I don’t think of pride often. Not specifically. Last night that envelope was pushed and so here I am, exploring meanings and pushing them into shape.
First I should say I grew up in a Christian household. My parents tried really hard to instill in us the fear of a wrathful God. Getting tattoos and being gay will send us to hell. I’m tatted up. I want more ink one day. I decided loving gay people was better than being hateful. I believe you get out of your faith what you put into it, and it’s important to see what faith means to you, and not what others tell you it means. The United States was based on a separation of church and state, and I’m still working out a separation of church and my parents. I’ll have to let you know how it goes once I get there.
Before hitting Junior High, I had a huge crush on one of my sister’s friends, only to see him grow into a drool worthy specimen of masculinity that likes other boys. It can be hard to be aware of what sex for him would look like and still be attracted to him, but I manage. He loves his body as much as I do and I appreciate his work outs and selfie moments. Yes, I still see Crossfit as God’s gift to me.
When I was in high school, I had a few really great guy friends that would sit and talk about cute boys with me because they liked the same boys that I did. These men grew up to have stories about the first time they got their asses handed to them for loving someone of the same sex, or being far more feminine than I am. It wasn’t a big part of who we were together but I know their existence was full of more heartache, grace and empowerment than I have ever known and their ability to walk in love is a strength deserving of admiration. Around this time I used to joke and say, “that’s gay, but not like jailhouse raping gay . . . you know, plan your wedding gay. The good gay.” (No, I’m not proud of that.) I didn’t understand then how offensive I was being. There’s no good or bad gay. There is a mix of pain and sorrow and grace and beauty and my ignorance in a time when “gay” was being used as an insult only normalized those that were behaving badly in “innocent” hetero fun by othering my friends. We were laughing at the expense of those who have to fight family and friends to love and be who they feel comfortable being.
I have a confession to make. When my sister came out of her closet, I must have been in high school or just out of it. (My old kicks in and the years blur at times.) I had to really look at what that meant to me, because I was under the false impression that who she loved had something to do with me. I went through the shock that looked like disgust. I thought silly things: was she getting off in giving me a bath when I was a kid? Never mind the fact that she is my sister, and we’re talking lesbian love, and not incest. At the end of the day, and after I saw her go through lesbian and gender normative relationships, I realised all I wanted for my sister was for her to be loved like a coffee mug.
I later went through my own curious phase. It lasted long enough to know I don’t like kissing girls because they are too soft. As exciting as porn might have looked, because boobs are awesome, I like mine enough to not want to touch anyone else’s. Then breastfeeding happened and touching them can be annoying instead of arousing.
I have a cousin that came to the states from Thailand when he was in middle school or high school. (Again with blurring years.) As normal as it is to see Thai Lady boys, he is the only transgendered, gay person on that side of my family. He’s fiercely beautiful and still othered for who he is. It’s not normal in our family and while he’s loved beyond words by his brother, he’s also teased by that same brother. He’s still beautiful and fierce, and brave to me. He will help me with my makeup, dance in 8 inch heels, tell me I deserve better, and still cut a bitch for looking at him wrong. He’s diva and beautiful and I love him madly.
When my boys were little, they each went through a nail polish phase. I didn’t mind and indulged in it. Their Dad was angry about that, but how he feels is no longer my problem. I tell my boys I will always love them, no matter who they love. All I want is for them to be happy and know love. Male or female, I want my sons to be loved deeply and treated well.
For the LGBT community, pride isn’t frivolous or silly. It’s not just rainbows and unicorns. It’s what survivors have when they didn’t have someone to pave the way for them. As a black woman, I have in my bloodline a heritage that knows oppression and struggle. My bloodline knows segregation and living in fear, but I don’t. I know emotional and financial abuse. Having full control of my own finances is so liberating. I’ve never lived in fear that I might not survive the night because of my looks or how I walk and talk, or who I love. Even my parents, a black man and Thai woman knew oppression for being a mixed couple that I didn’t, having married a white man. I’ve never lived through being called names and being attacked and accepting that this was normal. I don’t mean when I was teased in elementary school. For a while when I was in the second grade, I was teased and called slave girl and told to go back to Africa. I changed schools and went to a school with fewer hispanic kids and more black kids but I didn’t have the same hair and I didn’t talk the way they did, so my best friends had fair skin and hair textured closer to mine, but several shades lighter. Schools changed again and I was teased for having liver lips, and Chewbacca hair. But I didn’t have to live in fear. Not really.
Last night I was back to school shopping with Kid2 and Kid3. Kid2 wanted a pair of Pride sunglasses from Target. I had no problem with it. I probably wouldn’t have bothered with an explanation but their aunt was with us and started to explain what it’s about. She told them that Pride means accepting the fact that people can love whomever they love and we are going to be okay with that. It’s a great explanation for my 13 year old autistic child and my 9 year old, but then I remembered they’re my boys, and there’s a deeper meaning they should understand.
My explanation started in the store but finished on the way home and sounded more like:
You know your Auntie that dates women? And my cousin that dresses like a woman sometimes and dates men? Pride means they can do this and we support them. Some people don’t like that and wearing something that says you’re proud means you are okay with standing up for something that might get you hurt because people that don’t like things tend to make their opinions known in unfriendly ways. You know I’ll love you no matter who you love, but what you may not know is that not everyone is as accepting of that as I am.
I walked away from our car ride discussion realising it’s not enough to be able to have fun at a gay club. I should be expressing my Pride. I don’t walk through what it means to me enough to teach my boys what Pride means. What I want them to know is that for some people, gender is a fluid idea that isn’t fully realized. There are people that were born as boys but grow up to become women. There are girls born who later become men, and the truly free present themselves as “they.”
I was born a woman. I live as a woman. It is how I feel comfortable, and even then, I have moments when living in my skin itches and pulls and I want to peel away the layers of weight and disgust but I can’t. It pulls uncomfortably like skin that has been burned and dried out by the heat of an unforgiving sun. My Pride is about accepting those that are comfortable in their skin, even if it means I am going to ruffle feathers and disgust people. It’s knowing what may not be accepted and knowing that what I know to be right is more important than being accepted. My Pride means I won’t flinch over which bathroom is being used. As a Mom, I will always fear a bathroom that has my kids in it without an adult I know and trust. I won’t get angry at seeing two men kissing. I won’t tell you how to live your life because frankly I’m still trying to figure out how to live mine.