Saturday, August 1, 2009

Am I Proud?

It’s Gay Pride Week in Vancouver. I won’t be attending any of the festivities this year. I seem to keep the parade on my own Olympic schedule. I don’t need an annual parade booster shot to be proud. The drag queens, the dykes on bikes, the club boys who dance on floats in their underwear, the PFLAG contingent, the multicultural organization participants, the handshake happy politicians,…I hope they have a great day. And put on sunscreen so as not to ruin the fake bake tans. Gotta protect the investment!
I got to thinking, am I proud? And, if so, is that pride at least connected to being gay? Proud is defined in my trusty Random House College Dictionary as “1. thinking well of oneself because of one’s accomplishments, possessions, etc. 2. feeling honored, as by a distinction conferred on one. 3. governed in one’s words or actions by self-respect.” Other definitions are provided. Blah, blah, blah. Top three is good enough.

One of the great things of accepting oneself is being able to look at the self as a whole. Back in my awkward coming out years (and painful NOT coming out years), the gay thing consumed me. It labeled me—er, branded me—, particularly during my years living in Texas where so many people lovingly said, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” Ick. The sentiment still smacks of self-righteous ignorance. As a nascent drama queen, I’d written a couple of suicide notes and sat in the darkness of my room, bottle of Tylenol at my side. (Not even sure you can OD on headache medicine, but it was all about making a personal statement: I hate myself because I’m gay.

I’m definitely NOT proud of that period in the late Seventies and early Eighties. That dark period reminds me of why it is so important to have official Pride events: to break that feeling of isolation, to laugh amidst the frivolity, to find strength in marchers pushing for equality.

Thankfully, I moved to Los Angeles and had an opportunity to start over. Away from a smothering Baptist, conservative culture, I could go to a gay club without fear that I might be bashed in the walk to or from the car. (I remember the shocked reaction when I called a gay helpline in L.A. “You’ve been here two months and haven’t met a single gay?!” He regained his composure and pondered which club to recommend. Naively, or perhaps to amuse himself, he asked, “Well, what’s your scene? Do you like leather?” Ultimately, he directed me to something basic. Making that phone call was huge for me and it changed everything.)

I had my years where I oozed gay pride. I was gay, first and foremost. I clubbed regularly, volunteered with AIDS Project Los Angeles, joined a gay gym and took to the streets for several days in a row when Governor Pete Wilson vetoed Bill 101 which would have banned workplace discrimination against gays and lesbians. Aside from school and work, my life was all gay all the time.

Naturally, when I moved to Vancouver, I settled in the gay ghetto, the fabulous West End. But I got tired of ironing my shorts before going to the gym and primping my hair before dashing out to the grocery store to buy another tub of frozen yogurt. Moving out of the West End helped me balance my life. I could be gay. And I could be more than that.

The pendulum is always swinging. Now living in a rural area, you might need an X-ray or blood test to detect the gay gene in me. The too-short shorts and tattered t-shirt I’m wearing at the moment don’t help matters. I haven’t even showered yet today. Gasp!

But am I proud? Do I feel a sense of self-respect? Do I feel a sense of accomplishment—without complacency—over accepting and embracing my gayness. Absolutely!

Happy Pride, Vancouver!

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