I went to my second pride on June 22nd of this year, last year I was very safe with my outfit, wearing jean shorts and a T-Shirt. This year however, I chose to be less safe & wear a bralette and jean shorts and I wouldn't consider myself under dressed for the occasion. The first 4 hours were wonderful, all 7 of us caught the beads thrown from the parade, and some of us had even gotten compliments on our outfits. The vibe of the parade was wonderful, nobody cared about what you wore and if accidentally bumped into someone and said sorry, I was always met with a "it's fine" and a very bright smile. Everyone was so full of joy, and you could approach almost everyone at the parade if you wanted to, the place was just over-run with people a part of the LGBT+ community & an allies.
Around the 5 hour mark, a man in his early twenties comes up to me, puts both of his hands in front of him, and asks for a double-high five. Being in a spirited mood, I gladly gave him a double-high five. Then, he asks "Do you want a hug too?" with his arms stretched out, "sure," I answered. Even though he was a stranger, the positivity within the parade was enough for me to be comfortable with the situation. I was surrounded by the group I came with, 5 girls and 1 boy, the stranger was alone and there was always a cop patrolling nearby, I knew I would be safe. I thought this would be a funny and love-filled memory I could tell someone about one day.
About 30 minutes after the stranger came by, I looked down the sidewalk where my group was sitting. I have seen people like this on the news and in movies, but I didn't actually think they were real. This group of about 5 men, all wearing a button up and jeans, 3 of them holding bibles in one hand and a bible quote poster in the other, one of them was holding a speaker attached by a wire to a microphone the other guy was speaking into. At first I thought it was a figment of my imagination, but while passing us, I heard the hateful words they were spewing. A girl that was about 18 years old was following close behind the protesters, telling everyone positive messages to drown out the hate the homophobes were yelling. When they passed by me and my friends, they handed 2 of the girls a pamphlet entitled: "The Way of Salvation." What I considered weird is that the protesters at the parade expected everyone there to be LGBT+, not even realizing allies exist as well. They looked at my friends with sadness in their eyes, while talking about how the LGBT+ will never be reborn after they die, and that we'll all burn in hell.
Once they passed us, my sister came back from going to the restroom, and we showed her the pamphlet we were given and told her what they said. At this point the protesters stopped at the corner street of the parade about 100 feet away, still using the speaker. We were all very saddened by the sudden negativity. To make it worse, a few minutes later, another group of similar protesters passed us by. Hearing what they said finally pushed me over the edge, they just kept saying, "If you are not saved, Jesus won't let you be reborn," over and over, but in different ways. I had to raise my voice a bit for the protesters and people around me to hear what I was trying to say, all I said was "Jesus loves everybody," about 4 times in front of them. While doing that I received a few claps from the people around me, agreeing.
After the last time I said it, a protester wearing a blue and white polka-dotted polo and blue jeans, turns to me, about to open his bible he was holding, and says "actually-" I cut him off, and say, "no."
My sister stood up for herself as well, while passing by what they were using as their "main corner," she goes up to one of them, and very politely says, "God loves everyone, sir" he replies to her with his deep southern accent, "Yes he does, but if yall arent saved you can't be reborn." My sister responds with, "We don't need saving, go home," and walks off.
After the protesters were creating too much of a crowd of people yelling at them, the police told them they had to keep moving. Legally, protests like this are allowed to happen because of the 1st amendment of the US constitution, unless it becomes violent or disturbs the peace, they told them to move because they were disturbing the peaceful event.
After they left the area, I glanced at one sentence of the pamphlet we were given, "Did God break your heart?" And it made me think, not about my right to love anyone, but what these men are doing versus what they think they are doing. In their mind, they believe that they are helping us, and we really do need saving, but what they don't realize is what they are actually doing:
They are making the LGBT+ community, and allies stray away from religion, and some people even attempt suicide. God didn't break our heart, people with hatred in their heart breaks us.
This experience enlightened me, I now know people like that actually exist, and made me greatful that I was not raised to be homophobic. After reading that sentence, I ripped up the pamphlet, put the small pieces of paper in my pocket and threw it away when I got home.
I'm not against religion myself, but I do not appreciate the hate-filled places of worship, I would hate to hear about "not going to paradise," everytime I step into a religious building. I don't like hearing negativity.
Let it be known, whether you're an ally or a part of the LGBT+ community, a lot of religions are becoming more accepting of everyone. If God is real, and he did make every living thing on Earth, he'd love all his creations equally. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
Teenagers With Experience is an organisation created to provide teenagers worldwide with an online platform to share their own experiences to be able to help, inform and educate others on a variety of different topics. We aim to provide a safe space to all young people. You can contact us via email, social media or our contact form found on our home page.