This June will mark the 3rd year members of my family and I have marched in Pride as advocates and active members of the LDS church. The first year I marched in Pride was a sort of coming out for me as a strong advocate. I was bursting in my heart with love, longing, and a desire to reach out to the LGBT community. The experience of marching in 2012 with Mormon’s Building Bridges ended up being one of the highlights of my life. I felt then with a complete surety that my involvement with reaching out with love to the LGBT community could make a difference – Even a BIG difference. Tears streamed down the faces of the passerby’s as we marched with our signs of “love one another”. It was all so overwhelming to both the LGBT individuals and to us to publicly show that “YES, we active LDS folks love our LGBT brothers and sisters!”
Last year the experience duplicated itself as I marched along with my brother, niece, daughter and friends. The intensity of the experience did not wane. There is still much love to be shown, and many hearts need healing. Marching in the Pride Parade as an active LDS advocate I feel is a celebration and public commitment to standing up for my LGBT brothers and sisters! I would say without hesitation that this experience has become my most profound Sunday of the year!
This will be my first time marching in Pride. I’m a little nervous about it, but I’m also looking forward to it. While I march, I will be thinking about where I was emotionally and spiritually 5 years ago. It was cold, dark, and so very lonely. But while I march, I’ll also be thinking about my surroundings: Rain or shine, I’ll be alive to experience it; to breathe it in. I’ll be surrounded by hundreds if not thousands of people, no longer alone. And brothers and sisters, I hope that you’ll march with me. The courage of folks like those in Mormons Building Bridges helped me to know that I wasn’t alone, and that I could be myself, bravely. I will march so that others can have the chance to know that they have a place by my side, and that I’ll walk with them whatever may come. I’d love to walk with you, too.
My reasons for marching in Pride come down to something very simple: wanting to be part of a public gesture of love and acceptance and celebration for my fellow LGBTQ Mormons. So many carry deep wounds from being rejected by their community of faith, and have felt forced to choose between a life of partnership with someone for whom they feel a full emotional, spiritual, and physical affinity or a life where they are accepted by their religious community. I march in Pride to make it known that there are those of us, both LGBTQ-identifying and straight, who are working to make spaces for LGBTQ people of Mormon heritage where they can reclaim their faith and religious culture in ways that are affirming of their sexual orientation and gender identity. I march as a way of making that space for myself as well as for others as a way of creating the Zion I would like to see.
Last year as I marched in Twin Cities Pride (my first Pride parade ever), I was struck by how important our presence there was, and how we were shifting perceptions that all Mormons are hateful toward the LGBT community. As marched I saw peoples’ squinting faces turn from puzzlement to pleasant surprise as they read our signs, realized who we were, and then erupted into applause and reached out for high fives and hugs as we passed by. One moment stands out to me in particular, and that is when a lesbian woman, probably in her late 40s, ran up to us from out of the crowd and kept repeating to us with a mix of incredulity and excitement: “You’re Mormons? You’ve got to be f-ing kidding me!” She shared with us briefly that she had joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a young adult and had been married in the temple. Both her reminiscent tone as she shared this part of her life and her disbelief that we were actually there as Mormon-identifying LGBTQ people and allies revealed to me a sense that she was seeing something happen that she had never thought possible, but perhaps wished could have been. I was somewhat dumbfounded as to what to tell her, and simply called after her as she went back to the crowd: “We’re trying to make things better.”
Experiences like this are why I will be marching again—so that those who have felt a rift between their spiritual and sexual identities might know that, no matter how slow, there is work being done among members of the Mormon Church to heal these rifts and to prevent these rifts from being perpetuated in younger generations. As I marched last year I looked around me and recognized that for many Mormons marching in a Pride parade would be a huge step out of their comfort zone, but felt impressed very strongly that this was the work of Christ—to step out of our comfort zones with unconditional love—to show pride and celebrate the wholeness and beauty of those LGBT souls who have been shamed and made to feel less-than in our congregations and in society at large. I march as a way to reclaim and celebrate my own sense of worth and wholeness and spiritual heritage, and I march as a way of inviting others to do the same.
Pride is usually fun, loud, exciting and colourful but, a word I would’ve never used to describe it would be emotional, that is until 2012. I was standing with my friends when Affirmation Chicago marched past me. I read their sign and it hit me like a truck. There are people out there like me. It changed me life and introduced me to new amazing people. That’s why I’m marching so maybe just maybe there will be someone like me in the crowd. I want them to know they aren’t alone. I hope you’ll march with me.
Lismarie Ellis Nyland
In early 2012, with Prop 8 still fresh in my mind and marriage equality legislation on our upcoming ballot in my home state of Washington, my inner convictions urged me to do something to help, but I felt lost about how to get involved. Through the magic of the internet, I stumbled upon Mormons for Marriage Equality. I couldn’t believe it! There were other Mormons like me?!?! As I read the group’s description, I soon discovered that they were registered to march in the Seattle Pride Parade. I nervously and excitedly made plans to march with them. My husband and four children were also enthusiastic to participate. So, we woke up early on the morning of Sunday, June 24, 2012 to prepare. I helped my children make signs and we loaded up our biggest stroller and walked on the Bremerton ferry to head over to Seattle. It was a hot day and we were relieved to find our group gathered under a shady overpass. We quickly made new friends and prayed with the other church groups that were marching near us. My heart raced as the parade began, not knowing how a group of Mormons would be received by our LGBTQ community. The positive response was overwhelming and the incredible cheering was encouraging. Then, a young woman came running out of the crowd and hugged one of the women in our group. With tears in her eyes, she said, “I grew up Mormon and I didn’t think any Mormons would love me.” It was an experience I felt privileged to be a part of and I knew then that I would never miss future opportunities to be part of Pride again.
My first Pride parade was in June 2012 in Salt Lake City. I was just coming out, and I was scared to death that someone from my ward might see me there. As I started walking away, I heard an absolute uproar of cheers from the parade route. I turned and saw Mormons Building Bridges walking toward me, signs in the air, smiles on their faces, and arms extended to embrace those on the sidewalk. I didn’t know who they were, and I didn’t know what to do. But as a complete stranger embraced me in love, I sobbed tears of gratitude, and remembered the words of David in Psalms 30:11, “Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness.”
I now march in Pride because I strive to emulate the words of Alma in Mosiah 18:8-9, “…ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called His people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life.”
Pride is no exception. Those who march journey to higher ground. They love their Heavenly Parent’s children, and their lives manifest that love perfectly. They nurture, serve, and sustain their brothers and sisters. In the spirit of love and kindness, they build up those around them, and give freely of their substance to others. They are Catholics and Baptists. Jews and Gentiles. Latter Day Saints and Methodists. But most importantly, they are children of God. And I love them.
For the latest information about local Pride events sponsored by groups like Mormons Building Bridges, Mormons for Equality, Affirmation, and others, check the calendar of events here!