I have been to Pride three times in my life, all of them since I’ve been at university. The first time, I was a frightened nineteen-year-old coming to the end of my first year. I was still struggling with the sense of independence that being away from home for the first time had afforded me, and I was not yet completely nor comfortably out. I had never considered going to a Pride event before I went to university and I was not sure what to expect. I was nervous and excited as I waited for the parade to start.
Once the parade began, the positive atmosphere that permeates Pride was unavoidable, and was made even more potent for me personally when I saw people in the march wearing cassocks. Not only that, but they were people I knew – people from my own church in my university town, holding banners which promoted Jesus’ message of love and extending that love to the LGBTQ+ community. It was something I hadn’t even thought about considering as a possibility.
It makes perfect sense, though. Pride is, over and above all else, an event celebrating and promoting love in all its various forms. The three days I have spent at Pride events over the last few years have been some of the happiest I have ever experienced. I can’t imagine not being happy at Pride. Pride is a celebration of the self: it is a call to all, for everyone to be themselves and to be unashamed of that self.
We as Christians too often focus on Jesus’ message of self-sacrifice. Jesus’ most important commandments, nicknamed the Golden Rule, are to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37) and to “love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). The common theme in both commandments is love: we love God and we love our neighbour. Yet we often forget that there is a third object of love in these commandments: yourself. When we as Christians discuss the second commandment, we take the assumption that we love ourselves for granted and decide that the challenge lies solely in loving others.
The result of this assumption is that we are never taught that we can or should love ourselves; indeed, Jesus all but commands us to do so. Yes, we must love God and we must love others as we love ourself. That doesn’t mean that we should neglect ourselves in the process, but recognise instead that loving ourselves enables us to love others. How can we love our neighbour as ourselves, if we do not love ourselves? Most of all, we should love ourselves as God made us, which is ultimately the message of Pride.
Pride is an important occasion which encourages us all to love ourselves as we love our neighbour. In this way, I believe that Pride is a pure and positive expression of Jesus’ love, and I am grateful for its existence.