This Sunday marks the 25th year of the OutFest block party in Philadelphia. This crowded festival showcases the many faces that makeup the LGBTQ(A) community and its allies. People wander to various vendors, bars, and tables to discover the support that surrounds this community in Philadelphia.
My first OutFest was my Sophomore year of college; I was 19 and very much naive to whole ideal of a wholesome and active community of LGBTQ(A) persons. The extent of my “outness” bordered the campus of my undergrad experience, a few friends from home, and my sisters. I never imagined celebrating the authentic “self” until I arrived at 12th and Locust St. and discovered how “authentic” some could be.
Now at the tender age of 24, I no longer struggle to fit the pieces of my sexual orientation into the norm of society. Gay, lesbian, and transgender folks have bravely opened a new age of cultural sensitivity towards our engagement in various environments. For example, within some Catholic institutions, openly gay employees can be let go due to their lifestyle not syncing with the ideal family model of that Church. However, if you work for an Episcopal or UCC institution, you can be openly gay and not worry about how you chose to live your lifestyle. Though this example is limited to only one general field, it can be said overall, LGBT persons are moving forward in the workplace and hold great leadership roles (i.e. Bishop Gene Robinson of the Diocese of New Hampshire, Josh Graff of Linkedin, Christopher Bailey of Burberry, Margot Slattery of Sodexo, and Jonathan Mildenhall of AirBnB just to name a few).
The keyword here is authenticity: no matter what orientation you choose, you must be authentic and pursue life with the utmost vigor and strength. I believe OutFest reinforces that… for everybody actually. When that crowd gathers, its not just to drink and socialize, but to stand as a community to promote the acknowledgement and dignity of queer people. And everyone else.
That’s why I pushed Old First to have a table this year; I wanted to see a church fully committed to accepting and affirming queer folk for who they are and how they live their life. There is nothing like seeing queer folk pushed away from the church, and even worse to see their children ostracized by their church community.
It is my hope that our presence at OutFest this Sunday will generate newcomers to see our community life and our engagement to ministry as an opportunity to find faith just as you are. Join us.
See you in church,