My friend Gina asked if I would participate in the fourth of July parade. I have never been in a parade, so I was tempted to say yes. Then before I could say yes, she added that she wanted me to hold a gigantic rainbow flag for Pride. Hmmm? What?
I wrestled with my conscious and the area inside my body that holds shame and judgement and questioned … Won’t people think I’m gay?
My soul then began to stir, this is the area where God touches and directs my highest self. I was reminded that I had just been taking about inclusivity for the past few weeks. This topic kept coming up in my life, about how much better life would be if we were to remove the labels that separate us from loving each other whole heartedly. I had been talking about reentry court and all the help given to ex-inmates and that everyone I knew, who weren’t inmates, could really use the same kind of attention and support.
What would the world be like if once a month every human being would have the opportunity to sit at a table with 12 different human beings and all be asked the same loving question by a set of other human beings that were great listeners and ready to love and support? “How was your month?” and “What kind of help can we give you?” It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done or if we agree with the way you do life. “How can we help?”
It’s been bothering me that I have an aversion to very religious people. I was happy to have this view crystalized when I realized that it wasn’t only very religious people that I shied away from. My heart rejected any kind of group or generalization that separated themselves as better or above or best. Because that’s just not true.
I experienced this for the first time in prison. With everyone wearing the same clothes and no make-up. We were all the same, except for the color of our skin. That was the only difference that stood out. Once you got passed that we each individually showed who we were by what came out of our mouth and how we treated other people.
Since I have been on this deep spiritual path, I have focused a lot of my attention inward. To the place in my body where God talks to me. Where He directs me to my best, highest self – the place where the only welcome feelings are love and compassion … for myself and others. There is no room for anything else. When fear or judgement tries to enter, they are immediately rejected. That’s how I know what’s right and what’s wrong… for me.
So back to the parade. I said yes. At 8:30 am on July 4thI got dressed and walked up to Mountain Ave where I would help hold the gigantic rainbow flag. On the way I saw a few people I knew and watched how I desperately wanted to prepare them if they saw me holding the flag. Then I questioned myself. Why was I embarrassed? What’s that about Kristy? I was witnessing an internal struggle, I don’t judge it because I am human. I turn right on Mountain Ave and a little way up the street, on the right side I see all the floats and right in front is the gigantic rainbow flag. When they saw me, and I heard “Kristy over here” my heart swelled with, well, Pride.
I immediately saw the area on the flag that needed a body and got into my place. People were taking pictures and smiling and already enjoying the moment.
After a few minutes we each got a hold of our designated strap on the gigantic rainbow flag and began to walk. Once we turned left on Main Street, we were in it – the parade. I was on the right of the flag and felt the urge to wave and smile and say happy fourth to everyone watching.
My heart continued to swell as cheers from the happy and welcoming crowd roared onto the streets! Sprinkled throughout I saw many people I had met in Ashland over the past 2 years since I have been out of prison. I heard “Kristy!!” I smiled some more and waved back, then I saw a quizzical look appear, like huh? Why are you holding the gigantic rainbow flag? Are you gay?
The same scenario kept happening along with other spectators who were decidedly not willing to support the idea of Pride. They stopped their clapping, folded their arms and looked miserable. I felt sorry for them. Luckily, seconds later, there were more loving and supporting, happy faces in the crowd displaying pure joy. That’s when my heart was the happiest.
Occasionally, someone I knew would say “Alright Kristy, I love that you are doing this”! They got it. They were open and loving too and they got it. Some were church people and some weren’t, but they got it.
This interaction went on for an hour and boy did I have a great time! I saw my hair stylist and as I type this, I do not know what thoughts ran through her head as her and her family saw me approach holding the gigantic rainbow flag and really, is it any of my business what others think of me? No.
Then one of the ladies holding a part of the flag started shouting phrases that separated her from everyone else including, “we’re here and we’re queer”. Ugh. I wanted to yell “not me” but I didn’t, I just smiled and looked inward to God and He met me there, as he always does when I am doing something out of my comfort zone. I also realized that people can separate themselves out of any group. That yuckiness can come from either side, for or against. And those people are the ones we tend to use as our temperature of whether or not we should be for or against them, love them or not. Which is not right. At one point it was coming from all sides and I was in the middle. It was easy for me to know in my soul where I belonged. Which is where the love was. On whatever side, it was where the love was. I am comfortable there with God and my fellow human beings. Where the love is.
The last thing and maybe even the more important aspect of this experience, were the conversations afterwards. I was at a party that evening and my participation in holding the gigantic rainbow flag was a hot topic. A few people told me they didn’t know that I was gay. This lead to a deep spiritual discussion on why I participated as a straight person. Halfway through the night I had squashed several biases about “either/or”, at least I hoped so. Why does it have to be either/or? Can’t it just be love?
The best conversation was with my 16 year old nephew who doesn’t go to church and has a hard time with his scientific brain understanding the existence of God. He said “Tisty (when the boys were little they couldn’t say the K, so Tisty stuck) I am really proud of you for walking with the gigantic rainbow flag”. I said “Really? Why?” He said because all of the Christians he knows don’t agree with homosexuality. Then he asked me the most beautiful question of all: “Does God talk to you? When I went to church that one time with you the pastor said God talked to him that morning. Do you think that’s true?” I said, “I don’t know but I wouldn’t doubt it”. “How do you know God’s talking to you?” Hayden asked me. I said “I’m sure he talks to you too! I get a stirring in my heart and in my soul, filled with love or a nudge in a direction I should take or an urge to be extra kind to someone. That’s always God talking to me. If I feel fear and worry or angry, that’s not God, that’s my own head getting in the way.” He said, “like the people at the parade who didn’t like the gigantic rainbow flag”. “Probably” I said. He paused for a minute and said, “I guess God has been talking to me a lot”. My heart got so big it burst out of my chest and then I said “He talks to everyone! Be sure to listen”.