Say it loud

Gay marriage revelers, Pride NYC 2011Hmm, I guess it’s gay pride time again. Pride, for short. I always find that term a little funny — pride is one of those emotions that can be both positive and negative, depending. If it’s meant as the opposite of shame, then it’s a good thing; if it’s meant as the opposite of humility, it’s bad enough to rank as one of the seven deadly sins.

Pride in popular music runs the gamut — more often than not, it’s kind of a stand-in for a stubborn, macho lack of vulnerability, but the songs are mainly about letting that down (“Ain’t Too Proud to Beg”) or having it knocked aside (“Tell Me Something Good”) to let in love. Good! Interestingly, in the female version of love overcoming pride (Sade’s “Love Is Stronger Than Pride”), the latter is equated with self-respect. Losing it? Not so good.

There are plenty of songs about national or regional pride, some of them nice, but most bordering on hubris (“Sweet Home Alabama,” anyone?), pretty jingoistic and awful. That’s the kind of pride that’ll start a riot in a football stadium.

gay pride flagThen there’s well-deserved positive pride in one’s accomplishments à la “Pride (In the Name of Love),” U2’s tribute to Dr. King; and positive group pride as in “Say It Loud (I’m Black and I’m Proud)” by James Brown, pride as celebration.

That’s the kind of pride we’re talking with gay pride. I hope. As the name for the weekend’s festivities, “pride” has been around for a while. In San Francisco, it replaced “Gay Freedom Day Parade and Celebration,” a rather clunky title for a party, in the mid-90s as we realized we had pretty much gotten year-round freedom (if not quite full equality), at least in our special town.

But now gay pride seems a bit outdated, at least to this liberated queer, as well. Yes, there are a lot of LGBT people still struggling with internalized homophobia, oppression, and any number of other issues. I know the gay marriage thing isn’t quite finished. But, by and large, haven’t we as a community moved past the need to self-congratulate and counter our shame with pride?

Maybe the message is still important for the tourists visiting from horrible places. Could be I’m just too damn free to see, but for my money, all this emphasis on pride comes across as a little defensive. It’s just a big party, right? I’m all for it. Enjoy! Be proud? Sounds funny to me.

Viagra ads on the street along the parade route, Vancouver Pride 2011And, dare I say it, there is that dark side of pride. Are we really all that more fabulous than straight people? Really? I know it can be fun to say we are, fun to play up the stereotypes that make us shine — we dress and decorate and cut hair and age so much better — but don’t go taking it all too seriously. I’m all for having a positive self-image, but face it, we are not better.

Different? Sure. I feel something of an automatic bond with other LGBT people, as I’m sure many of us do. We’ve all been through some similar things, hard things: coming to terms with our sexuality, coming out, forging paths where there were none, creating chosen families when our “real” families reject us, and the war called AIDS, burying friends and lovers, changing the way we make love…all of these things have made us strong and wise, compassionate and scarred and different. We should celebrate and, yes, be proud of how far we’ve come.

It’s been tough, and for some it continues to be. I get it. But, girlfriend, bitchiness is just not attractive. I know where it’s coming from, the defensiveness, but realize that you can choose to put it down. It might be scary, but just try and see what happens. It’s not who you are.

To my gay brothers and sisters who have had to fight to get where you are, happy and proud, I feel pride, kinship, and compassion for you. Now relax. You’re there. And help those who aren’t there yet.

Be proud in the best sense of the word, and be the opposite of proud: be humble, be vulnerable. Love yourself, of course, but love everyone. And enjoy the celebration, whatever you call it. I just call it gay day.

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