Perspective: “Gay Pride is much more about respect than pride itself”By Roger O'Donnell,
Roger O'Donnell, Technical Delivery Professional, BT Ireland, shares a wonderful, personal account of what Pride represents and what it means to the LGBTQ+ community.
For Pride Month, it was suggested to me that I write a few lines on what Gay Pride means to me. To say that this set the cognitive wheels in motion is an understatement. Gay Pride (to me at least) isn't necessarily about being proud of being gay or bi or trans – but it certainly is about not being ashamed of your own sexuality. To some, the word ‘pride’ itself can been seen to be divisive in the context of homosexuality (“Why can’t there be a straight Pride?”). However, in days when being LGBTQ brought about such intense shame to a person and their family that the term ‘Pride’ was exactly the phrase that was needed to kickstart the healing process caused by centuries of religious dogma and societal ignorance. Being proud to be a homosexual even in the late 20th century was a brave and radical notion. And it was not just heterosexuals that the early LGBTQ activists had to convince of their equality; it was their own LGBTQ brothers and sisters that needed to be unindoctrinated from all the misleading and damaging teachings that had been bestowed upon them throughout their lives.
But today however, I feel Gay Pride is much more about respect than pride itself. Respect for yourself and respect for others, irrespective of how you may feel about their inherent sexual preferences. It is about re-learning that the world in which we live is not quite as ‘Ann & Barry’ as our schoolbooks and TV shows might have led us to believe. It is about undoing the damage caused by all those confusing texts books that you turned to while seeking answers to questions that you hadn’t even thought of yet. Coming out as a young LGBTQ adult (or these days as teenagers) and growing up LGBTQ can be as scary as it can be liberating. But confronting those very fears and overcoming them gives one a sense of pride in the fact that they have grown as a person – and that is what Pride is about. It’s about healing from the hurtful comments and abuse you might have experienced growing up or in your daily life (often from within the LGBTQ community itself I may add!). It is about forgiving yourself for the hurtful comments you may have made to someone while projecting your own insecurities. Or that shady look you gave to that person “who just looks weird” or “talks funny” Pride is about marching the streets with those same people who might have one day creeped you out and looking them square in the eye with a smile that says, “Thank you for being you”.
A term I hear pop up around this time of year is people referring to Gay Pride as ‘Gay Christmas’ – while I enjoy the notion of some of the high profile homophobes spitting out their Cornflakes in disgust at the term ‘Gay Christmas’, I have to give merit to this festive moniker as in reality that is exactly what Pride is about for a lot of gay people. It’s a day, or weekend (or month if you’re lucky enough!) every year where people get together with their friends and families (chosen or otherwise) to remember the past, celebrate the present, and look to a future where we can continue to make this world a place where people can choose to love whom they wish without fear of being treated differently for it. However, just like the loneliness that can surround people at Christmas, we must be conscious that there are still many LGBTQ people living in Ireland and abroad who are not open about their sexuality and may never be. Every year people who still ‘live in the closet’ stand-by and watch Pride parades go by, wishing they had the courage to join in, or even a friend to just watch the Parade with. These people battle with loneliness and self-hatred their entire lives because society and other institutions tell them they are abnormal, abominations, living with the belief that being their true selves would also mean never seeing their loved ones in a promised after-life ever again.
And this is not to say that all openly LGBTQ people are happy, fulfilled people with amazing friends and chosen families. Being openly gay in modern Ireland can still be a very lonely place for people, particularly people who may be older and/or living in rural Ireland. Pride is a time to remember these people and hopefully inspire others to join in or organise their own Pride parades and celebrations in their own local towns and villages.
Pride is a protest. Pride is a party. Pride is a rainbow coloured beacon to those who have yet to find the courage to come out.
“Pride wasn't born of a need to celebrate being Gay - but our right to exist without persecution. So instead of wondering why there isn't a straight pride movement - be thankful you don’t need one”
- Dr. Ron Holt