June 19, 2020
St. Margaret’s parishioners Farar Elliott and Ron Lorentzen interviewed fellow parishioner Gary Collins for this question-and-answer reflection on Pride Month.
1. Share a little about your background, when you came to St Margaret’s, and why?
I was a Baptist from birth. My family was living in Columbus, Ohio. We would go the church on Sundays. After the service was over, we would all—cousins, aunts, uncles—meet up outside the church. Granddaddy would already be outside waiting for us—a mini family reunion. After high school, I joined the U.S. Navy. My last duty station was Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Maryland. Not much going on down in Southern Maryland. I started going up to D.C. on weekends. Lots of things going on in D.C.! The best thing that happened to me was meeting Mitch, and we are still together and happy.
2. What does LGBTQ Pride mean to you as a person of color?
It means I can have a group of people that sees me for me. Not me as a black man, or me as a gay man.
3. Could you share anything about the experiences or special challenges that you may have encountered trying to navigate through and thrive in two distinct minority cultural communities which our larger society has not always accepted and has often oppressed in different ways?
As a black man in the U.S. Navy, I had to deal with a lot of people that did not think I could do certain jobs. Finding friends that I could count on was hard. If you are gay in the military and the higher-ups find out, they could have me discharged. So I learned to keep it to myself.
4. Please respond to the following by completing each sentence:
- I first felt seen as an LGBTQ person in the faith community when I first started going to church with Mitch.
- I first felt seen as a person of faith in the LGBTQ community when I first started to get involved with Episcopal Caring Response to AIDS (ECRA).
- A person whose work and presence helped me in my journey as a LGBTQ person of color and faith is American Veterans for Equal Rights.
5. The modern LGBTQ movement emerged from a moment of violent confrontation (involving, in part, trans people of color) at New York’s Stonewall Inn around a half century ago, while similar examples of violence and oppression mark the evolution of other minority rights movements in our country. How does commemorating LGBTQ Pride at another moment of social violence and protest concerning racial oppression affect you?
It worries me because I know that violence could happen to me or someone that I know. A lot of times the people causing the violence do not get convicted of a crime, and are back out on the streets.
6. How has your faith and, more specifically, the St. Margaret’s community, supported and guided you in managing and making sense of these experiences and feelings?
By being there and listening. The St. Margaret’s community is good at listening and letting you talk and get things off your chest. They do that without judging.
7. What are your hopes for the future, and how might St. Margaret’s play an even more transformative role for a better world with respect to such issues?
I hope that St. Margaret’s will continue to reach out to the poor, the homeless, and the sick, and to keep Charlie’s Place up and running. Reaching out to new people coming to St. Margaret’s, while keeping the older members engaged.