As the school year winds down and the LGBTA’s Pride Week (March 28 to April 1) approaches, I am filled with a stronger sense of self than I have ever experienced before. I’ve seen many articles this year about gay issues, and most of them have been powerful, productive messages. I hope this will also be one of them.
I may as well come out with it: I’m gay. However, that is not all I am. I am a young man of English and Irish heritage. I am the first in my immediate family to go to college. I want to dedicate my life to helping both animals and people in any way I can.
We’re multidimensional, complex individuals.
As a result, no single label will ever be able to fully describe a person and certainly not just with the words “gay” or “straight.” It seems silly to get hung up on that difference any more than preferences for ice cream flavors or favorite colors. Yet, because some people do, there is a legitimate need for “pride.”
I try to take pride in many facets of my life. To me, pride is self-respect. It is not a pompous, “better than you,” feeling. It is about recognizing my own qualities and acknowledging how they all make up the person I am today, both the good and the bad. Pride is being able to look into a mirror and smile, instead of disparaging yourself. It is not living without modesty. Rather, it is about knowing yourself well enough to be confident in your own characteristics and abilities. It is not something easy to obtain or maintain, but it is worth it for your peace of mind.
I think “Gay pride,” “bi-pride,” “trans-pride” or any pride is based around this. It is not about shoving beliefs down people’s throats or having some inherent need to constantly proclaim, “I am gay.” It’s about uniting with other like-minded individuals to reaffirm the drive to live our lives the way we want in spite of other people’s criticism.
I don’t want to be told my love is wrong or unnatural simply because it doesn’t fit someone else’s standard. I don’t want to recruit anyone, destroy any institutions or distribute an agenda — I just want to able to live my life to the best of my ability. For me, that will likely mean having another man as my partner. After going through so much, I finally fully accept that part of me and no one can take that away. That part of my pride is unshakable.
Among gay people, our experiences concerning coming out tend to be extremely different. There’s no way I can encompass them all, but for me, it wasn’t so bad. It took a little time for my mother to accept that part of me, but my father handled the topic just fine. From there, I was trying to live my life more openly and not bottle things up.
When I came to college, I became involved in clubs, made tons of new friends and experienced my first relationship.
These two years have been a period of powerful personal growth for me, just like what most people experience in college. I feel more connected to my friends, family and peers now that I can live as openly as I do.
Every day I live life more deliberately. I owe a large part of the pride I feel to coming out. However, an even larger part is thanks to the wonderful community of encouraging friends I have found here. Even though coming out is a continuous process, it does get easier, thanks to the pride that I have made vital.
I think the most important message I want to convey is that the division some people imagine between gay people and straight people is not as significant as it is portrayed by some. Also, all people should take pride in themselves, whomever they are.
The respect people feel for themselves should also become apparent in the respect they have for others. Most importantly, be happy. Celebrate living with pride.