I think my favorite thing about being queer is the color. The permission to be exuberant, passionately diverse in community and interest and love.
It’s also one of my favorite things about being Christian.
There’s just something delicious about purple in Advent. All those flesh reds of Pentecost, red like the color of a womb and the fleeting lip of a flame as it crackles and mouths wide open in shouts – all those reds pool up and make pockets for the blues to come in. Blues that are rich like the sky when it first wakes up in the morning, like the quiet curiosity of a jay on a fence. Blues and reds together, colors of fire and silence, and they make this purple of expectation.
The here and not yet.
Queer people know something about the here and not yet. We also know something about the reds of prophesy and protest, the purple that can be penitence, and the green of what St. Hildegard von Bingen termed the “verditas” – the greening of God’s creation, resilient resurrection. The rebirthing power of the Spirit, the rebirth of speaking truth. We know what it means to be here. We know what it means to lament. We know what it means to protest. We know what it means to atone.
We know what it means to long for the not yet.
It occurs to me, with Pride month just around the corner, that our rainbow flag is kind of its own liturgical color. A coat of many colors, because Pride is a festival that holds both lamentation and celebration together, protest and proclamation, penitence and reconciliation.
Pride, first, was a protest. The cry of voices pouring out on the streets, people who were called drunks (and far worse) for the word of God that all are made in God’s image.
Pride was birthed out of queer and trans people of color resisting police brutality, an AIDS epidemic that was forcibly and shamefully silenced, and an absolute refusal to let heteronormativity continue to write the script of acceptability.
When Pride becomes a party for a party’s sake, it loses its power.
So too does the proclamation of Pentecost when we forget that it was a cluster of people of all genders who flooded the streets with their voices even after their friend had been executed by the state. Jesus rose, yes, but the people who killed him lived, too.
As much as I hear concerns that Pride can feel co-opted by straight people, I still know that so many allies show up because they want to be in right relationship with their neighbors. And so the purple of penitence, too, is a part of Pride. Because, maybe, for years they scoffed or outright attacked LGBTQ people, but through grace or God’s reckoning they now want to right the wrongs. And, my goodness, I know I certainly have sins to atone for. It took many friends, patiently and lovingly answering my ignorant questions – about an identity I would come to claim, too, but also about gender fluidity and creativity and nonconformity. It still does.
Though not traditional liturgical colors, I think about black and brown – colors that absolutely belong on our flag. Black, so often worn at funerals, and brown, the hard wood of the cross. Colors that remind us of losses we have endured or created. Colors that remind us we are a resurrected people, yes, but the resurrection happened because first there was a profound injustice.
To me, I think the color this year speaking most is green. Not that we don’t have much to protest in this season after Pentecost, because every voice must be speaking out.
But the fact that most of our liturgical year is made up of ordinary days, of life that is meant to be spent in the extraordinary presence of our gender non-conforming God – I think that’s actually what Pride is for me.
About fighting for the ordinary things. The right to walk down the street and not be harassed. The right to not worry whether a marriage could be revoked by the state. The opportunity to deal with all the rest of the slog and joy of being a human being, and not have to explain or closet the colors that glimmer of difference.