Every year, I am asked to write something special for Pride.
What to say?
Almost every aspect of “pride” has been analyzed to death, right?
But, I like a challenge.
So, after much thought, I decided to answer the question: “What does it mean to be a proud, loving, kind, fulfilled lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgendered person?” To answer this, I looked at: (1) Our sense of safety and security, (2) our mental state, (3) our physical state, and (4) the ease with which we live our lives at LGBT people.
Do we feel safe and secure? Are we protected from inner and outer harm? As queer people, fifty years’ ago, our physical safety was precarious. The term “queer” was purely pejorative and – save a few special cities – staying closeted in public situations was crucial to our survival. Today, we have won legal protections and have organized our communities to minimize physical harm (e.g., “queer bashing”). From my work as a psychotherapist here in San Diego, I’d say that unsafe sex, domestic violence and ingesting harmful quantities of alcohol or drugs are among the top 10 threats to our safety. Let’s also look at the people we surround ourselves with and the places where we spend our time. What environment are we creating for ourselves? Does it invite harm or safety?
In looking at inner harm, we would be smart to ask: is our mind our friend? Is our personality our best asset? Are we kind and forgiving to ourselves, or when we make mistakes do the words: “I am such a loser” come bursting forth from our lips? What could be more harmful than talking like this about ourselves to ourselves? I once heard Marianne Williamson say, “The devil isn’t outside of you, it’s worse than that…the devil is in your head. It’s that voice in your head called K-FUCK radio. You know that station, it’s the one that is always telling you what a total loser you are, that you’re hopeless and always will be.” This kind of inner harm is much more painful than physical harm, and it’s harder to recover from…but we can. Through introspection and compassion for ourselves and all the mistakes we’re bound to make, we can slowly (but steadily) turn down the volume of K-FUCK radio until it’s a faint static in the background of our minds.
What is our emotional state like? Are we usually peaceful and happy, or miserable and self-critical? Do we take time out for ourselves to spend time alone, or out in nature – walking in Balboa Park, hiking in the desert, digging in our garden? Are we mentally healthy and “free”? Are we free from addiction to self-destructive behaviors like compulsive shopping, gambling, repeated unfulfilling sex, overworking, staying always busy/never alone?
We may be “proud” to be who we are, but leftover bits of internalized homophobia – when unexamined – encourage us to disrespect ourselves as LBGT people and see ourselves as “less than”. When we think we are “less than” anyone else (straight, white, upper class, well-educated, rich, etc.), we are slowly, but literally, killing ourselves by such comparisons. With scores of seemingly perfect celebrities thrust upon us from every magazine and video screen in sight, it is awfully hard NOT to compare ourselves to others. We may be brainwashed into believing that we need plastic surgery, major weight loss (or gain), a minimum of 5 days in the gym (and a personal trainer), perfectly straight, shiny white teeth (at $2000 per veneer) and a $10,000 wardrobe before we can be BARELY acceptable. And even then, dear Reader, do you REALLY think your mind would be at peace after you had all that stuff? Craving only leads to more craving; we cannot buy self-esteem and peace of mind.
I also wonder if “pride” is the most accurate word to describe ourselves at this time in our evolution as LGBT people. “Pride” is, like every other emotion, a temporary state. We’ve long ago demonstrated that we have much to be “proud” of. Perhaps now it’s time to aspire to other emotional “states” like peace, contentment, kindness, generosity and joy. Can you imagine future parade themes like “Queer Contentment” or “Gay Kindness” or “Lesbian Generosity” or “Bisexual Joy” or Transgendered Peace”?
How is our physical health? In general, are we healthy and strong? Are we physically healthy – not addicted to any substances (crystal, valium, alcohol, food, smoking)? Please know that your humble advisor is no saint in the food and wine department, and does enjoy his regular gym routines, so I am not recommending perfection. That too is an illusion (and a trap). While some of us could lay off the gym a bit, others of us could get off our butts and start walking or exercising or doing SOMETHING physical. Let’s avoid health extremes, look beyond temporary fad diets and consider making gradual shifts in health, exercise and diet. I recommend a great little book to many of my clients: “The Only Diet there is” by Sondra Ray. Check it out.
Are we at ease and relaxed? There’s not much point to going to the gym and eating healthily if we are tense and uneasy most of the time. Are we often afraid, tense or anxious? Do we worry about almost everything? Do we wake up at 3AM with a mind that’s racing so fast that we can’t fall back to sleep?
As we mature as people, it’s time to examine our fears and worries. Pretending that your fears and worries aren’t there has never made them go away, has it? (If it has, you can probably walk on water too!) Let’s stop running away from what troubles us and face our difficult emotions – like fear, sorrow and greed – head on. Why not cultivate patience, wisdom and compassion for ourselves and others? After all, we’ve proven we’re proud…what’s next?