“Words matter. Think about what you say.”
That was the sentiment on the screen as Sugarland sang a cover of “Tony” by Patty Griffin. They went on to share messages like “It is UP TO US to protect all of our LGBTQ kids whether they are our kids, our neighbors’ kids, or our classmates”, “Our homes can be affirming places. Our schools. Our churches. Our communities.”, and “We must STAND UP for them when other don’t and TALK TO and resist those who reject and bully them.” They ended the song with information shared about The Trevor Project and Human Rights Campaign.
Overcome with emotion and pride, I immediately posted this on my Facebook as Sugarland kept on singing:
As if I didn’t already love them, Sugarland just sang “Tony” by Patty Griffin. I was moved by the song as they sang it with these words and more behind them on the screen. As I now read the actual lyrics on my phone, I am even more deeply moved that they choose to highlight LGBTQ suicide among youth in their concert and that they chose this song to do so. 🏳️🌈💚💛🏳️🌈🧡🏳️🌈❤️💜🏳️🌈
Pride isn’t about needing to feel special and recognized for our sexuality. It is about being seen. It is about being loved and having safe space to express love. It’s about equality. It’s about bringing awareness to the fact that people are literally dying or hurting themselves because of the hateful words and actions taken by churches, families, classmates, bakers, businesses, governments, and more. Pride is about experiencing freedom. The freedom to be. The freedom to love. The freedom to claim our own truth.
Thank you, Sugarland! You had me on the edge of tears! Deep gratitude for bringing your spirit of equality to the country music community, a community that I love but one that isn’t usually the most supportive of LGBTQIA+ rights.
As I approached this summer, I pondered how I was going to express myself as a human who was part of the LGBTQIA+ community during the various youth ministry events that I staffed this summer. It wasn’t about feeling the need to do it for myself but for everyone else that was present. For the youth who were out and publicly living their truth, it was to be a sign of solidarity. For those who were still hiding an integral part of themselves from the world, it was to be a sign of hope and safety. To know there were others in leadership roles who had a similar identity and who had walked a similar journey as a teen. To everyone else, it was to help normalize same-sex attraction (because guess what… It’s normal.).
You see, our youth are constantly bombarded with heteronormative images and songs and words. At a young age, most parents and others use language that implies that their child will grow up to find someone of the opposite sex to marry and start a family with. Many parents will even dream of which of their friends’ children they might marry someday. While there has been some improvement, images of male/female couples are everywhere. Representation in music, TV, commercials, and movies are increasing but the societal “norm” of opposite sex attraction is still dominant in society by a wide margin. All of this becomes too overwhelming for the closeted kid who finds little safe space to understand who they are. There is no room to safely breathe and grow into their own truth.
So as a youth minister who was to attend several youth ministry events this summer, I became intentional about expressing who I was. Here’s how I did that:
- When we visited Temple Square during Caravan, I made sure to wear everything pride related that I had. It wasn’t much but enough that I felt like I was making
- statement I needed to make.
- I shared a testimony of my journey of understanding who I am and the support I have felt by our faith community during a special worship on the Caravan trip.
- When I posted an interview with our Northwest Delegation leaders for Spectacular on our Facebook page just prior to the trip, I used a pic of me with the Bisexual Pride sticker on my face.
- I wore various pride related stuff and was open about who I am during Caravan, Sr. High Camp, International Youth Forum, and Spectacular.
- I am currently the head cook for a Kids Camp and ordered a “Love is Love” apron to wear during the week.
Our youth need to know at a young age that it is okay to be your authentic self. We need to give them space to grow into who they are. We need to express and show the diversity in human orientations and identities. We need show that love is love is love is love in all aspects of our lives so that they can begin to understand and know it within their own.
Words matter. Visibility matters. Representation matters. You matter. I matter. We matter. Love matters.