What’s there to be proud about?
I hear or read it at least once each year as Pride weekend approaches (or shortly afterward when people post pictures of their local Pride parade): what’s there to be proud of? Usually followed up with comments to the effect that if we are born this way, then there isn’t anything we’ve done to be gay, so why be proud? Why can’t we just be ourselves and go about our day?
The answer is quite simple: because every moment of our lives—from before we were old enough to understand—society at large (including very nearly every single person who raised us, took care of us, taught us, lived beside us, et cetera) has told us again and again that “just being ourselves” is shameful. We have been told that our very beings were wrong. Our selves are a sickness to be cured, or a sin to be despised, or a shameful secret to be hidden. We’ve been bullied, harassed, tormented, shunned, and beaten because of who we are. We have been told (and often shown violently) that our lives don’t matter. We’ve been told we can’t love. We’ve been told that those of us who do fine love deserve what happens to us when the bashers and haters decide to make an example of us.
In a world that insidiously and relentlessly drums that message into us—driving many to attempt suicide as children (and sadly for many to succeed), browbeating us into hating ourselves—just openly being our selves is no small feat.
Merely surviving all of that and managing to piece together lives of authenticity is a monumental victory over incredible odds.
That’s what we have to be proud of.
I used to react to this question by just thinking that the person was clueless. And certainly cluelessness is a factor. But I’ve also realized that it’s just another manifestation of that most basic form of homophobia. “Can’t you just be who you are and not make a big deal about it” is exactly the same as “why do you have to shove it in our faces all the time” which is the equivalent of “go back into hiding where you belong.”
The saddest part of this is that those people don’t think they are being homophobic at all. And they never think about that fact that straight people “shove their sexuality” in everyone else’s face all the time. Have pictures of your spouse, significant other, or children on your desk, wall, or phone’s home screen? Mention your wife or husband in casual conversation? Comment on how hot a particular actor or actress is? Routinely ask about family discounts? Expect that, of course, your spouse will be included in the company health insurance plan? Invite us to your wedding or your kid’s straight wedding? Show us pictures of yours or your kid’s straight wedding? Ever use the phrase “no homo”?
Since we get accused of shoving our sexuality in your face if we merely casually mention the existence of our significant other, we get to count all of those things as you shoving your sexuality in our faces. Straight pride happens 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, yet you begrudge queer people (trans, lesbian, bisexual, gay, genderqueer, polyamorous, asexual, pansexual, gender fluid, intersexed, gender neutral, and those who love and support us) a parade once a year?
Why am I proud?
I’m proud because they tried to drown us in lies, and we’ve risen above to reveal our truth. I’m proud because they have beaten and tortured us in the name of faith, and we’ve found the strength to show the world our love. I’m proud because they tried to smother us with fear, but we found hope in the most unlikely of places. 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.