jennifer hanigan

a pinch of this and a dollop of that

Bloomsday

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Facebook memories: some days they make me giggle, and some days they make me blue. Lately it’s been the latter. Around this time of year, I’m usually training for Bloomsday.

bloomsday

You only get the t-shirt if you finish the race.

Bloomsday is a 12K race that takes place each year in Spokane, WA. Forty-thousand-plus people coming together to conquer and/or torture themselves. I generally dislike crowds, but there’s something exhilarating about it. In addition to the runners, walkers, and rollers, the entire town seems to turn out, lining the streets to cheer and wave and spray us with water. It’s a giant party. Live bands play, people sell popsicles two for a dollar and hold up encouraging signs.

Not all the signs are encouraging. One dude in particular dedicates himself each year to holding a sign that proclaims, “God Hates F*gs.” He’s a charmer, that one.

I wondered how I’d handle that this year; whether I’d lose my temper, or try to change his mind, whether it would upset me, or if I’d be able to ignore it.

Time out for a story: A little over a year ago, a neighbor and his pastor came to our door to assure themselves of our salvation, or lack of it, as the case may be. Now, I live with a woman. We are not romantically involved, and at that point I was still very quiet about my sexuality. Nevertheless, they must have possessed better gaydar than I do (or perhaps a startling ability to jump to conclusions), because they left us with a pamphlet about how God hates homosexuality. I really want to repay their kindness, but I cannot, because there is no such thing as pro-gay tracts! Why do we not have these? When I am done interrogating him about the satisfaction of his sex life, and whether his mother was distant and caused him to seek after womanly affection, I want to be able to leave him a little rainbow-covered pamphlet explaining that we have way, way more fun over here on the queer side of things. They call it gay for a reason. That should be the title.

But even if I had a pro-gay tract, I would not have the opportunity to bestow one upon the Bloomsday sign holder, because I will not be going. I will not be going because Bloomsday, for me, was a church trip. I went with church friends. We took church kids. We stayed at an affiliated church, where we supported their spaghetti feed and helped clean up. We went to the Saturday evening church service they held, so that everyone could be free on Sunday morning to participate in the race and festivities. We began the race side by side the next morning.

And every year my church friends would frown and shake their heads in dismay at the anti-gay sign holder. Why must he be so hateful, so mean? Why couldn’t he just love people? What good did he think he would accomplish this way?

From where I stand, I can tell you that the sign holder may hurt me, and hurt the cause of Christ, but he doesn’t hold a candle to the hurt inflicted on me by those who frown and shake their heads as they pass by, but who who turned their backs on me. Who willingly expelled me from their church family. Who claimed I was the problem. Who encouraged me to keep silent about who I am. Because I’m queer, and unashamed of it. Their rejection cuts far deeper because it comes from a place where love once claimed to live; from people who knew me, who ate and prayed and worshiped with me. People who claimed to be family, until I turned into the black sheep.

Why must they be so hateful, so mean? Why can’t they just love people? What good do they think they’ll accomplish this way?

I doubt I’ll ever know.

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