This past week was the anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion in NYC's Greenwich Village -- also known, more widely, as Pride. I read Georgie's thoughtful post (over at Three Rivers Anthology) about why Pride doesn't particularly resonate with her, and it got me thinking about why it does, for me.
Another, albeit minor issue is, I am not proud to be gay. I don't know for sure, but I don't think straight folks are proud to be straight either. I have never understood it. It feels like being proud because I have blue eyes. I am not any one thing and my sexuality is just a part of who I am. Plus I didn't really have much to do with it. I've been this way for as long as I can remember. I can't really take credit for anything.
Maybe I've been studying for the GRE too much, and it's got me thinking in terms of antonyms. But the thing is, I am proud to be gay -- sort of. Mostly what I am is not ashamed. Which, if shame and pride are opposites, I suppose makes me proud. It's also, I think, why straight people aren't proud to be straight -- no one is telling them they should be ashamed.
I came out when I was 18 years old. It was really, really hard for me. I had known/suspected/thought/feared that I might be gay (or something like it) for a long time before that, but I didn't have the courage to name it, even to myself. Or to God, when I was praying as hard as I could for Him to make me "normal." I lost my faith in God right around the time I gained some faith in myself.
When I went away to college, I finally admitted to myself that I might actually be something other than straight, and decided that I was okay with it. Spring Break of my freshman year of college, I sucked it up and decided to tell my parents. My parents had a long history of preaching tolerance, acceptance, and all manner of other liberal values, so I suspected it would be a surprise, but that they would ultimately be fine. This was decidedly not so. As best I could tell, they were by turns shocked, saddened, and angry. They flexed their denial muscles, and assured me it was a phase.
The summer after I came out to my parents, between my freshman and sophomore years of college, was flat-out horrible. I was disappointed in them and in their reaction. I lived at home, and fought with them constantly. Then, when I went back to college, something strange happened. We just. stopped. talking about it. For YEARS. Basically, we did not discuss how I or my parents felt about me being gay until I got engaged to my ex, years and years later. At that time, my parents had come a long way, but they still urged me not to discuss my sexual orientation (or my impending marriage) with my extended family. I have all kinds of nasty soundbites from that time seared into my memory, but a blog is not the place to expose the worst of the people you love, so I will spare you the gory details.
My point here is not that my parents are horrible people. In fact, I think they did the best they could -- which is all anyone can do. My point is that they were ashamed of me. And, whether it was intentional or not, the message that they communicated to me is that I should be ashamed of myself. Really, this is just one very personal thread of a larger homophobic and heterosexist cultural tapestry, which I have been steadily working at unweaving since the day I told my parents I was gay. And which those gay boys in their whitey-tighties on the pride float, and the drag queens tossing condoms, and the Dykes on Bikes, and the trannies resisting arrest at the Stonewall Inn, and millions of others are unweaving as they make their way down the main thoroughfares in pretty much every major US city during the month of June.
So this, then, is why the word "pride" resonates with me. Not because I think I earned my gayness and it's something I should be proud of -- not pride like that. But my orientation is something I refuse to be ashamed of, no matter what anyone says, even people I have loved my entire life. It's not something I will hide to make other people more comfortable. It's pride like that.