Wyrd Words: Pride

Pride. That’s a really loaded word these days, isn’t it? Pride can be dangerous, leading to overconfidence and vanity. Pride can be glorious: taking pride in your work, your skills, your accomplishments; full confidence in one’s personal abilities can be a sign of strength and discipline. As if the word wasn’t contentious enough, modern social movements have given the word a political bent.

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Since the desegregation of America, your average citizen has become familiar with the idea of “Black Pride,” and more recently, with the major legal battle over marriage equality, the phrase “Gay Pride” has become common vernacular. As a culture, we’ve become familiar with celebrations of these ideas. We have rainbow pride parades, black history month, and women’s history month, in addition to all the designated times or events where people within these groups can gather and feel accepted and appreciated by the community. It also seems to be some inevitable law of nature that whenever these occasions arises, there’s that one person in the room who says something like “Why can’t we have straight/white/male pride?”

In a tradition where one venerates their ancestors and tries to acknowledge their Orlog, it can be difficult to explain the issues with this line of thinking. Celebrations of various forms of “Pride” means more than an appreciation for your ancestors, your orientation, or your gender. These celebrations are a symbol of an oppressed group being welcomed and integrated into society. Black history month isn’t only about being black; rather, it’s about acknowledging individuals within that community who made great strides for social equality or scientific development, and who were suppressed (or even erased from history) because they were black.

Gay Pride parades aren’t just celebrations of one’s orientation; they are celebrations of the great strides toward equality that our society has made, and of the idea that people should no longer have to hide who they are. They are celebrations of being legally allowed to EXIST. These are groups who represent minority voices, which are often ignored by the majority culture. You don’t need to celebrate being “unashamed” of your heterosexuality, because nobody in our society is trying to tell you that you SHOULD be ashamed. As members of the majority, we don’t need to proclaim, “We are here, and we are people too!” Our inherent worth as human beings was never in question.

As a man, every day where I can get a job or a promotion, where I can have my stated capabilities accepted as true without assuming limitations based on my gender, where I can have access to male-specific health care without comment, IS male pride day. As a heterosexual, every day where I can get married, adopt a child, get healthcare, and visit my spouse in the hospital IS heterosexual pride day. As a Caucasian, every day where I’m not treated as a representative of my whole race through my actions, or have to worry about my employment opportunities due to the color of my skin, IS white pride day.

These idea of these celebrations is to state that the celebrants are just as good, just as valid, just as capable as everybody else. As a white heterosexual male, I will never have to argue those particular points, because I already have “equality”; my rights were never in question. So instead of white (or straight) people complaining about not having their own pride day, they should try to be thankful that they don’t need one.

A common problem I’ve met with while trying to explain this to fellow Heathens (and other Pagans) is that there IS an issue of social inequity. We are members of minority religions, and as such there are times when our ability to function within general society is difficult. Every member of a minority faith has, at some point in their lives, had to stand up and remind people that “We are here, and we are people too!”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the question, “What about Heathen Pride? Why can’t we take pride in our ancestors?”

Answer: We can, and we DO! And it’s AWESOME!

We have any number of Heathen festivals and Pagan gatherings. We have the Highland Games, the Jorvik Viking Festival, and Pagan Pride Day. Heck, we’ve even got Saint Patrick’s Day! (Not so great for us pagans, but still “Irish” pride.) We celebrate our roots all the time, and nobody seems to mind when we do. We celebrate our ancestors ALL THE TIME. We show the world that our cultures and our religions still exist and have a right to exist. That’s PRIDE, and it’s great!

My appreciation for my predecessors, my attachment to my Orlog, has to do with their legacy, not the fact that they were white. Nobody has tried to erase them from history because they were WHITE. When the majority culture tries to deny their accomplishments or rewrite them as savages and barbarians, we can (and do) stand up and correct them. I am proud of my community and the great strides it’s made. I am proud of my Kith and Kin, who stand as the pillars of my life and the role-models by which I judge my own actions. I am proud of many of my ancestors, who accomplished great feats of discovery and innovation.

So why don’t we have white/male/straight pride celebrations? Because we already have recognition and equality, and don’t have to struggle every day just to be recognized as HUMAN BEINGS. Nobody has systematically erased all of the historical contributions of White Men. We don’t need a “Men’s History Month” or a “White History Month.” Nobody is ever likely to deny you service or employment for being a “sexual deviant” because you’re heterosexual. We don’t need a “Straight Pride Day.”

I eagerly await the day when we are all equal, and such displays are no longer necessary to force society to recognize someone’s existence. That day hasn’t come yet; we’re still fighting for it.

Wyrd Words is published on alternate Thursdays. Subscribe via RSS or e-mail!

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