Pride Conversations: A Q&A with Rev. Stan J. Sloan of Family Equality

by Anna Dreves

Pride Month this year is unlike any other. With so much change in the world around us, one thing remains the same: the significance of Pride to LGBT people, their friends and families. To help share and spread Pride this month, we’re conducting a series of Pride Conversations. These brief Q&As are designed to help expand on the meaning of Pride by involving people from various national LGBT organizations.

In our second Pride Conversations Q&A, we talk with Rev. Stan J. Sloan, CEO of Family Equality in New York City. Stan graciously provided a taped message for our virtual Believe Out Loud Easter Service about what the Easter holiday meant to him and Family Equality helped us promote the service to their membership. So, when we reached out to him about this new series, we knew he’d have equally inspiring words to share about Pride.

For those who aren’t familiar with Family Equality, it is an amazing organization doing fantastic work in our community to advance legal and lived equality for LGBT families, and for those who wish to form them. Family Equality works to build community, change hearts and minds and drive policy change. Stan has served as CEO since 2016 and is a true powerhouse in the community. For over two decades, he has been a leader in the homeless, LGBT and AIDS service communities. Prior to joining Family Equality, Stan was CEO of Chicago House, a social service agency that provides a comprehensive array of services to individuals and families disenfranchised by HIV/AIDS, LGBT poverty and/or gender nonconformity. Oh, and did we mention, he’s also an Episcopal priest, ordained in 1991! You can read more about Stan’s impressive career here.

We asked Stan a few questions about Pride and about Family Equality’s plans. Here’s what he shared with us.

Q: What does Pride mean to you?

A: In light of the COVID-19 crisis as well as of the pain and outrage that Black America and so many others are currently experiencing, PRIDE means something different this year than it has in previous years.

PRIDE has traditionally been one of my favorite days of the year. My former partner used to tease me, arguing that PRIDE was a hedonistic and shallow celebration. I countered that I’ve always experienced it as sacred…one of the only times that our community comes together with people from all walks of like, from all races, from all points on the socioeconomic spectrum. If we find Christ in the full sum of humanity, this is as close as our LGBTQ+ community gets to His presence among us.

This year PRIDE does not feel celebratory. This year it, instead, feels like a commemoration of our ongoing fight for equality, and of the fact that our progress was born out of the Stonewall Riot. It is a chance to challenge ourselves to own the harm that whiteness has done and continues to do in our society, and to try to find solidarity and support with our Black and Brown brothers and sisters.

Q: How are you celebrating Pride this year?

A: I’m reading and reflecting on the history of race relations in our country. I’m trying to better understand white privilege and the role it plays in my life. I’m trying to better understand white supremacy and the many ways it is operative in our culture. I’m spending time listening to my husband who is not only Black and an immigrant, but also a doctor on the front lines of COVID-19 in Manhattan…trying to hear the many ways that trauma is affecting people and particularly people of color in this time of crisis. I’m trying to reflect upon how I and how Family Equality can best show up in support of our families of color. Finally, I’m leaning into the gratitude that I feel for being a Gay man and being proud that my own experiences of marginalization help to put me in touch with other’s struggles. Through that awareness, I hope to be more present to others at this critical time.

Q: How is Family Equality celebrating Pride this year?

A: In response to COVID-19 and the realization that our families are more isolated than ever, we have created The Neighborhood, a virtual hub with offerings ranging from drag queen story hours to LGBTQ+ financial planners talking to parents about how to best survive the downturn in the economy. Similarly, our gala was to have gone digital with a theme of PRIDE on June 18th; however, in light of the Black Lives Matter protests and the struggles of our Black families, we are postponing the gala and are instead planning a LGBTQ+ Families for Black Lives Day of Action (to be held on June 23rd).  We will use the Day of Action to give families a toolkit of tangible, anti-racist actions that will be broken down for different age groups, from very young kids to parents. Our staff and our Board are ever-aware that PRIDE means different things at different moments, we hope that 2020 PRIDE, while not celebratory, will remain true to the continued progress of the LGBTQ+ movement, to racial justice and to other movements of social justice.

Thank you, Reverend, for sharing your story with us. Happy Pride!