I occasionally have mental arguments with myself. Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose. I know, I know, how can you lose an argument with yourself? What I mean is, I usually take a stance and then play devil’s advocate. If I convince myself from my initial stance, then I’ve lost the argument—but I’ve ended up wiser for it.
I was having one such mental argument with myself on the way to karaoke last night. I took the initial stance that it is silly to take pride in one’s sexuality. After all, I don’t think most straight people celebrate being straight. I don’t celebrate being bisexual; it just is what it is; it’s how I am, like my skin color or which set of genitals I have.
But the devil’s advocate in me said that people take pride in things they’re born with all the time: I take pride in being smart. Some take pride in athletic prowess or their ability to be friends with anybody. And so, my claim that people don’t take pride in things they were born with was incorrect.
I think what it really comes down to for me is this: while sexuality and gender can be a facet of one’s identity, I would hope that people don’t define themselves solely by their sexuality or gender. There are so many ways to describe oneself. Note my use of the word “describe”: all of these attributes describe a person but don’t define it. A diamond may be the hardest of materials, clear, thermally conductive, and expensive and sparkly when cut correctly, but none of those attributes really define a diamond, do they? Hell, even the very definition of “diamond” doesn’t cover it:
a precious stone consisting of a clear and typically colorless crystalline form of pure carbon, the hardest naturally occurring substance.
The dictionary definition does a pretty good job, I’ll grant. But it doesn’t capture everything that is a diamond.
And so someone who says, “I’m gay” or “I’m pan” or “I’m transgendered” and leaves it at that is really selling himself or herself really short.
On a related note, I was pondering the concept of a “pride parade.” I have been to the one in Dallas a couple of times and was even in it representing this group or that. In hindsight, I went to represent the group and because I thought it would be fun. I don’t know that I “take pride” in being “non-straight.” I went back to the definition:
a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one's own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.
I didn’t achieve anything by being bi. It just is what it is. Those around me didn’t achieve being gay, either. Now, some of them may have discovered they were gay, just as I discovered I was bi, but I don’t know that I consider that an “achievement,” per se. And given being gay is still persecuted, sternly looked down upon, or barely tolerated in many parts of the world, I wouldn’t say that being gay is a “quality that is widely admired.” So what, then, are we celebrating at a pride parade?
I think it comes down to this: we’re celebrating the fact that we can be open about our sexuality without fear of being arrested and with (at least some) confidence that were we to be harmed for being gay, the law would be on our side. I think that’s really what it comes down to: there were times when being gay was grounds for being sentenced to death, being fired, being exiled, or being brutalized while bystanders looked on and did nothing. While “non-straightness” still has its legal and social challenges both in the US and outside it, we’ve made a lot of progress here, and to me, yes, that is cause for celebration and pride. I may not have directly achieved the freedom to do that, but my association with others who are non-straight who did achieve it gives me that vicarious sense of pride described in the definition. So okay, viewed in that light, it makes sense to me.
Glad I got that figured out; it’s been bugging me since yesterday!