Proud. What does it mean? No really. Proud is an adjective meaning: “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.” Many of us use pride as a noun, or proud as an adjective in both a positive and negative way. We believe it’s important to possess some sort of pride in ourselves. We also loath the person who has so much pride they cannot see past their own faults, for example. In gay culture, “Gay pride or LGBT pride is the positive stance against discrimination and violence toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people to promote their self-affirmation, dignity, equality rights, increase their visibility as a social group, build community, and celebrate sexual diversity and gender variance.”
I was thinking on this the other day and wondering why there isn’t a straight pride celebration. Why is that showing our pride in an organized fashion only happens in marginalized groups. When I lived in New York City, every weekend from April-October there was a festival that would run down 5th avenue. The Puerto Ricans would come out and march and parade their flags and the pride of their culture down the street. So would the Cubans. There is an Evangelical children’s parade, a German-American parade, a West Indian-American day parade, a dance parade. The list goes on and on.
So there debunks my theory. Showing pride isn’t only for marginalized groups. But, for LGBT persons ” Pride, as opposed to shame and social stigma, is the predominant outlook that bolsters most LGBT rights movements throughout the world” (wikipedia.org) There’s that word shame. It’s something we all feel. But not all of us feel shame when it pertains to our sexuality. If you’re not an LGBT person, but you’re reading this, I want you to do an exercise with me. Close your eyes for thirty seconds. While your eyes are closed, imagine what life would be like if you were ashamed of something as simple as your sexuality? Now open them. What did you think? What did you feel? I bet women can relate to this. Perhaps some empathetic men can too. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately as June is Pride month and it dawned on me how strange it is that LGBT people as a culture have to hold a parade to show the world that we are proud of who we are that our culture is actually normal. You’d never guess that by watching the news coverage of a pride parade or festival. No one looks proud, everyone looks reckless. The media covers the most sensational part of every story. We all know that.
I cannot even begin to tell you of the pressures of growing up in a straight male dominated society. Consider what it might do to your psyche, your sense of guilt; your dealings with shame. It makes it just that much harder to be who you are and to be proud of who you are. As soon as I figured out I was gay, I became ashamed of it. And to this day, depending on where I travel, I still am. I’m still cautious about who I tell or how I show it-especially in countries where strict laws condemn homosexuality. Imagine being an LGBT person in Chechnya where at present they are exterminating and torturing gays. Have you ever had this worry based upon your attraction to the opposite sex? Take that one step further now and imagine being a transgendered person. A friend of mine and I were having a conversation in the pool the other day–discussing guilt and shame and how it has shaped us for the worse and then eventually for the stronger and the better. We spoke of people we know who don’t understand why Transgendered people were “grouped” with Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual. After all , “Being transgender is independent of sexual orientation: transgender people may identify as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, asexual, etc., or may consider conventional sexual orientation labels inadequate or inapplicable.” So why are the transgendered grouped with lesbians, gays and bi-sexuals? My guess is because we’re inclusive and we’re proud of who we are. We all should be. Everyone reading this should be damned proud of who they are and show it gracefully and humbly. I think of this often and think that a lot of times, it’s not who you are that should make you proud or not proud. It’s what you do. At least that’s what the lyric of the theme song from the London Olympics in 2012 taught me. “What have you done today to make you feel proud?”