What does it mean to have pride? Pride is a feeling, but it’s not a simple emotion. Pride is distinct from happiness; it can be manifested simultaneously with sorrow or anger. We feel pride when we defend, with due indignation, our right to exist with the same benefits as those who would flatly deny us them. We feel pride when we weep, with no sense of understanding, for the hundreds and thousands whose dignity has been taken from them, for the 49 whose very lives were taken just two weeks ago, for the continued injustices that are perpetuated by a powerful majority who will not relinquish control. And we feel pride when we dance in the streets to music that is too loud, in clothes that are too colorful, with friends who are too flamboyant; we can feel pride that is married to rebellion and chaotic joy.
I like to think of pride as an affective state that stems from a cognitive one: once you discover your self-worth in the face of deep-seated opposition, you can be proud. Without the awareness, a Pride festival is governed by pure pleasure or mirth. There is nothing wrong with either of those, but they are not the same as the Pride that sparked the modern LGBTQ movement, the Pride that is now commemorated at Stonewall.
Some of my friends criticize the way San Francisco Pride has turned into one giant weekend of debauchery, divorced from its roots in activism and an actual fight for equal rights. Now, I’m not going to deny anyone their right to have fun, and I believe that queerness in pretty much any form is meaningful and necessarily political. However, I do think that a large contingent of Pride-goers appreciate the celebration — with all its rainbows, glamour, and beauty — much more than the historical legal and social war that preceded it (and still continues today all over this country and world).
But I attended SF Pride this past weekend — my second Pride ever (first was last year in Seoul) — and I had a wonderful time, misgivings over spectacle, corporate influence, and pink-washing aside. I do love Pride, and I love my queer family, every last weird and wonderful member of it. We need Pride. We need to stick together and to recognize both what unites us and what continues to divide us so that we can break down racial, economic, and social barriers as well as the civil and political institutions that maintain them. We need Pride that is informed, self-aware, and continuously evolving.
There is room for everyone: the boys clad only in glitter and underwear and the queens in full regalia, the person in plain clothes brandishing a sign that calls out employment discrimination, all of the brave folks who participated in the Trans March and the Dyke March, the speakers who rallied for political action and the singers who took the stage only to entertain. All of this can be embraced in the same weekend if we are willing, despite how much of an oxymoron this sounds, to manifest Pride humbly. To learn from our differences and to really love one another.
We need the love because we are reminded that we will not always be here. People are still killed for being queer, especially people of color and transwomen. Our lives are, statistically speaking, imperiled. The shooting in Orlando was a horrific tragedy, and I hope it shocked enough people awake to realize that we can and we must bring about change. Silence is complicity. God created us all but for some reason we hate each other, even without saying anything we hurt each other. Silence is complicity. Those who do not speak out against injustice side with the oppressor. Silence is complicity. Fellow Christians, I am talking to you.
So be louder, be more queer! Act up in pride and in allyship. Don’t be ashamed, but don’t let your hedonism run away with your heart. Remember that we have come a long way, but we have many more obstacles to overcome. And we have to overcome them together.
I don’t know how this blog post turned into a sermon; I actually just wanted to write about my weekend, but hey, I have a lot of feelings. One of them is Pride.
Word of the Day: kaleidoscope, from Greek kalos ‘beautiful’, eidos ‘shape’, and the suffix -scope ‘observer’, this word was coined by the Scottish inventor of what’s now a classic children’s toy and spelling bee challenge.
It is used figuratively today to describe any constantly changing pattern or scene. I like to think, though, that no matter the situation, a kaleidoscope is beautiful.