It is “Pride Month,” and I cannot say that I feel pride.
Please do read on.
I moved to New York City from Ohio in the mid-80’s. It was in New York that I first directly experienced an LBGTQ+ event. Back then it was simply called Gay Pride. There was a parade and a festival. It was all very, well, gay. A bit overwhelming for an Ohio boy. I admit that some of the displays of “pride” behavior made me feel very uncomfortable. I knew that they were in the name of freedom. And I felt that the demonstrations were more alienating than they were harmonizing with the larger population. In a spirit of transparency, I still grapple with that. While I refuse to fit in and hide as a result of societal norms, I also question sabotaging connection for the sake of what can feel outrageous.
I “came out” at nineteen. Back then it was a courageous act that cost me family members, friends, and a felt degree of safety. Things were changing, but slowly and even dangerously. In retrospect I left the closet incrementally and with caution. I stepped out, and at times ran back in. People would declare their acceptance, and then betray that with side comments and thinly veiled homophobia. I exposed my authenticity only to have it trampled upon many times. It truly was a process with many hurts and many gains. And I freely admit that the same back and forth was happening inside of me. About me.
I did not grow up with any real experience of pride in general. My parents never once told me that they were proud of me. I never heard it from teachers or clergy. I just do not ever recall hearing it. I have no internal Velcro for it. I have never accomplished anything for which I felt pride. Never. It just isn’t a part of my wiring.
I do not know pride.
So, when I attended my first Gay Pride event, I really did not understand it, I did not feel pride internally, and I could not connect to the pride of the throngs of people parading, dancing, drinking, outrageously behaving. I suspected there was something wrong with me that I did not feel such jubilation. I felt added freedom. I felt like the door to the closet had been ripped from the hinges.I felt comradery with many if not all of my fellow LGBTQ+ expresses. I just had no sense of pride.
I also did not feel the same level of oppressive shame. I did feel as if there was power in numbers and in authenticity. In New York I could be my full self and really feel a sense of coming out. From my perspective, Ohio was the closet and New York was the land of freedom. There was some naivete in that for sure. Yet I felt a true sense of liberation even if it did not equate to pride.
The shedding of shame was also a process. There were layers of grief, fear, anger, and shame to feel my way through. There was a heavy armor to be removed. It has taken decades. I am certain I will never be completely clear. I have done enormous work. Courageous work if I may say. Tenacious work. And there will always be work to be done. I was told as a child that what I secretly knew I was, was an abomination. A violation against God. That was shattering to this being who always felt a deep and profound call to the sacred. There was no place for me at that table. I was relegated to back ally bars and once a year festivals.
So, with all that work that I did I wish I could say I was proud.
At sixty-five I have long left Pride parades and festivals behind. I simply feel no need or draw to them. Maybe its age. And maybe it is the enormous amount of internal work I have personally paraded through. I now leave to younger generations the events, festivities, and deliberate activism. I know that they get to express as freely as they do because of my work and the work of my and even older generations. I know there is still danger. Hardly gained rights are even now being threatened once again. My activism now is being true to my full expression. I am a gay man married to another man. I minister without a hint of hiding. I give kudos to the organization that hired me. It was a risk, even in a more liberal spiritual environment. They were brave. And so am I.
I have come a long way. Yet I still do not feel pride. I cannot honestly say I am proud to be a gay man. It simply feels like a part of my total being. It is an important part. Yet it is a part. As is gender. As is height and weight. Hair and eye color. I am a complex being comprised of so many aspects and parts. I am first and foremost a Spiritual being. I am here to be fully human and freely Divine. Being gay is an important part of my Soul adventure, of that I am clear. I have come to embrace it. It has come with many challenges and hurts. I could not honestly say I would choose it if I had the conscious choice. I never understand people who say it is a choice we make. I do not remember a time when my orientation was anything other than homosexual. I also know it is integral to my unfolding here in this incarnation. I accept and embrace it as such.
I just would call it pride.
I write this for those who do celebrate June as Pride month, and who genuinely feel their own sense of pride. It does not dismay me that I do not. I will relish and celebrate my sense of acceptance, freedom, transparency, liberation. That fills my heart. It fills me that I am writing this and will gladly and freely take the risk of sharing it with a world in which I am still not universally accepted. I do not feel the need to be. I get to live in my own sense of acceptance and even self-celebration. It has taken a lot to get to this. A lot.
I almost feel proud.