June is upon us, and with that brings several things: the beginning of summer today, starting to harvest the spring-planted vegetables, and gay pride month.
I'm always really conflicted about what is considered gay pride. Pride, when taken at its standard definition, is "a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one's own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired." Pride is one of the seven deadly sins in that it's a horrible thing to desire to be more important or attractive than someone else. It's also similarly bad to deny the good parts of others and worse yet to have no humility.
Being gay is something else. Being a lesbian for me isn't something that I've "become" or something that's an achievement. Being a lesbian was something that I knew I was from the moment I hit puberty. It was as natural for my feelings to develop for women that I assume feelings develop for the opposite gender in heterosexuals. The only different thing I experienced was the curse of being the one girl that likes other girls when every other girl I was friends with liked boys. It made me question why I liked girls instead of boys and caused years of confusion because I wanted to be like everyone else. Even so, I didn't ever "accomplish" being a lesbian. I always just was. It's like being a brunette--sure, I love being a brunette without the assumptions of being a blonde or the maintenance of being a redhead but I surely wouldn't have chosen being a brunette on my own.
So where can I get off saying I'm proud of being gay? My employer last year went the wrong way in saying that June was "Gay Heritage" month. Big oops. I'm sure that the rest of the gays I work with were happy to know that their gay forefathers were honored all throughout June since the 1970s. I certainly feel as if I'm connected to other gay people somehow because of the struggle we mutually go through, but it's no more connected to the gay "community" than I am the customer service community, or the overweight community, or the survivors of child abuse. It's one more facet that when put together makes up a whole person.
So then why in June every year do my fellow gays join in harmony to sing YMCA in a public park, women dressed in chaps, men dressed as Cher, to celebrate being something they can't help in the first place?
I understand that oppressed minorities need a community to feel acceptance until they become a part of the greater society. Lesbians are notorious for being alcoholics among medical professionals--I hypothesize that it's because bars become our second home as a safe place to be gay as youth. It's a gathering place to find others who might be into you or someone you know. It's also notorious for drama (see the book Dyke Drama). But as time goes on and we're accepted more for who are and we evolve from a psychiatric patient to just another guy, is there a need to disassociate from mainstream society and our straight counterparts? And will there be a need for these community gathering houses when the rest of the community will accept us non-gay bars, non-gay community centers, and non-gay houses of worship?
I think it's an age-old debate about assimilation, not necessarily about pride.
So then, where does the pride come in?
I, for one, can say I'm really not proud to be gay. I'm not proud to be in a gay community. I'm more proud that I've survived abuse, I'm on the Dean's List, and that I'm on track for my BSN after years of indecision. I'm proud to have a wonderful fiancee who loves me, even though I'm a crazy fat wobbly thing. Basically, I'm proud of accomplishments and the accomplishments of my close associates.
I certainly haven't accomplished being gay. Others may feel that way--being oppressed or coming out late in life. I, though, want to assimilate into my greater community and be a whole package. I don't want to be known as the gay girl. I want to be known for all of the things I am instead of just one of the things I happen to be. I would also hope as time goes on that other lesbians will realize that their whole personality doesn't revolve around being a lesbian.
After all, excess is a sin as much as pride.
But until we all have that safe place, while we're bullied and disowned, while we're disallowed rights, and while we struggle for our acceptance in the greater community, we might continue the fractionalization into our "communities" or special interest groups that envelop our entire lives, hobbies, and activities. That goes for any marginalized group. My hope is that when my children are being raised that we live truly like Martin Luther King, Jr. envisioned--together in peace. Truly together. And my wish is that everyone starts to see that we're only really a fraction of what we truly believe we are consumed with.
I guess, for now, gay pride month will have to be around, if nothing else but to appreciate maybe the people who have or who are paving the roads that myself as the younger, safer generation of gays get to walk. It's not causing much of a disservice to our community in most cases to have our places, our days, our month, or even our parades. Although, I can say too many half-naked Bears on Bikes could scar anyone hoping for a simple, family-friendly parade. Yep, I'll just go ahead and leave you with that image. Happy "Gay Heritage" Month.