Sermon: Pride Sunday 2020

By Stefan Baumgartner

John 2:13-22

Spirit who connects every being, move in our midst this day.

Welcome to Pride Sunday!  I’m so happy to be with you today.

My name is Stefan Baumgartner. My pronouns are he/him.

I want to begin my reflection with a quote by Marsha P. Johnson,

“No pride for some of us without liberation for all of us.”

As a gay, white, cisgender man,

I am indebted to trans folks and queer women of color. 

The first Pride marches were riots against police brutality

led by drag queens, trans women of color, and non-binary/gender non-conforming folks.

They were the ones that sparked the revolution for LGBTQ+ lives and

are the reason many of us are here today.

As the LGBTQ+ Liberation movement spread across the country and the world,

the recognition and focus on

trans and gender non-conforming folks and queer folks of color


to gay white cisgender men.

Soon, they were not included at all.

And today,

we see the epidemic

that is the murder of trans people of color,

most who are black trans women,

with no consequences.

Today on this Pride Sunday,

I want to honor queer and trans folks of color

by turning our attention and energy back to them,

to uplift their voices,

and to reflect on how I can work in solidarity with this movement.

Today I will be sharing quotes by LGBTQ+ folks of color

and providing some of my own reflections.

The first quote I shared with you today

was from Stonewall Riots-participant,

Marsha P. Johnson,

a black queer person whose gender most aligns with transgender women

or gender non-conforming folks.

Even though Marsha said this back in the 70s,

I believe it applies for today—

that there should be “no pride for some of us without liberation for all of us.”

A 2020 quote from Ernest Owens,

a prominent black queer journalist based in Philadelphia expounds on that, saying,

“if there will be anything I’m going to ‘celebrate’ during Pride Month [this year] is another awakening that my black queer identity,  along with my other melanated LGBTQ siblings, is sacred. I will no longer allow it to be compromised alongside the margins of a white supremacist LGBTQ structure that treats me less than.”

I believe he is absolutely right

and that we should be having marches and pride

specifically for our queer siblings of color.

Many official Pride Parades across the country

have turned away from the people

and instead into a celebration of

rainbow capitalism,

which is a term that critiques how corporations have

co-opted queer liberation for profit.

Due to the global pandemic,

we are not having Pride Parades this year anyway.

For many of us,

not gathering en masse as a queer community during Pride

is a loss.

I believe we have the opportunity, though,

to reset and reclaim Pride,

refocusing our collective power

on the people in our community who need uplifting.

And that is happening!

I was so heartened to see that there was a March for Black Trans Lives in Brooklyn

earlier this month where 15,000 people showed up to celebrate trans power and

demand justice for trans people.

And another rally for Black Trans Lives happened in San Francisco last weekend.

I was also happy to see a new hashtag trending


specifically acknowledging Black queer people’s struggle for liberation.

These marches give me hope

because it is a reckoning

for people in the queer community and society as a whole

to wake up to their own racism and transphobia.

Now I want to pause

because as I say this,

I realize that I could also be keeping myself

out of the equation,

saying those “other” people need to deal with their

racism and transphobia.

But the uncomfortable reality

is that I need to go inward

and look at my own racism and transphobia, too.

If I don’t, then I am leading myself to comfort.

Like many people with privilege,

I do that to avoid feelings of





and unease.

I am learning to

recognize my behavior patterns around my privilege and seek to redirect myself back to the discomfort.

Resmaa Menakem, a black clinical psychologist and trauma expert

(who granted is not a part of the queer community),

says that systems of oppression like what he calls

“White Body Supremacy”

are imbedded in our nervous systems;

in our bodies.

So that instead of trying to think our way out of racism,

he maintains that we need to “start with our bodies” to heal.

He says that when we are feeling discomfort—

to stay there.


stay there.

When I stay with myself,

I feel the incredible amount of privilege I possess and

feel motivated to deconstruct my own complacency into

true transformation.

The work is uncomfortable.

The work is relentless.

And the work is healing.

Working through my white body supremacy and transphobia,

heals my own trauma and

helps me get past judging myself;

aka falling into the easy trap of

white or cis guilt.

For me,

my journey toward healing has given me

humility and clarity,

which has led me

to act.

A few weeks ago,

there were posts on social media calling people to

diversify their social media feeds.

I realized that the people I follow on social media

are predominantly white, straight, and cisgender.

Instead of feeling defensive or guilty,

I was humbled and took the opportunity to act.

Since then, I have been following more queer people of color and social organizations

who support communities of color and queer communities.

This has been wonderful and


As I scroll through Instagram, I am now inundated with

the suffering of queer people of color more than I ever have been.

I have also been inundated with

their voices,

their passion, and

their calls for justice.

With that constant flow of reality,

I found my discomfort


So I stayed there.

What was I feeling?

I was feeling


for queer people of color who have been murdered,


at people who use their power to oppress and kill,

that police violence will keep happening and

will be more and more militarized.

It’s really hard to feel all of those things.

It’s hard to see it every day.


I also know that those feelings are second-hand,

that queer people of color feel these even more deeply

because the violence and oppression go directly to them

every day.

Turning toward that reality is exhausting at times,

so I have to do what I need to do to

take care of myself and stay in the fight.

For me that means

decompressing and processing with

white, cis friends,

so as not to put the emotional burden on queer people of color.

It also means meditating and working through those emotions myself.

As Audre Lorde says,

“our feelings are our most genuine paths to knowledge.”

I am called to

keep feeling and

keep learning.

The next person I want to quote is Ash Stephens,

a black trans masculine person who works at the Transgender Law Center in Chicago.

This is what he has to say about Pride this year:

“As more and more people are answering the call to make ALL Black lives matter, this moment requires that we return Pride to its radical roots. We need accomplices and co-conspirators, people who will take up the fight to defund the police, just like we need more people in the fight to end bail and pretrial detention, because those should be LGBTQ movement priorities too. This year, Pride is about defunding the police. It is about reshifting power – away from the police and into each other, in the legacy of queer liberation movements before us… Defunding the police is an LGBTQ issue.”

With all of the protests happening in response to

police brutality and murder of black folks,

I have been thinking a lot about

defunding and


the police.

A few months ago,

I would have been the person saying that we need to

start with police reform through

implicit bias training,

non-violent de-escalation, and

other policies to protect civilians.

But as I’ve been learning more about it,

I see that many police agencies who have enacted these reforms

still end up

murdering unarmed black folks and

still arrest

people of color at higher rates

than white people.

I’ve learned that the history of policing in America is

rife with racism,

patriarchy, and


Its foundation is corrupt

and unjust.

That history makes me angry,

makes me want to completely tear that system to the ground.

And that’s where I want to turn to our Bible story for today.

When I think of tearing down systems of injustice,

I think of Jesus flipping the tables

of the moneychangers at the temple.

I was totally unaware that this passage is dangerous,

having been used to support Christian Anti-Semitism.

That is disgusting to me that it could be so misconstrued;

and I appreciate the context provided by Sheri

showing that the story is about

dismantling a system that economically exploits poor people.

I have always seen this story as just that,

a holy rage

against the powers that be.

I saw it as Jesus doing a

protest of one,

an individual act that felt


but maybe did not result in

lasting change.

But then I read the book of John’s version of this story

and it included the last few verses

where Jesus encourages the leadership to tear down the system,

saying he will rebuild it in three days.

He does not mean rebuilding it in the same way with a few changes,

he is talking about his resurrection

(rising up!),

a complete transformation.

These additional verses show that

righteous anger and

nonviolent action can

create a new system from the ground up.

What if we were able to do something like that with the police system,

whether that is severely defunding or

completely abolishing it?

What new and unrecognizable system would be in its place?

I believe we can look into queer history

to see a glimpse of what that could look like.

As Ash said,

reshifting power into each other is a legacy of queer liberation movements.

After the Stonewall Riots in 1969,

Marsha P. Johnson and trans woman of color, Sylvia Rivera

created the organization STAR,

at that time standing for Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries.

STAR was a radical political collective,

and also provided housing and tangible support to homeless queer youth.

Marsha and Sylvia became the mothers of STAR house and

took care of some of the most oppressed people in society.

In order to pay for food and expenses, they did sex work,

so the queer youth they were sheltering did not have to.

Politically, STAR was intersectional in their approach,


free healthcare,

free food,

free education,

well-funded social services,

the end to police brutality, and

the end to job discrimination

so there would be less economic exploitation.

That all sounds pretty Jesus-like to me!

What if the vast money that militarizes our police would

funnel into housing like STAR house,

street outreach programs,

mobile mental health services,

food banks, and


The change is not going to happen in three days,

but I believe the way to start is by getting rid of the corrupt system already in place.

As I was looking at these different quotes,

I noted that all of them

are from people I do not know personally

and realized that I do not closely know any

trans or gender non-conforming folks of color.

I feel like that is something I need to acknowledge

as I am talking with you now.

When I was seeking feedback from Joanna this week in regards to this talk,

I mentioned that fact and she asked if I would like to be in contact with a trans woman of color in San Francisco.

This week I had the privilege to speak with Shane,

who is best friends with one of Joanna and Eric’s roommates.

I did not want to talk to her to

tokenize her voice,


I wanted to get to know her

and learn about what she is doing in her life right now.

I want to share some of our conversation now.

Shane is a trans woman of color

living in the Bay area.

She works for San Francisco’s Office of Transgender Initiatives

and is a performer.

For the past 3-4 years in pre-COVID times,

she did a street activism performance

called the Pop-up Drag Queen,

which is a family friendly drag show

she does on the Embarcadero.

She recognizes it as activism

because the people passing her

may have never encountered a drag queen or trans person before,

people on their commutes and families of tourists.

She says that she loves when kids feel comfortable enough to start

dancing with her

because on-looking adults’ rigid dispositions normally melt away,

and it normalizes two people


enjoying a dance and a song

in the sunlight.

She said she’s had many amazing conversations with adults and kids over the years.

She accepts tips for her performances and

mentioned multiple times during our conversation

how it is a struggle to stay in the Bay.

I said I could relate.

One prominent part of her story is her

gratitude for the Bay,

from engaging in activism

to finding her transgender identity,

from experiencing community for the first time

to having the support of queer elders.

She recognized that she was lucky

to be able to move the Bay and have those experiences,

knowing others in the LGBTQ+ community do not have those same opportunities.

One of her elders is a San Francisco local living legend and transwoman,

Donna Personna, who participated in one of the world’s first recorded LGBTQ+ uprisings

against police brutality, San Francisco’s Compton’s Cafeteria Riots in 1966.

Shane reflected how she goes to Donna for support

and has learned a lot about queer history from her.

Shane even performed as the character “Rusty,”

a character based on Donna’s life

in the Tenderloin Museum-produced play,

“The Compton’s Cafeteria Riots.”

After embodying Donna’s character on stage,

Shane gained power and passion

to continue raising up the values of

life and dignity

in the face of oppression. 

I am so inspired by Shane’s work and I hope you are, too.

The last thing Shane and I talked about was

the Black Trans Lives Matter movement.

She was quick to acknowledge that

even though she is a trans woman of color,

she is not Black

and has lots of her own work to do on that front.

We all have our work to do.

And there are plenty of ways to get involved.

Shane believes that if you are interested in doing the work,

then it should lead to action.

Here are some opportunities:

if you have the means,

donate to organizations that support trans lives of color

like the TGI Justice Project,

The Transgender District in San Francisco,

and others I will share in next week’s announcements.

Educate yourself on queer and trans history,

especially in relation to police brutality.

Watch shows and read books;

they are out there.

And above all


to black queer and trans people.

And when you are listening,

stay with your feelings,

notice what is happening, and

speak up

when you have learned more.

As I conclude,

I would like to leave you with a quote

that you can repeat to yourself

when you feel

challenged or overwhelmed.

From Sylvia Rivera:

“I’m not missing a minute of this. It’s the revolution.”


“I’m not missing a minute of this. It’s the revolution.”

May it be so.