Posted by: ronontheroad | August 4, 2013

Pride in Nottingham!

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Nottingham City has been running a “Proud of Nottingham” campaign for a few years – and I think they are right to be proud: public perception of this city seems high, the crime rate is lower, the streets cleaner, the cultural life enhanced by Nottingham Contemporary, and so on.

But last week it was the turn of Nottinghamshire to host an LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) Pride event (you see what I did there: messing with language) – one of around 36 that are taking place in the UK this year.

This was my first time attending a Pride event – I’ve seen clips on TV of some of the big events in London, Manchester, even New York – but this year I was actually there. And what was I expecting? A lot of stereotypes – chaps in chaps sporting Freddie Mercury moustaches. Colourful, over the top, risqué costumes?

Well maybe some people did get dressed up for the parade, but what I noticed more was that most of the people on the parade and later milling around the various stalls were… just people. I am not really surprised – I do know (and know that I don’t know that I know *) people who are LGBT and they are just friends and colleagues going about their day-to-day life.

Another thing that I found interesting was the type of groups that held stands. We were placed between a group raising money for ex-soldiers who end up sleeping rough, and a women’s refuge group. Many of the stalls were support and advice groups, and while there was an LGBT flavour, many of these advocacy groups were generic.

And that’s quite right, I think, since true equality is not about discrimination but celebrating difference. But society does tend to label and marginalise people: “us” and “them”; “gay” and “straight”; “our sort of people” and “not our sort of people”.

So why was I there? I was at Nottinghamshire Pride with some people from Inclusive Church taking the opportunity to promote the idea that Jesus welcomes all, and God’s love reaches all.

I am a Christian – and it is my desire that everyone has the opportunity to meet Christ: to encounter the unconditional love and forgiveness of the God who cares enough to share humanity with us for a while. And I am convinced of this – Jesus was not afraid to meet people where they were. Come to me… Love God and love your neighbour… Certainly, Jesus stood against exploitation and injustice and made it clear that each of us is too ready to condemn the small faults we see in others while being blind to the large ones of our own. Our prime directive – love God and love each other – is not some feeling-warm-inside emotion – but the agape, the laying down of life that Christ demonstrated.

Our stall at Pride also (quite deliberately) offered information about LGBT-affirming groups of other faiths – and it was interesting to hear how people who don’t belong to a faith group themselves picked up literature for friends who are looking at issues of sexuality within their own faith community.

So impressions of my first Pride event – colourful, yes, but full of ordinary people living ordinary lives – with pride.

* with apologies to the American poet Donald Rumsfeld.

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