Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Problem with Pride

My husband showed me a meme earlier this week posted by one of our straight friends. It was a stick-figure drawing of a man and woman holding hands with the words, "Straight Pride."

It made him mad. It made me mad, too, though it took some time to figure out why. "There's nothing wrong with being straight," I kept saying, "or with being proud of being straight, either." Why was I upset?

The problem isn't the pride, I realized, but the cultural context it's being posted in.

We live in a society that is still far from accepting the LGBT community. There is a lot of shame associated with being queer. That shame keeps people in the closet. Shame keeps people lying to those they're closest to out of fear of rejection. Many queer kids are bullied. There are many suicides every year from queer individuals who thought their community would never love them. Adults are attacked, beaten, and murdered for being queer. Earlier this year one such murder happened in San Francisco itself.

In the midst of the shaming, self-denial, and all that pain, gay pride arose. Pride events are a chance for the LGBTQIA+ community to stand up against the discrimination and hate. Not to stand up as better than others, or juicier, or more enlightened, but as people who aren't deserving of the harsh treatment they get. It's a chance to say, "I believe that I am a human being with dignity. I'm no longer going to be ashamed of who I am. I'm no longer going to feel the crushing weight of feeling less worthy."

That is the context of gay/queer pride. It's not about raising queers above their straight neighbors. It's not about forming an elitist club. It's about seeking equality, as human beings, among queer and straight people. It's about stopping the hate crimes and the social shaming that results in so many deaths. Queer pride, for many people, is a matter of life and death. And if you think I'm exaggerating, you need to listen to some of the stories your gay friends could tell you.

In light of that, memes that say "straight pride" feel like a slap in the face. Straight people have never faced shame, judgement, abandonment, or cruelty for being straight. That's not a bad thing. That's great that straight people are free to be straight! It's awesome that you've never had to face discrimination based on whom you choose to love. We want that to be the experience of queers, too. No discrimination. No bullying. No pain.

Really, it comes down to positions of power. One day, in an equal society, it will be fine to call out, "straight pride!" But in the current climate, such expressions only silence the pain that so many queers are facing right now. It emphasizes the fact that straights are free to proudly show their straightness, whereas many queers live in unsafe environments where they have to hide a vital part of themselves.

It's like if I ran around saying, "Thank God I was born white." There's nothing wrong with being white, of course. There's nothing wrong with being any color. But I live in a country that affords me certain privileges for being white. Boasting about it minimizes and belittles the pain that people of color experience.

As my husband said, no woman would put up with men running around praising "male power." Imagine if we had campaigns to get boys into science. Or other phrases: "We need more male CEOs!" "Men can do everything a woman can do." "Men should be paid as much as women."

Are you upset? I would be! It's so disgusting to hear, when women are still getting paid less than men and when STEM work environments are full of white males and when gender equality is still something we're working towards.

Men should have positions of power. They should have equal pay. Yes, right on! But women should have power too. That's the problem. Ultimately, we'd like everyone to be equal. But in the current day, they aren't. The words we speak and memes we post should be a part of bringing women up to the level of men. Talking about equality for men is useless when they are already where they should be, and it contributes to the problem because it emphasizes the side of the equation that doesn't need help.

Thus with queer pride. It's great for you to feel straight pride. It's great to be proud of who you are--queer or straight. Know thyself and accept thyself. Then, look around, and if you see someone who society is crapping on, help them out. When the case needs to be made for straight people, we'll be all about straight pride. For now, let's allow those getting hurt and ignored to have a voice, put down their shame, and be proud.

Word count: 818.