It’s the last day of June, the last day of pride month, and I’m feeling reflective.Rainbow flag

I generally like June. Usually the hot weather hasn’t really started to wear on me yet and I’m still enjoying it. There are bright colors and rainbows all over, which are far too rare in my opinion. And of course there are parades and social activism events, which are usually fun.

I write a lot about the rights (or lack thereof) of people who aren’t hetero-normative (which is hard to type so I’m going to use “gay” in an absurdly broad, inclusive definition for the rest of this post). The reasons for this are many and varied, and frankly kind of tedious. When you really boil it all down, I think people should be happy, or at the very least have a fair chance at happiness, no matter who they are, and I often read really horrible words, deeds and legislation which all seem to have the sole purpose of making gay people miserable, so I write about it.

This isn’t about anything specific. This is just musing on why it’s called Pride, why it’s about pride. I realize that in many ways I’ve been fortunate, the recipient of a lot of social privilege, and that to a large degree I don’t really know what I’m talking about here. I can only listen and hope that my imagination and empathy haven’t led me astray. I hope that I get it.

“Pride” is a common theme in oppressed groups, but especially the gay community.

From a position of privilege it can be hard to understand why, after all one’s dating preferences hardly seem like something to be proud of. Privilege is tricky that way, sometimes you can’t see it even when it’s been pointed out to you. (Food for thought, an example of cis-privilege is never having to justify which bathroom you’re using. That didn’t really sink in for me until two or three years ago, nearly two decades after I first met a trans person.)

When you and people like you have been systematically stripped of your rights and dignity over one facet of your being, as though this one characteristic is all that there is to you, then you need pride. Not pride in this one aspect, but in yourself, including that part of you. It’s not “I’m proud to be X” or “I’m proud despite being X”, it’s “I’m proud to be me. I am a whole person, and a part of who I am is being X”.

When you and people like you have not only been denied your rights and dignity, but your very humanity;

  • when people like you have been erased from history;
  • have been beaten and murdered and raped and maimed and chemically castrated not only by random psychos, but by friends and family and those entrusted to protect you, and even sovereign governments of allegedly free countries;
  • when major religions declare you abominations, say you’re damned to eternal torment, and should be stoned to death;
  • when preachers literally demonize you, and “moral leaders of the community” call for you and those like you to be rounded up and quarantined for life or even executed;
  • when openly being yourself is an actual crime in many countries;
  • when someone has a decent chance of outright murdering you without consequence if they claim they “panicked” when they learned this one characteristic about you as a defense in court;
  • when politicians vying for the nomination of a major political party compete by announcing that if elected they’ll treat you worse than the other guy will;
  • when companies and politicians take a major public relations blow when they suggest you should be treated equally;
  • when anti-discrimination laws are assumed not to apply to you, and people fight tooth and nail to stop them from explicitly including you;
  • when people form organizations for the specific purpose of changing laws so that you cannot marry the person of your choosing, cannot adopt children, and are more likely to lose custody of your biological children;
  • when children who share this one attribute are bullied so brutally that it changes the suicide statistics, and attempts to change policy to mitigate this are met with howls of outrage;
  • when people act as though you are so repulsive that being expected to treat you with the bare minimum of respect as a human being is oppressive and discriminatory to them;

when all this happens and more, and the primary perpetrators then have the audacity to claim that you’re incapable of forming families, and you lead an “unhealthy lifestyle” because of high suicide rates in young people like you, after doing everything in their power to make this so, well…. fuck, looking at all that, one month of parades and rainbows seems woefully pathetic.

That litany of horrors came off the top of my head, even now I begin to think of more I could add. It just gets more awful the more I think about it.

That’s why it’s about pride. Because people have all that and more stacked against them. They’ve been told their entire life that they should be ashamed of themselves because of one part of who they are. Especially because of who and how they love. Turning love for another into self-loathing like that is a pretty sick thing to do, and it’s everywhere, from casual cruelty in high schools to graffiti in bathroom stalls to pop culture, sub-culture, sub-sub-culture, even political debates. Each part of it is vague and subtle, but the overall message is clear: If you’re not hetero-normative, you’re not really a person. You’re a joke, a punchline. A thing to be mocked and tormented at will, abused with neither mercy nor remorse.

Fuck, under the weight of all that you need extra pride just to feel human. And you should be proud, if for no other reason than surviving all that shit.

Perhaps someday we’ll have a truly equal society, and a person’s sexuality will generally be about as big an issue as whether they’re left-handed, right-handed, ambidextrous, or writes-with-their-left-but-plays-right-handed-guitar-and-can’t-unlock-the-front-door-with-their-left-hand-to-save-their-life is right now, maybe less. But until then we can try to promote understanding and equality, and we can work to be people we can be proud to be. We should absolutely use fun events as a part of this, not only because they’re good for business and present a good image, but because they’re fun.

Even if we can’t reach true equality, trying for it should reduce human suffering, and that’s a worthy goal.

Take care of each other everyone. I’m proud of you.

About Leo Tarvi

Mostly fictional.

Posted on June 30, 2012, in Daily Post and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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