This weekend, I went to my first ever gay pride festival. It was a long time coming, for sure, but the opportunity never presented itself until now. So, I packed my rainbow-adorned best and headed to the city, where my roommate (an ally-of-the-year candidate in my book) lives.

I had no idea what to expect, not really, anyway. My biggest fear was that I would have found myself in a place with little
intersectionality (like some events I’ve recently attended,) worst case scenario. Years of working at my local concert shell have given me a great love of the human interconnectedness that comes with even the rowdiest of large crowds, but at an event with so much emotional charge I was a little bit more tentative.

Friends from high school met us there, and we walked around in the early afternoon, taking a bit longer to get to the parade route than we had planned for. Along the way, I ran into some friends from the Reconciling Movement that I hadn’t seen since I left the church I interned at, and we happily chatted about college, home life and whatnot. We talked about all that has transpired since I was there, and it brought me to thinking about just how much there was to celebrate. The defeat of DOMA, to say the least, was
something we had prayed for together back in January.

As we parted ways, I explained to my friends who they were and how I had known them. One friend that was with us has only come back onto my radar in recent days, she had graduated with my older brother but we didn’t reconnect until now. To have someone that understands the importance of God’s presence in my life as an LGBTQ+ person isn’t something I’ve experienced much within my own age group, and I paused again to think about how blessed I really am. It was a sunshiny day so we perched on the curb of the last stretch of the route, cameras ready to go.

The police came first, followed by the fire trucks and ambulances with sirens blaring full force. Immediately after them came a group from the VA in my area, and smack dab in the middle with bright pink hair was yet another friend from my past I hadn’t seen in years. Sure enough, he recognized us, too, and bolted to hug us before going back to the march. Facebook friend requests followed that night.

Waves upon waves of people came through that day, people of all colors, religions, backgrounds, abilities, gender identities, orientations, you name it. But each and every one had a smile on their face, a true, genuine smile just like the one I couldn’t shake from behind the viewfinder. I have an entire album of photos of floats, strangers and friends alike dressed for the Wizard of Oz theme with even a couple of happily marching dogs that just liked the attention. My favorites, however, are the shots of the banners each and every church had, with messages like “God is still speaking” and “Jesus didn’t reject people. Neither do we.”

There’s no place like home, and there’s no place like pride. God’s presence reaches over, through, and beyond both.  I can’t wait for next year when just maybe my church could be carrying a banner, too.

Mitch Leet

Mitch Leet is a senior at Keuka College and a Christian activist for the LGBTQ+ Community trying to reconnect with his Methodist roots.

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