Pride is a funny thing. We can have it and yet still have to take steps to conceal who we are—to family or at our jobs, for example. I’ve been lucky in that, although my parents have not fully embraced who I am, they have not disowned me either. While I have envied people who were able to live their lives with the love and support of their families, I’m grateful that I haven’t had to deal with hateful behavior, like some people have (I’ve heard some pretty awful horror stories. I’m somewhere in between).
When I first realized that I was gay…wait, I can’t really call it a realization. It was not, “Holy shit, I’m gay.” It was more like, “Yeah, okay, I think I can try this out.” Funny thing was, even though I had crushes on boys (I also had crushes on girls, except that I didn’t know that what I was feeling were crushes), I always kind of “knew” that I would “experiment” with girls. I have no explanation for that. That’s just the way it was. It took a little while to finally admit to myself that I was gay. The only thing I feared was my parents’ reaction. Eventually, I decided that I couldn’t live a lie. Life is too short.
Some would argue that unless you’re out loud and proud to the entire world, you’re really not proud. But it’s not that easy, is it? In my opinion, it simply isn’t always better to come out to your family or co-workers. I came to the conclusion that where my family was concerned, the subject was better left unexplored. At my various jobs, I’ve never been closeted, but I did not randomly tell anyone about my personal life. When I got to know someone and felt comfortable around them, then I would be open around them.
Perhaps I’m not political enough, or brave enough, or staunch in my beliefs enough. But that doesn’t mean I’m not proud of who I am. I believe that, regardless of who I sleep with or have an emotional/romantic relationship with, I am capable of doing anything that my straight sisters can do. In fact, maybe more in some ways. As a lesbian, I’m not tied to sexual tension with men or impressing men, and I’m not held down by some kind of hesitation in competing with them. By virtue of who and what I am, I have to look at the world in a different way—sexuality is fluid, love is not restricted to one kind, women do not need men to survive—and that opens my mind up to different possibilities. Of course, I may also be discriminated against because I’m gay, but that’s an obstacle to overcome, not to be held back by.
What I find interesting, and sad, is that there are people who are gay—they don’t deny it—and yet are so self-loathing that they identify more with their oppressors than their own community. And it makes me wonder how they can support institutions that seek to take away their rights and oppress them further. I know a few people like that, and I just don’t get it.
This tells me that these people lack pride in themselves, they harbor shame about some aspect of themselves. Maybe it’s fear. The fear of going against the grain and being punished for it. All of us in the gay community risk punishment every single day.
Maybe it’s greed. The desire to have the things that being openly gay sometimes takes away. Or, maybe that’s also fear.
But we are lucky to be living in the times that we do. We have so much that those before us never dreamed of having. We should celebrate that and take full advantage of it. And we should always remember the battles and struggles and heroes that allowed us to have the freedoms that we do now, and we should never become complacent.
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