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RGOD2: Celebrating the spirit of Stonewall

Within days of Hurricane Sandy, I found myself in New York where half the island was “business as usual” and the other half was like a war zone. Subways flooded, elevators and restaurants shut down for days, and my northern Manhattan friends were comforting and housing their southern Manhattan neighbors – “refugees,” they called them. I was there with my partner to honor Bruce Knotts and the incredible work done by the Universalist Unitarians at the United Nations over 50 years. Even a hurricane could not stop us!

The Big Apple has a big heart

I was impressed by the way New Yorkers not only dealt with the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy but how they took care of each other. In the midst of what seems a massive impersonal metropolis, there is a heart – a big heart and it was so moving to witness countless little acts of kindness, patience and support over that traumatic week.

My partner and I decided to support businesses in southern Manhattan that had been closed for most of the previous week so on our last Sunday evening we ended up in Greenwich Village, dined at one of the local restaurants and ended up in the Stonewall Inn for a regularly scheduled drag show. The performer was amazed that people were actually showing up for her show and when she found out we came all the way from San Diego, we became the focus of her undying love! Just showing up and demonstrating a little solidarity can go a long way after such a traumatic event.

The spirit of place

There was something symbolic about actually being in the Stonewall Inn where history tells us about the drag queens lead the gay revolution for Americans 40 years ago. The original bar is now a nail salon and is next door to the current bar. We need to make sure this place is not only protected but honored and can be a place where younger generations can learn about what happened there and apply the same principles of solidarity, showing up and singing through the storm that my partner and I experienced in New York on our little pilgrimage. The spirit of Stonewall has many manifestations, and it is this spirit we celebrate during San Diego Pride this weekend.

The journey to wholeness

The power of story, particularly the LGBT journey towards wholeness, justice and finally a place at the table, should never be forgotten or trivialized. A movie like “Milk” can teach a new generation about this journey and its implications for the straight world of the 21st century. The Los Angeles LGBT film festival opens this coming week and the growth of LGBT-related stories through media and film is inspirational. Who would have thought a radical movement like Act Up would now been seen my mainstream health advocates as a model for universal access to healthcare? OUTFest and our own FilmOut San Diego bring these important stories and connections to our busy lives and encourage celebration, reflection and the sharing of experience and possibilities.

The Bible teaches our greatest sin and shortcoming is amnesia and as human beings we have a natural disposition to forget our own journeys or not pass our stories on to new generations. When we forget our story, we are not only lost, but we often get in trouble. The Bible’s constant theme of remembering is the antidote to this avoidable collective sin. As the festive floats and organizations march by the crowds of well-wishers this weekend in the San Diego LGBT Pride Parade, how to we join the dots between what is happening here and now and what happened at the Stonewall Inn? If Pride weekend becomes just another excuse to party without reflection and interpretation of the spirit of Stonewall to our present day challenges, we are already lost. Just because we have a place at the table does not mean the work is finished.

Telling our stories and joining the dots for the 21st century

“God Loves Uganda” is a new film, very much in the spirit of Stonewall reinterpreted for the 21st century. It is about the connection all LGBT people have around the world and all wanting the same things. Just as LGBT people in the 1960s lived in fear of arrest, blackmail, violence and loss of job and community, millions of us in 76 countries still live in a pre-Stonewall world.

Director Roger Ross Williams will be opening the LA Film Festival on Wednesday evening with the film and will be talking about why this particular story is important to him and to the LGBT movement in general. He will be bringing the film to the Birch North Park Theater at 7:30 pm Friday, July 19, with a VIP dinner in his honor beginning at 5.30 pm at Wangs. Tickets can be purchased online HERE.

If you buy a general admission ticket over the Pride weekend, there is a $5 discount, so admission will be $15 and $10 for seniors, military, students and non-working. Tickets are available this weekend at St. Paul’s Cathedral (at the hamburger stand across from Balboa Park) and at the PFLAG booth inside the festival grounds.

This film will help us all to not only celebrate the spirit of Stonewall in the 21st century as globalization brings us all closer together, but like my friends in Manhattan following Hurricane Sandy, gives us an opportunity to show up, give some simple forms of solidarity and ensure the show goes on. If we can all do this and join the dots between what went on 40 years ago in New York, what is happening today in San Diego and Kampala Uganda, we honor the sacrifice and struggle of those who have gone before us. And the beat goes on …

RGOD2, written by the Rev. Canon Albert Ogle of St. Paul’s Cathedral in San Diego, looks at faith and religion from an LGBT point of view. Ogle is known around the world for his work in support of LGBT rights and HIV-prevention efforts. He is president of St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation. Donations to the foundation can be made by clicking HERE.