I used to be perplexed by the idea of being proud of things that aren’t accomplishments, examples including patriotism, school spirit, and LGBTQ+ pride. Even as a fifth grader, when I had to write a paragraph about what patriotism meant to me, I had a difficult time doing it. I was glad to live in this country, but I didn’t see why I should be proud of where I was born. Eventually, I stumbled onto an article explaining that patriotism is a psychological tool to encourage good citizenship.
When people celebrate something they share in common, this creates feelings of solidarity. When people love something, they take care of it. I began to see that pride wasn’t just a reward for success. Being born LGBTQ+ obviously isn’t an accomplishment, so what is the point of being out and proud? My answer is that LGBTQ+ pride is a reaction against the shame that has historically been imposed on the community.
There’s a reason why straight and cisgender pride are considered distasteful even though they are also sexual orientations and gender identities. This dichotomy between minority pride and majority pride is reflected by other group identities. Most notably, it is considered acceptable to be proud of being a person of color but distasteful to be proud of being white. It’s also worth examining that even though women were historically oppressed, there’s something that makes women’s pride different from the pride of historically oppressed minorities.
What do being LGBTQ+ and being a person of color have in common that makes them different from being a woman? Because most people are straight, men and women have historically depended on each other in a way that certain majorities have not depended on certain minorities. Women have historically been subjugated, infantilized, degraded, and violated, but men have nonetheless wanted to have them around.
Wanting to control someone is different from wanting them gone. LGBTQ+ people and people of color, in contrast to women, have been the subjects of widespread extermination fantasies. They’ve been made to feel worthless, burdensome, disgusting, inadequate, and unwelcome in society as a whole rather than just outside the home.
Female pride has a distinctly different flavor from minority pride, illustrated by the famous “We Can Do It” propaganda poster. It’s a reaction against women having historically been told that they couldn’t do many things that didn’t pertain to being wives and mothers. The phrase, “You go, girl,” is an affirmation of female competence, usually given in situations that don’t pertain to traditional female roles.
Minority pride tends to affirm more than competence. If it were expressed in words, they would be, “we’re fine just as we are,” “we belong here,” “we’re valuable,” “this is our country, too,” and “we shouldn’t have to hide who we are.” These sentiments can be heard in the protest chant, “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it.”
Straight and cisgender pride are considered distasteful because they do not serve this function and because they ignore the historical context that led to it. LGBTQ+ Pride Month symbolizes an uphill battle against ignorance and prejudice. It’s a celebration of homophobes and transphobes being wrong. It’s an assertion of the right to live with the same openness that most straight and cisgender people take for granted. It’s a reminder to the public that LGBTQ+ people are everywhere, that most of them are ordinary folks, and that minorities are morally significant.
If you want to see what privilege looks like, turn on your TV with this article fresh in your mind. Flip through the channels and see all of the straight couples. See the gender conformity. Stand in front of a women’s restroom and a men’s restroom and imagine trying to choose one when you look gender-ambiguous. Imagine wanting to go to your doctor about a sexual problem, but you don’t want her or him to know that your partner is the same sex, or that you aren’t the sex you look like. LGBTQ+ Pride Month represents needs that are not being met by society. Whether you decide to celebrate it or simply reflect on it, keep in mind that it isn’t just a celebration, but a cause.
April 26, 2018
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