother for ten years, because at 33 years of age I stood up to her about my husband. However, I was with her the last 24 hours of her life. (I told my pastor I would give her 24 hours but no more.) That was the beginning of my exercising boundries. Anyway, I held her hand as she was dying and I said, “I’m sorry I couldn’t be the daughter you wanted, and I am sorry you couldn’t be the mother I needed.” I could relate when you wrote about not speaking to your mother. There is a pain so deep I don’t think anyone who has a good relationship with their mother can fanthom the depth of the heartache it causes.
    What am I proud of??? The work I have done in my life to be different from the bitter, nasty, mean, hateful person I could have turned into. But mostly I am proud of the person I have become, while I still have my faults I like to think I continue to walk in the grace of God on a daily basis. I know my relationships with my husband, sons, daughter-in-law (she is so precious), grandchildren, and even my brothers with our rocky relationships, and friends are important and make me proud of them and the person I have become. Thank you for sharing a painful and intimate moment in your life.

    • Kimberly Knight

      Bonnie,

      My dear, I am so very sorry you were estranged from a mother who never knew how to be a mom but grateful that you were able to become the loving person you are now despite the deep wounds you’ve suffered. Thank you too for sharing your story here with us.

      K

    • http://fromthoughtsintowords.blogspot.com/ Rose Kahendi

      That’s a beautiful post, Bonnie.

  • http://www.progressiverenewalorg Gregg

    Kimberly:
    A powerful testimony. It is great to work with you, I have great respect for the message of who you are and what you stand for in the radical grace of Christ

    • Kimberly Knight

      Thank you Gregg, that really means a lot!

  • Ian Lynch

    I am proud to be your friend! Wonderfully written and moving. “damn of silence” whether intentional or Freudian is an apt description. May we all lift our voices to break the dams that hold back the truth of love. Rock on, sister!

    • Kimberly Knight

      Totally Freudian and totally right. Though my inner perfectionist made me fix it ;)

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    • Gidget

      Kimberly thank you for your transparency and sharing your experience and testamony. I would love to get information about your therapist or a support group to help work through some issues, so I can move forward in my life. Thank you again for sharing and I am PROUD that God blessed me to read your testamony. Blessings to you.

      • Kimberly Knight

        Gidget,

        My therapist is in the Atlanta area. If you’d like her number find me on Facebook and send me a private message so I can share it with you.

        Facebook.com/KimberlyAKnight

  • http://wfsucla@gmail.com Jeanne

    Thanks Kim for this story of hope and healing.
    Proud to call you friend and sister in ministry, and will use this post to engage students in reflection and dialogue on what it means to be a womyn, a daughter and a person of faith no matter our orientation, family configuration and radical believer in LOVE.

    • Kimberly Knight

      Thank you Jeanne for all the ways you honor me. I also hold very dear the leadership you are sharing with students out in CA. Love you sister!


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