It’s the day before gay pride. I’m nestled in my office on 24th street, one block north of Chelsea, New York City’s queer epicenter. As an openly gay editor of an openly gay blog, one would expect me to be down there planning my pride day with the other gays. I am not.
It’s not that I’m not proud to be gay. Not once in my post-out life have I wished to be straight. The idea of being proud to be gay, however, strikes me as a bit queer. How can I be proud of what I’ve always been? No, I’m not proud to be gay. I’m gay. It’s a fact of my life. It’s a part of my whole.
To me, gay pride’s less a celebration of my homosexuality, gayness, faggotry, queerness or whatever you want to call my sociosexual “it”. (Or is it “id”?) Gay pride’s not contained in a day or a march. It’s my everyday existence. How can it not be? My mere occupation’s something to be proud of – and not only for the content.
We’ve come a long way since the Stonewall Rebellion. We’ve got gay politicians, lesbians hosting the Oscars, the once stuffy 60 Minutes recently did a special on trans children. I see young black kids down on Christopher Street. I see stuffy old queens uptown arguing over silk ties. I see lesbians loving in the park. I see trans men riding through Park Slope. I see hip, hungry looking homos barhopping in Williamsburg. I’m proud of all the struggles that led to these men, women and trans folk to freedom. I’m proud to live in city where queers can express themselves. I’m proud that gays led the fight against AIDS. Surely so much pride must be dangerous, right?
Every major religion in the world considers pride a sin. According to the Christians, it’s pride that sent Lucifer crashing down to hell. In Islam, pride’s defined as arrogance, certainly not a pleasant trait. For Islamists, self-reflection should only lead to self-knowledge, rather than self-adulation. Hindu’s Ravana – the multi-headed king of Lanka – could have been a great man had it not been for his pride.
These lessons aren’t exclusive to religious texts. Gay Greek philosopher Aristotle spent years exploring the notion of excessive pride, or hubris. An over-inflated self-respect led to arrogance. Arrogance, in turn, led to abuse of others. Those stricken by hubris had no love for their fellow man. How could they love something they viewed with disdain, something they considered beneath their greatness? Such an isolated, self-serving existence only brings tragedy. It’s not a means to the end. It’s the end. Thus, I cannot celebrate pride without also embracing it’s necessary opposite: humility.
I’m humbled everyday. I’m humbled by New York’s massive buildings. I’m humbled by the brutally attractive painter I see down the road. I’m humbled by the shit head who calls me a “faggot”. Sure, the resultant meagerness doesn’t feel so hot, but it’s necessary. My heart breaks with every humbling experience. But, as we all know, hearts are resilient muscles. They heal. It may take a minute, it may take a year, but every one of our emotional scars makes us stronger. It’s my – and your – strength that makes me the most proud.
Gay people are fighters. We’ve overcome so much, been beat down by disease, discrimination, religion and politics. Regardless of the abuse, we come roaring back with a lavender vengeance. With tenacity, gumption and a whole lot of spirit, we continue to forge ahead, to live Stonewall on a daily basis, to challenge the haters and open the doors for younger generations.
Pride’s about remembering these struggles. Pride’s about looking forward to more triumphs. Pride’s about recognizing our flaws, our weaknesses, keeping ourselves in check. Pride should not be isolated to one day out of 365 (Or 366, depending on the year).
Pride should not simply be about self-respect, admiration or celebration. Pride must be rooted in a desire to make the world a more loving, liberal and progressive place. Pride must be based in the struggle for universal freedom.
While some gays would rather keep to themselves, existing in a gay ghetto and associating solely with other gays, I’m not one of them. There are too many beautiful, interesting and compelling people in this world. There are too many people in need, too many people who find themselves disenfranchised. Pride should serve as a reminder to us that there’s more to be done, and not just for gay people. If we can’t use our lessons learned to teach others, what’s the point? There’s nothing more shameful than selfishness.
Now, I have to get out of this office to enjoy the rest of this beautiful pre-Pride day. And all the others ahead.
PS: For the record, I am not proud of that picture.