Use of the word “pride” in social contexts can be confounding. If it is defined in strictly religious terms, pride is a problem or “sin” akin to hubris, conceit, vanity, or egotism.
The positive use of pride is a bit more complicated. Pride is a healthy manifestation of self-confidence, self-respect, the celebration of one’s heritage. The positive sense of pride is akin to the black pride movement of the 1960s. Black Pride or “Black is Beautiful” was used by a people who were awakening from centuries of oppression and social disregard. Black Pride is an empowering emotion that enables genuine, positive feelings of self-worth.
We often find other types of “pride” movements for minority populations within the United States and other multi-ethnic nations. Within the Asian communities we find the general term “Asian Pride”. In some parts of the country we find celebrations of social culture like Czech Days, St. Patrick’s Day, and Native American Pride.
The positive, empowering form of pride is what is at work when we think of “Gay Pride” or “LGBT Pride”. The phrase came into popular usage because it is clean and simple. Gay Pride is a good soundbyte and fits neatly into signs and headlines. The statement, “June is gay personal worth month”, is unwieldy and easily forgetable. However, “Gay Pride” expresses the emotion and the movement in a concise manner.
The LGBT rights movement has enjoyed some highly publicised advancements in recent years. Marriage equality in many western nations comes to mind. Unfortunately, most members of the LGBT community find ourselves living in extremely repressive, negative social situations. Marriage equality and non discrimination in work and living contexts are only pipe-dreams for most LGBT people, globally.
For those of us who do not live in Western Europe, or the more enlightened cities of the Americas, being ourselves is a difficult and sometimes fatal proposition. We are the targets of misinformation campaigns by political and religious institutions. Governmental and gang violence take a heavy emotional and physical toll on our people.
Many of us watch media coverage of Pride events in places like New York City or Rio de Janiero and wonder why we cannot have such celebrations and freedom. We witness the happiness and social acceptance and want a slice of it for ourselves.
Friends have asked me, “Why isn’t there ‘Straight Pride’?” I usually reply, “Be very thankful that you don’t need to have ‘Straight Pride'”. Members of the dominant culture display “straight pride” everyday, anyway. Contemporary entertainment is filled with images and messages extolling heterosexual norms. Religious institutions continually advocate the straight “lifestyle”. Nearly everywhere one looks and listens, validation of straight people is present. We do not resent such validation. We only want our fair share of it.
I still feel some trepidation speaking out and writing about LGBT civil rights. Even though I shouldn’t, I sometimes think about how people will receive my message. I wonder how many of my acquaintences and family members will reject me after I express my true self.
Why don’t we shut up about it already? Why do we see and hear so much about gay people these days? It’s because we still have far to go.
When I don’t need to worry about losing my job or getting kicked out of my home, I’ll become more silent.
When I can have a legal, socially meaningful partnership with the person I love, I’ll be less strident.
When my bretheren in places like Uganda, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Russia aren’t killed for being who they are, I’ll feel less motivated to speak out.
Even though my little rural town doesn’t have a Pride Parade down its main street. I can watch one on the Web. I can celebrate Pride in my own special way at home.
I hope you can understand and forgive our exuberant and sometimes outrageous displays during these parades. We have a lot of pent-up emotion. We know we’ve come a long way. We also know we have a whole lot more hard work cut out for us.
The hardcore forces of oppression will not let up. Neither will we.
Happy Pride Month
The Blue Jay of Happiness likes this pithy quote from Lynn Lavner: “The Bible contains six admonishments to homosexuals and 362 admonishments to heterosexuals. That doesn’t mean that God doesn’t love heterosexuals. It’s just that they need more supervision.”