Pride is the most difficult topic for me to write about. Now, the evening before my column was due, I imagined Michael Aaron staring at the blank space where “Who’s Your Daddy” will go, and muttering, “Where is it? WHERE THE HELL IS IT?”
The problem is I don’t really understand Pride. Yes, I get the celebration and recognize the importance of being visible. Perhaps the confusion stems from my definition of the word “pride.” To me it means a feeling of accomplishment or merit. I was proud when I graduated from college and when I received my FABBY Awards. And the same is true when I think of its antonym: “shame.” I felt shame when I nearly flunked out of chemistry in high school or when I’ve yelled at the boys.
But for me being gay is just a part of me, like my hair color or the fact I’m right handed. There’s neither shame nor pride in those attributes.
A few weeks ago, I was on jury duty. One of the questions the prospective jurors were asked was our marital status. The follow up was to share what our spouse does for a living. When it came to my turn, I answered that I was married, and that my husband is a stay at home parent for our two sons. Essentially, I came out to a judge, a handful of lawyers, a couple of court clerks, one very hot bailiff, and 51 other prospective jurors.
At the time, I didn’t think those rather mundane demographic answers were prideful statements. No more or less, that is, than the young man seated on my right whose wife was a school teacher, or the single guy on my left, who lived alone with his grouchy cat.
But then something interesting happened: one young man mentioned his boyfriend, a woman her wife, still another guy his husband. And you know what? I felt like I belonged. I did feel pride.
The sense of belonging that I felt is typical. Jen O’Ryan, of Double Talk Consulting in Seattle, is a Ph.D. in Human Behavior. She tells me that a big part of Pride is the sense of connectedness it provides LGBT people. The very celebration itself, after all, commemorates the Stonewall Riots, when individuals united into a community.
“Studies show that children start having feelings of attraction — although it’s not sexualized — around 5 or 6 years old,” Dr. O’Ryan told me. “Unfortunately for those kids growing up in rural, very conservative or non-supportive environments, life can be isolating. It can feel like you’re the only gay person in the world. This reality forces them to shift their natural queer-identified narrative to one that conforms to what they are told is the norm. Sadly this is true even today with all the progress that has been made by the community.”
Dr. O’Ryan provides free help to parents struggling with their child’s coming out. She works with them on everything from managing previously held expectations for their child’s future to developing strategies for dealing with homophobic relatives. The end result is a child free to proudly be the person they want and need to be.
So Pride is really just a common theme connecting us as human beings. It allows us to feel a sense of belonging, to be a part of our “tribe,” and to be our authentic selves.
Pride really is the freedom to tell a crowded court room that you happen to be a guy with a husband and kids.
Happy Pride, everyone!
You can contact Dr. O’Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org.