Pride. What an odd thing. People feel good about their accomplishments in such a way that, usually, there is a positive correlation between the difficulty of a task and the emotional reward when it’s complete. Sometimes pride is the deciding factor in an individual’s success, it is what allows them to dig deep in the face of insurmountable odds and come out on top. Pride isn’t always that simple, though. People sure do like to take pride in things they had no control, or even influence, over. People get angry, they get in arguments and physical fights and cause damage to one another, over a vague feeling that I have yet to hear satisfactorily explained.
Pride is often seen as a good thing. I know people who have overcome some truly daunting obstacles, and that is usually what we associate with pride. I am proud of my service in the military; not due to a fetishistic reverence for My Country or an inflated ego, as if my personal sacrifices were necessary to ensure every American’s freedom*, but because I knew exactly how difficult it was for me and I know that I did things I thought I’d never be able to do. Working hard, mentally, physically and emotionally, prompts our bodies to release hormones and neurotransmitters that result in a reward when the work is complete. The great thing about being human is that we have so much more at our disposal than just brain/body chemistry, the ability to think and feel adds so much depth to our experience. With thinking and feeling things as individuals comes the propensity to prioritize our individual experience over others’. Everybody does this, some more than others, but it is simply a function of how we experience the world and you can’t do anything to change it. You can, however, acknowledge it and work to overcome the limits it places on you. The people I know that have the best reasons to be proud usually keep most of it to themselves.
People like to publicly demonstrate their pride. I have friends with pride tattoos, Irish pride and NDN pride and brown pride tattoos, to name a few. This isn’t actually pride though, this is something else entirely. Pride is the feeling you get when you’ve accomplished something, it can be anything, but it comes as a result of something you have done or endured. This, these tattoos and slogans and t-shirts and hats, is signaling – identifying yourself to the world in order to define your in- and out-groups. We do this because it makes a lot of things easier, it’s a shortcut to avoid potential conflict and identify potential relationships. Again, this is normal human behavior and it doesn’t make one automatically ignorant, as long as we are cognizant of it and make a conscious effort to overcome it. The people who signal the most and the loudest are often in uncomfortable situations, they rely on this exaggerated signaling to reach the few friendly strangers in the crowd, and to erect barriers in the path of potential problems.
June has been deemed Gay Pride Month. I recently learned the acronym GRSM, it stands for Gender, Romantic, and Sexual Minorities. I think it is not only easier to say and remember, but it is more inclusive and more informative than the LGBTQIIA+ acronym, (I probably got that wrong). This month I’ve heard more bigotry and hate and ignorance concentrated into a twelve day period than I think I’ve heard in the past decade. Granted, I watch a lot of YouTube and seek out some of this stuff in preparation for writing about it, but I’ve watched a lot of YouTube over the past decade and I don’t remember seeing anything this bad before. I’ve seen large groups of largely financially stable white men – men who’ve never faced real adversity, never felt the pain of being rejected by their families, never been suspected at first glance, never been targeted by strangers, never been made to feel unwelcome at home, never had to fight for what the average person takes for granted – standing on street corners with megaphones, yelling about the attack on their way of life. I’ve seen purportedly loving, respectable men, who espouse compassion and grace, spew hatred and threats and disgusting insults with smiles on their faces. I’ve seen human beings acting like rabid creatures with no regard for humanity, all over misapprehension and fear.
Pride month is not and never was about attacking anybody’s way of life. It’s not about segregation or supremacy. It’s not about alienation and it’s not about defining the other. Pride month is about acknowledging the fact that for such a long time in our society it was not just normal, but encouraged, to demonize and belittle and harass the GRSM community. When people ask for Straight Pride month in response, it demonstrates their lack of understanding. Being proud of a sexual or gender or romantic orientation is not possible, these people are not putting on rallies and parades and conventions and events to celebrate their circumstances and take over your happy little white-picket-fence world; they’re having these events to celebrate that fact that they can walk through the streets of their cities without fear, that they can obtain the same rights and status as traditional individuals, that the rest of the world has finally listened and does in fact care about the hardships they have faced.
I have been absolutely appalled at the conduct of a growing group of people who believe they are doing nothing wrong. There are organizations who are on a crusade against the enlightenment of our society, who are actively advocating hate and violence. This is absurd, folks. We have come so far, done so many great things, created so many amazing things. There is no reason to be afraid, and there is never an excuse for hate. There is a group holding a conference titled Make America Straight Again in Orlando, FL to celebrate the third anniversary of the murder of forty nine human beings, and they claim they are doing it in the name of love! It’s never okay to normalize hate.
The next time you find yourself taking offense from, of feeling afraid of, a marginalized group, stop and check the facts, stop and think about all the contributing factors, stop and recognize the legacy effects of institutionalized bigotry. I know that there are people out there who would never be swayed by a silly blog post, take a look at the NIFB and the Westboro Baptist Church for example, but I sincerely hope that if this does reach anybody who feels the need to use hateful language and make outrageous, fear mongering claims and advocate for violence against your fellow humans, that you will take some time to think about it and develop your compassion.
*Few things make me more angry than when I hear a fellow veteran say things like ‘You’re welcome for your freedom’ That’s just asinine and myopic.