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CORAL Addresses Latest Area Hate Speech with Letter from President

Dear CORAL Members,

One would have to be hiding under a rock to not see that the LGBTQ community is being attacked on all sides as of late. We’ve watched bills being created in states all around Illinois designed to limit, infringe, or even eliminate our rights altogether. Hate crimes against us are rising as those in “leadership” positions send the message that we are nothing more than sexual predators and use words like ‘grooming’ and ‘pedophile’ when describing us. The religious right, while never completely quiet over the years, have renewed their efforts to stifle our speech and send us back into hiding. For those of us of an older generation, we’re seeing all the work done in years back being reversed daily and those who thought our fight had ended are finding that it never will.

Some of you may have heard recent commentary being initiated by Eric Hanson of the Destiny Church in Springfield towards the YMCA. Painting an altogether too familiar but false picture of members of the Transgender community and how the YMCA fails to ‘protect’ young people from interacting with them in the locker room. At his pulpit, Hanson orates a vision of the YMCA allowing a Transgender female to flaunt her nakedness in front of a young girl in a scenario that has not been proven to have taken place. In an article printed by the Illinois Times in their June 8th issue, Dr. Jonna Cooley of the Phoenix Center stated, “Transgender persons will be the most modest people in the locker room, avoiding to out themselves to anyone.” When the IT attempted to confirm the authenticity of this incident with Hanson, he refused to comment. In other words, more spewing of hatred without any education of the demographic and implication is much easier than the truth.

As if that wasn’t enough, our ‘favorite’ bishop, Thomas Paprocki decided that he would add his two cents to our definition of Pride Month by writing an article for the Catholic Times. Printed June 8th, Paprocki titled his piece ‘The Law of the Heart is Love.’ Dripping with irony, he goes on to reprimand those who support and acknowledge Pride month for the LGBTQ community, including businesses, sports teams, and our governor, by saying ‘pride is the deadliest sin.’ But he takes it further when he accosts President Biden for his condemnation of Uganda and their latest anti-gay laws which are considered the most restrictive in the world and call for life imprisonment for anyone who engages in gay sex. He goes on to say that Biden has no right to scold Uganda since he referred to white supremacy as “the most dangerous threat to homeland security,” but then, being a white man himself, telling an African nation what laws are right would make him guilty of the same thing.

While Paprocki seems proud of his words in his article, he totally misses the point of what ‘pride’ means to the LGBTQ community. As printed in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word also means: respect and appreciation for oneself and others as members of a group and especially a marginalized group; solidarity with a group based on shared identity, history, and experience. Wikipedia adds that it is the promotion of the self-affirmation, dignity, equality and increased visibility of the LGBTQ people as opposed to shame and social stigma. For many members of the LGBTQ community, especially the younger generation, being their true selves may not be so attainable. Either their lives or careers have not given them the independence to be so free with their identity. For the LGBTQ community, pride is that moment we all come together to celebrate our individual journeys to this freedom, to provide a safe place to be one’s self, and to welcome those who may be searching for the support they’ve lost along the way. Our pride is not one of conceit or narcissism, but one of giving and non-judgement. For so many, it’s that one time of the year when they can shed the disguise and/or armor of their everyday lives, and be free to be.

While this speech has been directed to the community overall, CORAL has begun to receive these messages directly as well. During the recent Pride month campaign, when we were honoring the many flags devoted to our multifaceted community, someone chose to post their opinion with a picture of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah with their words, “In Celebration of LGBT Month.” I initially thought I would respond with something light and clever like, “You’re right, we do love our fireworks.” But, in light of current events, the time has come to take these messages more seriously. The LGBTQ community of Illinois has a luxury our neighbors do not possess – we are seen, heard, and supported by most of our elected officials. In other states around us, near and far, our brothers and sisters face these messages daily without much recourse or protection. Many of them have no choice, no voice, and very little defense. We do, but we need to keep in mind that our rights are just as tenuous. We need to act when someone attempts to belittle or discriminate for silence can sometimes mean acceptance.

On June 25th at 6:00 p.m., the faith community will be coming together at First Presbyterian Church to discuss these events and to address constructively how to respond to these hostilities proactively and constructively. Seven churches of different faiths will be present for this discussion; a first meeting of its kind. As a member of the LGBTQ community, I’m honored and touched that we have this kind of support by other members of the religious sect. I have never considered myself a strongly reverent person. Tarnished by religion at a young age, I found the notion of church to be nothing more than a quiet place to meditate and enjoy the architecture. So, to see a group of churches coming together to address our issues at a time when this is not a popular path to follow gives me a renewed faith that we are not alone in our battles.

CORAL wishes to thank the following churches for their participation in this discussion:

Abraham Lincoln Unitarian Universalist Congregation

Douglas Ave United Methodist Church

First Church of the Brethren

First Presbyterian Church

Heartland Metropolitan Community Church

Holy Family Inclusive Catholic Church

Parkway Christian Church Disciples of Christ

As our Ritz theme so appropriately states, “Together, Building Community.”


Brian Sylvester he/him/his

CORAL, President

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