The hardest thing is being proud.
Growing up I was told pride was a sin. One of the seven deadly sins, apparently the one from which all other sins arise. I was also told that homosexuality was a sin. Actually, they told me it was worse than a sin, and I refuse to spell out the word they used to describe it because I find it hateful, judgmental, and utterly cruel. But they told me it was bad.
Growing up I couldn’t fathom being proud of anything; I couldn’t fathom being attracted to women either sexually or emotionally, and I definitely couldn’t fathom being proud of being a woman attracted to other women.
And then, slowly, like a flower unfurling its petals toward the sun, I realized: I’m bi. After years of wondering if I “qualified” as bi, and then recognizing it for myself, and then finally, finally accepting and embracing myself, I started coming out — to friends, to social media, even to family.
But I wasn’t proud. Not yet. I cowered and wondered what I would do if anyone ever spoke bigotry to me or told me that the way I am is wrong.
Coming to terms with pride, in all its iterations, has been a journey independent of the one I went on to come out. It’s involved a lot of “fake it till you make it,” where I literally just practice pride in my head so I can act it out in real life — practicing how I would react to someone showing me hate by straightening my spine instead of cowering, things like that.
Kalie Jamieson was raised Southern Baptist until her family left the church when she was in fifth grade. Our journeys mirrored each other in many ways, although she came to terms with her queerness and even with pride earlier in life than I did.
“I didn’t even know to recognize certain feelings as queer feelings because I didn’t know that was a possibility for me,” Jamieson said of her own journey. “I think it’s really important to acknowledge your worth and what you bring to the table, so to speak. If you don’t allow yourself to be proud of who you are or what you accomplish, I don’t think you can…acknowledge your own worth. I think Pride is also really important.”
Jamieson and I spoke about the differences and similarities between pride, which I define as the act of being proud of your accomplishments, and Pride specifically as it relates to queer identities. And it turns out we both agree the two are more similar than you might think. When I still believed that any positive thought about myself was being a stuck-up braggart, I could never have fathomed Pride as a cloak, an identity, something to wrap myself in.
Jamieson shared an experience she had of watching the TV show The L Word in an episode in which they featured a Pride parade from 2005.
“It was so cool for me to get to see how happy everyone in that parade was, especially in the climate of 2005 and how dangerous it could be to be out — this space where everyone could come to be safe and be their full versions of themselves,” Jamieson said.
To me, that’s a lot of what Pride is. It’s not “shoving our sexuality in people’s faces,” it’s simply saying with openness, honesty, and maybe a touch of fear, that this is who we are. To me, someone who has never fully celebrated Pride Month because I was so deeply closeted I didn’t know I was bi, Pride Month is about reclaiming things that were taken from me when I was growing up: the knowledge of my own sexuality and thus a deeper understanding of my full reality, but also the ability to celebrate myself.
Lori Daugherty, Jamieson’s mother, also identifies as queer and was also raised in a conservative evangelical family; eventually, she left and took her children out of the community. Lori has been a classmate of mine this past semester and we’ve spoken often about our parallel journeys out of faith and into Pride.
“This year, waking up on June 1st and laying there for a few minutes and focusing on how complete I feel…that wholeness…so much of my life makes sense now that didn’t, or that I was trying to fit into something that it couldn’t fit in,” Daugherty said. “There’s a Pride in that journey. And each other’s journey — this space where we get to be exactly who we are. That’s priceless to me.”
Pride is about embracing ourselves fully and wholly; it’s about acknowledging the struggles we’ve faced, our strength in overcoming them, and hoping for the future; and it’s about being unapologetic. Ultimately, the best, boldest, bravest thing is being proud.