LGBTQ+ Pride in Northern Westchester: Raising the Flag, Raising Awareness
In June 2021, I—a high school student in Yorktown and member of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Granite Springs—advocated raising the pride flag for a day as part of my confirmation project, to show that our church was a welcoming place.
The rector and wardens advised against doing this at that time, aware that, while the Diocese of New York supports the LGBTQ+ community, there are many in Westchester who may not share this view, and warning that some churchgoers wouldn’t understand what the gesture meant. I realized they were right: Just sticking the flag up for a day wouldn’t have the big impact I sought if people didn’t understand the significance.
Instead, my rector, the Rev. Hal Roark, the wardens, the vestry, fellow members of Good Shepherd, and I developed the Educate/Validate Program—a series of four free Zoom seminars, open to all and designed to help eliminate misconceptions about the LGBTQ+ community. Each of the program’s seminars covered (or will cover) different aspects of LGBTQ+ experience. On February 27, David Diamond, program specialist at the Westchester Jewish Community Services’ Center Lane program for LGBTQ+ Youth, gave an interactive presentation about LGBTQ+ history. On March 27, it was the turn of politics and law, with a variety of lawyers, judges, and politicians participating. The seminar we call “People” will be hosted on April 24 by a panel of LGBTQ+ people, allies, and anyone who wants to talk about their experience and answer questions. And the series will culminate on May 22 with a seminar led by Bishop Mary Glasspool, with whom I’ve also worked throughout the process. She will speak about the place of LGBTQ+ issues in faith and in Episcopal life.
After that, the members of our parish will vote on the issue of whether to raise the pride flag annually every June in solidarity with LGBTQ+ persons and issues. If the majority approves it, there will be a celebration and flag raising on Sunday, June 5, at which Bishop Glasspool will be the celebrant and to which all are invited.
Every person I know has been ignorant at some point about the LGBTQ+ community. Even adamant allies, supporting parents, and members of the community itself (including me) have harbored homophobic thoughts. This is okay; in fact, this is natural. As long as we work as hard as we can to address, acknowledge, and resolve them, there is nothing to be ashamed of. It is undeniable that some people have made no attempt to try to understand “the queers”—but in the face of this, it is up to us allies to remember times when we’ve been ignorant ourselves, and to resist the urge to push away those who just can’t seem to understand. The only way to help them towards the path of love is to stay close to them, gently and steadfastly teaching them how to become more nurturing of the LGBTQ+ community.
People can hate what they fear, and fear what they don’t understand. I am fortunate to be in a position where I can take action to create more understanding for those who need it the most, understanding of the LGBTQ+ community’s truth, history, and place in the world. I know the Educate/Validate Program will become an inspiration for people in the community, and help their allies continue to love them as they are. I hope the deeper understanding gained will bring about positive change, action, and nurturance that the LGBTQ+ community needs.
Are you ready to Educate/Validate? Visit https://sites.google.com/view/educate-validate- program/home for Zoom link registration. All are welcome to attend.
Look for Part 2 this summer where I’ll share reflections on the finished program!