Wrapping up Princeton University's 'Pride Week' (4/11-4/18) has made me begin to seriously consider just how 'proud' I am to count myself amongst the Ls, the Gs, the Bs, and the Ts. Specifically, I identify as a male homosexual and this week of activities ('Pride Week' t-shirt decorating, film screenings, appropriately decorated baked goods, etc.) has called into question the extent to which this identity is a legitimate source of pride in my life.
No doubt nearly all those who identify as members of the LGBT community had moments of particular difficulty early on in their lives when they hoped their identity could be wished away (or ignored entirely). While many people might be straightforward in admitting that those hopes are still alive within them (and, indeed, there are those who claim they were even successful in exorcising that element of their identity), the all-too-familiar ‘Pride’ celebration and mantra seems to indicate that this is certainly not the mainstream in the LGBT community and movement.
The decision to ‘come-out’ has been framed as an act of courage; this act is said to demonstrate that the pride one feels in claiming this identity is so great that it overcomes any internal or external forces that would otherwise keep one silent. Yet, I am forced to wonder whether we’ve romanticized this a bit; perhaps, more than we’d care to admit, the act is more submission than liberation—submission to pressure by the LGBT community, the questions and other prodding by our friends/families, the weight of maintaining multiple lives.
Maybe as a matter of biological irony, I came to deliberate the issue of ‘pride’ in the form of the question: “would I wish this identity upon my children?” Barring the obvious desire we have to assume (and rightly, I believe) the lives of LGBT people will be better off as time passes, its difficult to conceive of ‘hoping’ that my future children would be forced to grapple with the challenges that come with this particular identification. Setting aside the countless legal obstacles, the social and cultural environment of exclusion and often visible disgust would seem enough to warrant prayer for an alternative life for the ones we love. How, then, can I be proud?
The answer I have begun to move towards re-evaluates and specifies just exactly what this source of ‘pride’ is. I have begun to see the celebration as a reminder to be proud of one’s identity in its entirety; it might be a reminder that is particularly necessary for communities with a history of loathing—from within and without. As someone who accepts the premise that diversity in thought, desire, and culture holds intrinsic value for communities, perhaps we ought to be prouder still to contribute to this diversity via our role as members of a minority community. Our difficulties might only be a testament to the lack of pride others may occasionally have with our identity. This really oughtn’t play a role in the amount of pride we take in ourselves—though, clearly, this is often a difficult reality to fulfill.
So perhaps this ‘pride’ is not meant to be exclusively about LGBT identity, but as an assertion of pride for one’s identity as it exists holistically. I think, then, we can probably only ever hope as much for our loved ones, and continue our efforts in cultivating a sense of pride in our larger communities for the existence and contributions of their LGBT members. Of course, with this comes its own set of challenges and the issue of ‘pride’ remains largely unresolved in my mind. However, as the notion continues to develop over time, the pragmatist inside of me is inclined to work towards an environment in which even the most ideal interpretation of ‘pride’ can be more easily realized. As long as institutional and societal barriers to equality still exist- as long as all the cultural cues continue to send a general message of disapproval- the struggle to locate pride of any kind continues to be an uphill battle.