Tuesday, July 8, 2008


So June was gay pride month, according to the rainbow posters near the elevators at work. (A month? Sheesh! Black history only gets a month, and I think there are a lot more black people than gay people.) I'm pretty sure someone said there was a parade too... you know, the whole nine yards. I don't get it, though. I don't get the whole "gay pride" thing. What's there to be proud of?

Now, don't read that the wrong way. I didn't think say that I thought that there was something to be ashamed of, either. It just doesn't seem like it is a quality to which pride or shame should be applied. Or black pride. Or white pride. "Gay pride" isn't such an absurd phrase that I'd call it a non-sequitur, but I've always thought it was weird. As I see it, to be proud of something you should be in some way responsible for it. You can be proud of your kids—you raised them. You can be proud to be Mormon; you may not be laying down the doctrine of the faith, but hey, you chose to be Mormon, and if you want to be, you can certainly be proud of that. You can be proud of getting straight (pun intended?) A's. You can be proud of running a five-minute mile, or proud that you managed to beat a MS warrior / resto druid combo in the 2v2 1700s bracket. (Sorry. No more World of Warcraft in this post, I swear.) Those are accomplishments. You can even be proud of being an American citizen, when you consider that you had the option to leave but decided you wanted to stay. I just don't think you get to be proud of being gay. That just happened. You didn't score 1600 on the American Idol Aptitude Test to become gay. You didn't study for five years in a Californian gay monastery under the tutelage of Saint Richard of Simmons. You just were.

I've been thinking it out while writing this post, and I think that there is some value in having a celebration. I don't mean the day when there's a feather-wearing transvestite who throws beads and condoms at you from a float. (I have never seen a gay pride parade—I am sort of inferring a more porny Mardi Gras.) I mean the festival in general. Being gay isn't strictly an accomplishment. But living as a non-male, non-white, non-straight, non-mainstream-religion person probably is enough of an achievement to be worth celebrating once a year. It's not the entire concept of what we call "gay pride" that bothers me; more simply the nomenclature, and possibly the mistagging of homosexuality with qualities that don't seem to apply to it. Maybe we can just call it "gay day" or something. Or maybe people like the name, simply because it rankles so many people and incites so many preachers.

I think that tonight, I just became slightly less annoyed with the concept of "black history month." I still think that's silly too, though I guess I'm cool with a "diversity month" in general. Not everyone in the United States—let alone some other places—is really equal. If generally supportive but disinterested white guys have to suffer through a week or a month of that a year to raise awareness, I suppose I can live with that.

Anyway, I really only had the one point and I've been rambling since then, so I think this is a good place to stop.

Currently listening: Alanis Morissette—Versions of Violence


Matthew Beermann said...

You're right that the entire event could be more aptly named - I don't think you'll find anyone to argue with that.

But your second post also answers your first. People are routinely ashamed of being gay, then and now, even though it's completely illogical for the reasons you point out. Gay Pride was and is intended as an antidote to that shame. You're thinking about it too hard, it's just an antonym game.

Matthew Beermann said...

Or just pick a better definition for the term, e.g. "a reasonable or justifiable self-respect".

Come to think of it, some of the other definitions are pretty apropos, too: "ostentatious display", "a showy or impressive group".

Travis said...

Heheh. Yes, those definitions seem to work pretty well. And holy crap, dictionary.com lists a LOT of definitions for the word. Our language can be very... imprecise... sometimes.

Anonymous said...

Those members of society who have commonly been pushed into the dark corners and talked about in hushed tones tend to cling to the term "pride". If it works for them....

Amusingly enough, I know someone who went to the Gay Pride Parade on Capital Hill. She got hit in the mouth by a hard piece of candy and chipped a tooth. Not something to really be all that proud of!