Today is the Gay Pride Parade in New York City. The day is more commonly known as simply “Pride,” as in: “Happy Pride!” or “What are you doing for Pride this year?” or “This party kicks off Pride for 2014! Whoop-whoop!” In New York, Pride is preceded by an entire week of festivities and then culminates with the parade and the pier dance. People flock from around the world to join in the fun and debauchery, and New York is covered in rainbows for a week. It’s kind of a big deal.
As a gay man, I’m very happy to live in a city that not only (for the most part) accepts all varieties of sexuality but actually celebrates it — for an entire week no less. People complain about how commercial Pride has become and that the parade is just an endless line of corporate advertisements. That’s a legitimate complaint. But let’s think about what it was like just a mere 30 years ago. Would corporations have been shelling out big bucks to advertise in a gay pride parade back then? Would politicians of all parties have made appearing in a gay pride parade a priority in their campaign agenda? We are truly living in a changed world. And I’m so happy about that, but that’s not what I wanted to write about today.
Today, I keep thinking about the concept of pride. I’ve always kind of hated that word, especially when it comes to being proud of something one has nothing to do with. For example, I am not proud that I was born a white male in an Ohio suburb of the United States of America. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ashamed by any means. I’m just not proud because this was not some great accomplishment for me. It just happened. When American-born people say they’re proud to be an American, I always cringe a little bit. The people who have the right to be proud are the people who struggled to become citizens of our nation. People who escaped from an oppressive regime or an impoverished community or horrifically inhumane circumstances and fought, tooth and nail, to become members of a country that was built on the backs of immigrants. They have the right to be proud Americans. They earned it.
I feel the same way about being gay. Why should I feel proud to be born a gay man? I didn’t work for it. It just is. Again, I’m certainly not ashamed and I love my life. I think the word I’m more comfortable using is grateful. I’m grateful to be an American. I’m grateful to be at peace with my sexuality. I’m grateful to have been born with all of the strengths with which I am blessed.
I’m not saying, however, that there is no room for pride when we talk about today. There are plenty of people who should be proud today. People who struggled their entire lives, fighting for equality and acceptance in a brutal, unforgiving world. These are the people who have made my life possible. I live with my partner, another man, and we don’t have to hide our love. Our families embrace us. Our friends don’t even think of our relationship as being any different from any other relationship. My life is only possible because of people who sacrificed their time, energy, and even lives to the fight for gay rights. They deserve to feel great pride, not just today, but every day.
And I am and will be eternally grateful.