Pride is What You Make It
“It is revolutionary for any trans person to choose to be seen and visible in a world that tells us we should not exist.” –Laverne Cox
A few months before my father disowned me for starting hormone replacement therapy, I spent many visitations, listening to him desperately attempting to dissuade me from taking testosterone. One instance of this was when he saw the trans pride magnet on the back of my car. As the steam rose up in his face, I assumed he was just going to go on another rant about how pride movements were just mindless propaganda, weren’t honest about gay people, and were just as ridiculous as identifying with a sports team. Instead, he responded, “you have nothing to be proud of.”
At the time, I was speechless. Yet as I’ve come to accept his newly chosen absence from my life, I’ve come up with the reasoning for why I value something as small as a rectangular, blue-and-white-and-pink-striped magnet.
See, we live in a world that says my very existence (and the existence of my brothers, sisters, and non-binary siblings) is nothing more than a punch line. And when we’re not being laughed at, we’re being told we should go kill ourselves. We’re being told we’re an affront to nature and God. We’re being told that we shouldn’t even take a piss while around cis people, lest they feel “uncomfortable”.
You know what’s uncomfortable? Being reminded of the cruel joke that nature played on you by giving you the wrong genitals and hormones, both every time you look in the mirror, and by anyone who asks you what’s in your pants, or how you manage to have sex. Being afraid of getting assaulted or killed, or even just ridiculed and made fun of. It seems impossible to escape, even when watching TV. And when you try and speak up for yourself, people tell you you’re overreacting, you’re being unhelpful to the LGBTQ movement at large, or you’re “bullying” cis people.
Yes, we have a long way to go, but one of the smallest (and most powerful) things we can do is have Pride in ourselves, in the face of a world that says “you have nothing to be proud of.”
Here is what “Pride” means to me:
Pride is accepting oneself when no one else is willing.
Pride means loving oneself, coming to grips with the fear that maybe no one else will. (And then finding out that they can and do.)
Pride is being able to look at oneself, naked and vulnerable, and say, “I love you.”
Pride is not saying there are no bad LGBTQ people. It is saying that being LGBTQ does not make you inherently a bad person.
Pride is not a cult. It is finding others like you and saying, “You are not alone in the hardships you face.”
Pride is smiling inside, even when you are closeted or stealth, because even though you have to hide for your own safety, you know very well who you are, and you are proud of that.
We have Pride because we are survivors. We fight to survive in a society that aims to destroy us, little bit by little bit. Those who have never had to fight for the right to exist may never know the depth of our passion, of our defiance. It is our soul, our heartbeat.
Pride takes on many forms. Sometimes it’s in a rainbow Speedo and a feathered boa, having fun and embracing the diversity of human sexuality and gender. Sometimes it’s a flag on one’s car to say, “This is a symbol of who I am. I exist around you, whether you choose to acknowledge me or not.” Pride is about being visible in a world that wants to lock you away from everyone else, because seeing you makes them question their reality. Some of us are more colorful. Some of us are angry. On an institutional level, when all you’ve experienced is oppression at the hands of one group of people, of course you’re going to be cautious to trust someone, who is of that group, but says they are “on your side.”
We’re not here to please our oppressors. We’re here for each other. We’re not here for the validation of your feelings about being a good person. We are not here to validate your idea of a shameless American history. We are here to rustle jimmies and upset the status quo. We don’t owe you a god damned thing.
Pride is refusing to cater to expectations of the dominant culture.
Pride is facing hardship, violence, and struggle; pulling one’s injured body out of the mud, and grinning. “Throw what you’ve got at me, life. I’ll take it and turn it into something powerful and good.” Fighting to live, despite everything.
Be proud. Your life is an act of defiance. Your existence is valid and important. You are the universe, in all its queer, colorful splendor.