The word ‘pride’ has been bandied about quite a bit this week and with very good reason: the Supreme Court – or the sane portion of the aforementioned – has finally made it a constitutional right for any American to marry any other American. You go Girlamerica!
Of course to the rest of the rational-thinking population this is a no-brainer, but the truth is this was a narrow victory. Furthermore, there are still many pockets of our great country that house citizens who believe this right should not have been granted. I’m not going to waste much time directing my words at them because people who are against marriage equality don’t embrace fact and logic, but rather hide behind rhetoric and commingle with fear. They pick and choose the mandates in the bible that speak to their prejudice and they don’t acknowledge a simple tenant upon which this country was built – that there is a separation of church and state. If you only get married in a church or a synagogue or other house of worship and don’t also get a court-obtained marriage license you ain’t married so how you can bring the church and by extension religion into a debate about marriage is more than my simple mind can take. But I don’t want to talk about that. Or write about that as the case may be.
Pride, like any other emotion, cannot be awarded or granted, it needs to come from within. And I know that many of us who were taught to believe – whether literally or through subtle innuendo – that we are members of a fringe society, have not always been proud of who we are. Sure we made a conscious choice to surround ourselves with like-minded individuals to feel less alone. And yes, if we were lucky – as I have been – we had the love and support of family who don’t ‘accept’ our homosexuality, but rather don’t care about it. We are their sons, daughters, nephews, cousins, grandchildren, and part of the family regardless of who we’re attracted to. The person comes first; the sexual orientation is an afterthought.
And still pride didn’t always come. Or if it came it came fitfully, in spurts. Feel good one day and then overhear a catty remark or see yet another stereotype played out on TV for a cheap laugh and pride is immediately replaced with shame. I am not good enough, I am not equal, I am not worthy. I’ll never truly know, but I assume it’s the same with women, African-Americans, and other minorities who feel marginalized. So for me the lesson learned by the Supreme Court’s decision is that we all need to lighten up.
It’s truly wonderful (though a little late-coming) that same-sex marriage is going to be federally recognized, but should that one law change how I feel about myself? Should I surge with pride because five people have given me the right that I should have always had? Should I pump my fist in the air because four old men who wear black gowns are still pissy that they lost and one of them – that would be you Scalia – is as quotable as Dorothy Zbornak? Not really.
Because even though what the nine justices have done is remarkable and ground-breaking and could potentially change my future (if, of course I can get a second date!), it shouldn’t change my self. If the vote came in 5-4 in the other direction, I should still have pride in myself. I should still have pride in recognizing that I’m a good, decent person who is loved and respected by the people who count. I should still feel pride in my accomplishments as a writer, a friend, a brother, a relative, and that feeling should never change. Nor should it be used as barter. Give me federal recognition gosh dangit and I’ll feel proud about who I am! Absolutely not. Like a good Dorothy Zbornak zinger, pride should be organic.
So yes, let’s continue the pride party. But let’s also remember that the celebration should never end even if there are people who believe it should never have started in the first place. And most important of all, remember that your pride party needs only one attendee: You.