On June 25, 2022, Orange County hosted their Pride Parade and Festival in Downtown Santa Ana. I parked a few blocks away while the parade was starting, and walked to catch the end of it, which involved corporations with rainbow flags, women holding “bodily autonomy!” signs, and groups of gay people dancing their way towards the festival. A firetruck bookended the parade and the festival began, slowly.
            OC Pride is normally pretty tame, so my mom—excited about the event for months—was supposed to go with me, but she could not, because she made plans to watch Top Gun with my grandpa. So I wandered around alone, taking laps around the event, my priest from Episcopal Church at a booth, handing out pride swag with two lesbian congregants. They said hi, gave me a rainbow cross necklace, and I told them I would try to go to Bible study on a Wednesday, early in the morning. I like my church.
            I made laps around the block, taking short videos of every dog with a rainbow bandana (how else would you spend pride?).
            Near one of the blocked-off streets, next to an alley of rainbow food trucks, a man with a microphone entered the festival. A woman followed close behind, holding a bag with a large speaker in it. They wore no rainbows. The man began to quote the Bible (badly) and condemned the people in the Pride festival of being sinners, fornicators, and other things that you do not want to be. I watched a crowd (now I call them pridees) surround him, using their signs to try to block the speaker, but I stopped listening. I took another lap.
            I completed my lap, and the Bible guy was still there, standing a corner deeper into the festival, yelling at everyone. I guess he was concerned for the salvation of pridees that he never really met, categorizing pridees before they had the chance to even speak. He quoted the Bible, but the passages about truth or whatever—the ones that just sound like constant rationalizations of an unspoken truth, like someone who can tell you that they’re correct, but cannot tell you what that correctness means. And he condemned the “fornicators,” or something, probably the gays too. I wore a shirt that said “H O M O ” so I guess I was included. The pridees gathered around him (I guess I became part of the crowd) and started chanting about love to drown him out. “God is Love” they chanted, quoting the Bible back. Bible guy walked to the middle of a traffic circle (the street was blocked off), where the ground was raised a bit. And a crowd of pridees surrounded him; one man waved his “FUCK LABELS” flag at Bible guy. Others flipped him off. And they all began to chant “eat our ass!” After watching the security standing on the corner with helpless stares, and the probably-straight journalists—who came to exacerbate an event with their cameras’ gazes—flock around, and the pridees chant louder, I left to find more dogs with pride bandanas. When I made another lap around the block, the man was gone, and the crowd was happy.
            Cool (haha not cool!): this was a thing that happened, and I saw on some of my friends’ Instagram feeds that other Bible men with signs and microphones decided to attend the event too. What else would you expect from Orange County? But I’m interested in the autoimmunity of the pridees, of how traumatizing this man would be for some newly-out person who stayed trapped in the church for a while, trying to change their sexuality. Sure, it could be triggering. And the pridees (not even the security!), at the event designed to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, definitely weren’t interesting in debating or talking to this guy, but blocking him out and exiting Bible man from the event.
            So, here’s what I imagined. First, when the man entered, I imagined all the gay people who have had to deal with their churches blasting the same messages at them. I imagined the people who have had to deal with questioning their own eternal status for just being gay, those who have woken up every single morning with the status of “sinner” (not sinner in general—like “everyone’s a sinner”—because anyone who tells you that gay is ok because “everyone is a sinner” hasn’t ever thought about what it means to be a sinner in particular—I could go on)…and those who have spent so much energy trying to pray it away. I know a few people who have been through this, so I imagine that there were also some at this pride festival (some would argue that those people are why we even need a pride festival…among other things). And I imagine the same response that I have when my homophobic friends (friends???) enter a coffee shop: panic! Should I describe gay trauma? No—rehashing it stresses me out. So, at an event designed for celebration and acceptance, Bible man with his microphone brings panic to those who have heard messages like his before. Where some people (like me) enter the event and let out a sigh of relief, Bible man brings tension and antagonism.
            I imagine that people were aware of the bad effects of the presence of Bible man, because, like an autoimmune response, people swarmed this man immediately, covering him ruthlessly with signs and shouting over him. Many told him to leave before I took my lap, and there were only three sentences that I could hear intelligibly before his voice was distorted by the crowd. So there was hardly a chance for this man to be heard; he was not debated, just pushed out.
            I’m not sure where I was going with this, but my friend enjoyed the analogy of a Christian like this as a virus, and the pridees as a body with an autoimmunity. And Bible man might be placed in contrast with my priest, who was incredibly chill (of course—he is a married gay man!), and his lesbian friends in the Episcopalian booth, who were only there to spread a message of love and acceptance, who only reminded me of how much they’ve enjoyed conversations with me, and who did not yell.