by Shaker Alison Rose, a fierce queer feminist, avid book lover, and proud cat lady who lives in the northern SF Bay Area.
[Content Note: Discussion of queerphobia.]
pride (noun): 1. a high or inordinate opinion of one's own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc. [...] 3. a becoming or dignified sense of what is due to oneself or one's position or character; self-respect; self-esteem
It's interesting to me to read those two definitions so close to each other. The first seems to carry more of the "deadly sin" sense of the term—that word 'inordinate' is doing a lot of work there. This is an inflated sense of one's importance, likely based in imagination, and certainly unbecoming, certainly not a virtue.
The other entry, though, implies a more positive connotation. Self-respect, self-esteem—those are undoubtedly moral things. We're often encouraged to cultivate those feelings inside ourselves, to see ourselves as worthy, as lovable, as good.
It's that definition of pride that lends itself to the LGBTQ community, in what I like to see as a reclamation of the term, alongside (for some of us) the word queer, or dyke, where we've taken what's long been labeled a sin and turn it into our salvation. A joyous celebration, of being who we are, of being seen as who we are, of being loved for who we are.
It's 2016, and there are probably a lot of (straight, cisgender) people who think we don't need pride parades anymore (or want to know WHERE THE STRAIGHT PRIDE PARADES are, to which I say, "Um, freaking everywhere? All the time??"). Yes, same-sex marriage is legal across the nation, most everyone can name-drop Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox, and Tegan and Sara just released another awesome album where they're just hella gay all over it.
But there are also judges who obstinately refuse to abide by the SCOTUS ruling and clerks who throw elaborate tantrums over issuing marriage licenses. In many states, you can be fired for being gay, bisexual, or a trans person of any sexual orientation. And of course, all these reprehensible, ignorant, bigoted "bathroom bills" that are the ultimate and most hateful example of a solution in search of a problem.
There are countless instances of gay, bi, and especially trans people being harassed, intimidated, assaulted and killed. There is absolutely, unquestionably, and heartbreakingly still a prevalent and virulent miasma of homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia around the country and the world.
It can be very difficult to feel pride in the face of it.
That's why it matters so very much when President Obama, the leader of our country and the person in one of the most powerful positions on Earth, declares a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. It matters that every year, our President makes sure to show those of us in the LGBTQ community the respect and esteem that define pride but that we may not always be able to foster within ourselves. It matters that he knows, even with the progress that has been made, that we still have a lot of work to do, and that he believes with all of his heart that each one of us is worth that work, that we deserve the efforts to get it done.
When I was a young girl, I assumed I was straight because that's all society presented to me as an option. The only gay people one saw in the media were generally portrayed as either ridiculous, campy dopes or sick, dangerous perverts. As I got a little older, I thought maybe I might be bisexual. Then a few more years passed and I knew I was definitely bisexual. A little bit older and I wondered if maybe I was actually gay, and then eventually, it was, "Yup, definitely gay!"
This isn't, as many bigots insist, because all the queers around me "turned" me gay, by, I don't know, osmosis? Hypnosis? Gay Jedi mind tricks?
It's because as I got older, and society progressed, and representation increased and improved, and other people let go of their anxieties and prejudices and opened their minds and their arms, the queers around me "turned" me honest. By being themselves—by feeling able to be themselves and to take pride in being themselves—they helped me do the same.
I know exactly who I am now, and I love that, and I take pride in that.
Parades, rainbow flags, magazine cover articles, presidential proclamations—these are all still necessary because not everyone is ready or able to say what I just did. Those of us who can need to keep celebrating, to keep being loud and proud, out and about, to let our pride and joy give others the courage to come join us in the streets and to tell the world they're here. To live their lives in full.
Pride is not a sin. It's a saving grace.