“If it’s just who you are, why be proud about it?”
It seems like a reasonable question, right? I mean, if we’re born this way, what is there to be proud of? It’s not like we did it, right?
If you’ve ever asked that question, or been tempted to ask it (especially if you think it’s a clever question) here’s what I need you to do: imagine one of the really big St Patrick’s day parades. Imagine a very big, bearded, slightly inebriated Irish American in that parde. Now imagine yourself wearing a t-shirt with a British flag printed on it, and some slogan such as “The Irish are all terrorists!” in really large print. Now imagine yourself confronting the inebriated Irishman in the middle of the St. Patrick’s Day parade and demanding that he explain just what it is he has to be proud of, anyway, just because he was born Irish?
If you are a straight or straight-identified person living in our society, having grown up going to schools that encouraged your childhood crushes, that held dances that celebrated your teen age boyfriend/girlfriend relationships, watching movies where 99.9% of the plots include at least an element of either boy-meets-girl or boy-rescues-girl or woman-gets-her-man, et cetera, much of your existence is the result of a system of privilege which is the equivalent of that t-shirt.
So that’s the first thing I have to be proud of: I haven’t been crushed by the forces of homophobia, I didn’t commit suicide in my teens, I survived all the beatings, I managed to avoid being driven into addiction or a life of loneliness by all of those people, assumptions, and cultural expectations that said I couldn’t love, and if even I could my love didn’t matter, my very self was false.
I survived all of that and became a productive member of society. I found a man who promised to love me and stay with me the rest of his life—and he did! And after he died, I was lucky enough to be found by another wonderful man who somehow isn’t put off by all my obnoxious personality traits and has the audacity to love me!
We have a circle of friends who run the spectrum from straight through bi and gay, and contrary to what I was told again and again throughout my childhood, how lovable or worthwhile any of them are has absolutely nothing to do with their orientation.
I’m proud not just because I’m still here and I’ve survived, but because all of those people marching in Pride Parades all around the world have survived. From the freaks to the wallflowers, from the lesbian moms and gay dads to the queer aunties and uncles, from the straight parents of lesbian & gays to the straight kids of gays & lesbians, from the queer soccer players to the queer sci fi nerds (and there are a lot more of us than you think!), from the drag queens to muscle daddies and gym bunnies, from the dykes on bikes to the queer corgi owners club (sometimes one of the largest groups in the parade), from the go-go boys to the clog-dancing lesbians, from the queer quakers to the gay service members, from the cyber sluts to the snap queens, from house spouses to the queer executives… in short, every bi, gay, trans, lesbian, gender-non-conformist, queer, homo, fairy, butch, femme, st8-acting person or ally who has survived another year and is still ready to stand up, be counted, and throw a fabulous party.
I’m proud because we have endured hate, which has taught us how to love better. I’m proud because we have fled the shadows, and showed the world our light. I’m proud because no matter how many times we’ve been knocked down, we have gotten back up.
I’m proud because we’re all here, and we’re beautiful!