Pride month always inspires some reflection on my part as someone who only recently understood the pride in being gay. In fact, my next thought when I think of Pride is actually shame.
I spent a lot of my life on the shame side. I still remember the guilt I felt for not liking boys in the way all my friends did as we enjoyed our own version of locker room talk in my sorority. The conflict of emotions as I laid next to my female best friend at 16 and feeling every emotion my friends described sitting next to boys.
A big element of my shame was fear of the unknown. How my parents, family and friends would think of me if I was everything I am, but gay. I was determined to make myself “normal” and fix this feeling. I spent 10+ years of my life passing through schools trying to be liked. How could they possibly like me now?
So many of my fears were reconfirmed when I was outed to my family. Picture this. It’s Thanksgiving my senior year of college. We’re all sitting around the living room watching political banter. It was a year before Barack Obama would win his first presidential election.
Note: Most of my family is very Republican.
So, we’re all sitting around the living room after dinner and Hillary Clinton comes on the TV. My Aunt in her always less than delicate way says, “Hillary Clinton is a dyke.” My Mom (who I believe thought she was protecting me) immediately chimes in with, “your niece is a dyke.” I think the contortion of my face in that moment had a permanent effect.
That was the end of the conversation (I know, right) but the shame didn’t end there. I’ve written a few times about my history of discrimination and struggle to be proud of who I am.
But there’s a twist.
Pride has arrived. It did get better.
As I’ve evolved into the proud person I am today, I’ve found so much to be proud of. I’ve learned from people far more brave and wise than me that just because we have to fight for equal and we’re called nasty names, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. That pride isn’t just about existing, it’s about celebrating the fight and energizing ourselves for the next steps forward.
Most importantly, I’ve had the chance to teach that to people younger than I am. To meet kids who already have that fire and inspire me to do more and be better. The world is changing and these kids are each a sign of a very bright and proud future.
Happy Pride, everyone!
That’s a real everyone, by the way. Not just gay people. I mean, seriously though. If God didn’t like us, why did he make us all so pretty?