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Pride

It’s interesting that pride as a noun represents something we take — I took pride in my daughter’s accomplishment (regardless whether I had anything to do with it)because we cannot bestow pride any more than we can grant dignity. Indeed, the active verbal form, to dignify something, has a quite negative connotation: in doing so, we give it a status it clearly doesn’t merit. So, surely we can find a better word for this weekend than “Pride”.

Beside being one of the Se7en Deadly Sins, even the dictionary doesn’t give “pride” an entirely clean bill of health: “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.” The Church, by the way, often pairs the Seven Deadly Sins with the Four Last Things (Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell), sending a clear message that successful avoidance of the former will have implications for the latter.

Synonyms for pride run the gamut: from pleasure, joy, delight, gratification, fulfillment, satisfaction, a sense of achievement, self-esteem, dignity, honor, self-respect, self-worth, and self-regard to less desirable characteristics such as arrogance, vanity, self-importance, hubris, conceit, self-love, self-adulation, self-admiration, narcissism, egotism, superciliousness, haughtiness, or snobbishness. I might quibble with the placement of one or two — after forty years “on the couch,” I regard self-love as a potentially good thing, unless it’s carried into those terms that follow in the listing. Nevertheless, a mixed bag, if you ask me. An exceptionally minor encounter this morning is stuck in my craw and moves me to think about pride.

I stopped this morning on my way to my Sunday volunteer job to buy a coffee. As I pulled to the curb, opposite one of two favorite coffeehouses, two people sitting in the shade of a tree waved me on with “You can’t park here,” which of course I do every Sunday on the way to the same gig. Then it came to me: This is Pride Week and it is likely that a parade has been scheduled. I rolled down the passenger window and said that I would be there less than two minutes, that a latté was in my future, and the parade would be unimpeded, by me at least. The grimmer of the two gestured toward a temporary sign attached to the lamp post and reiterated “You can’t park here,” to which I repeated my promise to be gone in less time than we had already invested in the conversation, to which there was only glaring. “Is that going to work for you?” I inquired, not anticipating a reply any more satisfying than what we’d managed so far.

It briefly crossed my mind to share with them my growing hostility this morning had nothing to do with antipathy to prideful expressions by the Gay community and its supporters (among whom I count myself); that I was, myself, a member of that community; that, indeed, I and my husband were two of the litigants who helped achieve marriage equality in our state. So please do not take my insistence on parking for 120 seconds as hostility to the scheduled event; I was simply responding to their rudeness, thank you very much.

The angst of “coming out” rarely occurs to me because I don’t think I was ever “in.” Instead, I suspect I may have been neuter, a male in gender with no outward sexual orientation. For Millennials, that may be hard to grasp, but many of the 70-somethings of my acquaintance understand full well.

Another interesting aspect of LGBTQ community life is the eagerness of a few to step up to the camera or the microphone when comment from that community seems required. Every community has such spokespersons; I’ve known a few and wondered about their motivation. Finding someone who “speaks” for the Gay community is as likely as Donald Trump speaking for America. He does not and likely never will. He certainly never sought my opinion.

Now that the Supremes have given full legal status to same-sex marriage, I look in wonder at the current state of affairs. Those achievements were unthinkable even five years ago. Varying acceptance of this change is obvious in the cultural matrix of America: deeply Red states will continue to resist what may seem inevitable to some and rural communities may hold to the comforting illusion that this is an exclusively urban phenomenon. The current administration gives them hope.

“Wearing” your Gay-ness probably depends where you live but it is also affected by age. A few years ago I was at an event with a decidedly mixed audience: old and young, Gay and Straight, urban and small-town, religious and not-so-much. As an older Gay male, attending with his husband and our dog, I went through reams of “litmus” paper; each introduction, every encounter was a test of sorts. And with just one significant exception, the afternoon was a tremendous success.

That exception were the Gay 25-35 year-olds who made no effort to speak to us. In fact, they took no notice of our presence whatsoever; we were simply invisible. I can’t recall having been looked through quite so effectively. I could speculate but it would reflect more badly on me than on that generation or at least that representative sampling. I wonder if some interesting conversations were missed.

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right. // It is so ordered.”

I cannot imagine what is was like to have been young and alive and LGBTQ when Justice Kennedy this poetic legal opinion. But I will admit to taking more than a little pride in the moment.

What do you imagine is happening on Broad Street, The Square, and The Commons in Agincourt today. I’d give a lot to be there.


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