13 June 2016

PRIDE - Something to Celebrate

Over the years, I've heard many people question why there are Pride festivals, what LGBT people are "proud" of; why they need a festival and/or a parade to be "proud"; and especially in recent years, why we need to keep having it now that everything's better. ('Cause that's how it works; racism is all better, too.)

First of all, you can google Stonewall. That's where "Gay Pride" started, a celebration of survival and solidarity and "pride" as a counter to shame, the latter being where too many have lived and continue to live their lives.

That should be enough. But to go further, am I "proud" of being gay? Well no, not particularly. It's not something I "accomplished," after all, the "gayness" itself. It's just who - and what - I am, and it's just one of a host of characteristics I couldn't deny even if I wanted to. But it's a thing that other people have turned into a big freaking deal, and too often used as an insult, a joke, a denigration, or a weapon against me.

But even knowing that, I have never lied about who I am. It took me a good long while to uncover it, to outgrow the small-town, childish insults and name-calling, the meaning of which I didn't even understand at the time. But once I did figure it out, I never lied. I never hid this characteristic from anyone. I have often been nicer to strangers than I felt like being, because I could feel prejudice flaking off of them as they moved through my space, and you do what you can to minimize harm to yourself, or risk of it. I consciously make myself as unthreatening as possible, in hopes that the truth of this characteristic is received smoothly, but I am always truthful. I have never hidden who I was dating from family or friends, changed pronouns, pretended or asked them to pretend they were less to me than they were, or even purposely maintained distance from people I wouldn't have otherwise because I was afraid of their reactions. 

I am proud of my self-awareness, and my long and continuing pursuit of more of it.
I am proud of my honesty, even when it's really hard.
I am proud of my willingness to live in the open.
I am proud of my courage, and it does take some.
I am proud of my ability to reassure the uncertain that I am not a threat, even though I should not have to.
I am proud of my ability to remain kind and compassionate in my heart, even in moments of great anger, or at least return to it quickly when I slip.
I am proud that I am also not a doormat, that I am unafraid of fully expressing what I'm feeling.
I am proud of my resilience, my ability and willingness to remain all of these things even with so many people so motivated to hurt me for this one thing about me.
I am proud of my fellow LGBT+ people who practice the above with me and demand respect for me and for themselves, even when they're rewarded with violence.

This Pride is not an arrogant pride. It is a constant and a comfort, an emotional touchstone that lends strength in darker moments and reminds us of the solidarity we have with each other. It's community. It's hope and determination... and forgiveness. It is self-perpetuating and grows exponentially when embraced and practiced consistently. It makes me better, and it makes the world better, and it deserves to be celebrated. It deserves a parade.