On Saturday, September 7, 2013, 406 United Methodists from 9 churches participated in Austin Pride Parade. Each day this week we will feature a story about the experience by a SWTX Conference Reconciling United Methodist.
Today’s story is by Jeanette Ball, the Director of Senior Adult Ministries at Saint John’s UMC in Austin, TX. She is an accomplished pianist and is very active in the life of her church, leading the Saint John’s Cokesbury choir and multiple book studies throughout the year. Jeanette recently celebrated her 89th birthday with her church family.
GAY PRIDE PARADE
I did not know that people thought I was a “Rock Star” until I participated in the Austin Gay Pride Parade on September 7th this year! I was riding on the Saint John’s UMC float, wearing a blue “Love Your Neighbor” T-shirt and holding a sign that said, “God is love—no exceptions”. My friend, Arlene Zirkel, was standing next to me at the railing of the float (she has gray hair too). Several youth and children were also riding on the float, and we were surrounded by almost 70 men, women and even a baby from Saint John’s, also wearing the blue t-shirts and walking in the parade.
What amazed me so much (other than the number of participants from Saint John’s) was the response we got from the crowd watching the parade. This was the third year that I have been a part of the Austin Gay Pride Parade, and I am always surprised at the huge number of people who watch the parade. This year, it seemed that there were more than ever. We were cheered at every turn. I couldn’t begin to guess how many took pictures of Arlene and me. All of them gave us big smiles and waved; some gave a thumbs-up. When we were close enough, many came up to our float and gave us a “high-five”. We even got kisses from a few guys. We both felt like celebrities!
The reason I started to participate in the Gay Pride Parade was just to support those people that I felt were not being treated justly, with equality. The only LGBT people I have known have been in my church (Saint John’s). I really value my friendship with my LGBT friends at Saint John’s. I can’t help but think that if others knew these wonderful people as well as I do, that there would be more support for their rights. I’m guessing that the wonderful response I received on the float was because of their surprise and appreciation in seeing two gray-haired ladies supporting them. It was a humbling experience.