Why We Need Pride

Why We Need Pride

It is hard for me to talk about pride. I do not immediately feel proud when I think about pride, and although my train of thought often weaves me from stop after stop in search of self acceptance and validity through old faithful logic, I often never do. This conversation, whether with someone else or in my own head, almost always evokes in me a very muddled type of confusion, panic, pain and insecurity. It’s a truly awful feeling.

The thing about my queer sexual awakening is that it flipped my world upside down in a soul-crushing way. Before I realized a need to come out, I thought everyone in our little Bay Area community would be accepting. We learned about Harvey Milk in elementary school, after all. Are we not 30 minutes away from San Francisco, the gay capital of the world? But everything changed when I tried to come out to my mom. 

I was 13 years old, in the seventh-grade. I had met a girl — my first relationship ever — and I was excited to share this newfound part of my identity with my mother. I wrote “I’m gay” on a little slip of paper and handed it to her with a smile. 

I will never forget how the expression on her face changed. Within two seconds my excitement transformed into anticipation of doom, and within two seconds that doom arrived. I will never forget the way she tore up the slip and angrily scolded at me. It was a tone of pure disgust, and it succeeded in doing its job. I felt disgusting. Her speech was condescending, demeaning, and made me want to curl up in a ball and sink into the floor. 

It made me want to travel back in time and snatch the little slip from my innocent blinking self, and I would be the one to rip it to pieces. “You should keep this shameful secret to yourself,” I’d say, “Why would you ever want the world to know?”

That night my mother invited her pastor and his wife to our home to have a talk with me. The scene seemed almost dystopian. They seated me on a chair in the smack center of the living room while the three of them occupied the couch and took turns taking jabs at me. The pastor told me that God created AIDS to punish gay people. His wife explained to me that homosexuality was a chosen lifestyle ridiculed by all those good and righteous. 

She explained to me that if I were to continue down this path, I would never find acceptance and happiness. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I kept glancing at my mother, pleading desperately with my eyes for her to relieve me from this agonizing lecture. I thought for sure she would find what they were saying to be ridiculous, and that even she would realize they were going too far and would excuse me from the torture. But of course, she didn’t do that. She just stared back at me with a nervous smile which I could not read any further, stoic, unmoving, unbothered. 

Man, did that make me feel alone. At the end of their time with me, the pastor and his wife asked me if, after receiving their help, I could decide to change my ways. I said yes. I did not believe it, but I could not stand for them to think otherwise. I couldn’t keep feeling that type of isolation. They said that they were happy for me.

My coming out to my dad was not as long or as dramatic but did more to make me uncomfortable. Although I find it difficult to comfortably label myself and prefer to call myself pan over bi and queer over everything, I told my father shortly after my mother that I was bisexual. He chuckled and called me “greedy.” It’s sickening to think about what he meant by that. It is sickening to think that he chose to respond to my coming out by implying that I was sexually insatiable. He would later call me a slut for wanting to get on birth control. 

This man has told me that he is uncomfortable with men being gay but is OK with women loving women. I didn’t place too much significance on this statement then, but now I know better. He is a homophobe in disguise. He is not accepting of queer women because he believes that love is love or that non-hetero relationships are valid; he accepts their existence because he, as a straight man, fetishizes these “sexually insatiable” women. 

To my father, homosexuality was only valid if it benefited or satisfied him. It is clear by this, as well as numerous other misogynistic things he has said to me, that he only accepts queer women as sex objects, and by coming out to him, I became a girl who would grow up to be one of these women.

Needless to say, middle school was a very lonely time for me. I didn’t have the support of my parents, and friends who today are genuinely respectful of the LGBTQ+ community were often less than thoughtful at that age. Unfortunately, my relationship with my now ex-girlfriend turned south. It was the first time I had fallen in love, and soon I saw it slipping away from me. Slowly a gradual decline became a nosedive into manipulation and verbal and emotional abuse. I was made to feel worthless, ugly, and unwanted. 

I felt, in every way, not good enough. I was sworn at and pushed away, but I had nowhere else to go. I remember crying alone in my room late at night and screaming at my mother when she came to ask me what was wrong. I couldn’t tell her. I couldn’t tell her any of it. I just screamed at her, and she would leave and she would spend the night fighting off her worries, sleeplessly trying to fall asleep. About nine months into our relationship, I was sexually assaulted by my girlfriend. She wanted to have sex with me, I said no, and she forced herself onto me anyway. 

I immediately forgave her. I had nobody to tell me otherwise, nobody to teach me how to lead healthy relationships and how to identify and leave unhealthy ones. I had no support system and nobody to go to for help. The relationship eventually fizzled out, but everything has taken a terrible toll on me. I am currently attending therapy for these experiences which I have yet to fully come to terms with, and I expect it’ll be a while longer before I can finally be comfortable putting these things behind me. I will live with these traumas for the rest of my life.

This is why we need pride. We need pride because nobody should have to feel the pain and experience such hardships and rejection as I did when I was 13, and nobody should have to be left to fight through the consequences alone. We need pride because the dismissal and ridicule of my sexuality had a ripple effect across all aspects of my life and led me into the darkest time of my life. 

We need pride because even after putting in years of thought and work into making myself feel valid and whole, I still cannot bring myself to come out to my mother again. I still anticipate abandonment because of who I am. We need pride because queer youth are three times as likely to commit suicide than hetero youth, and 40% of trans adults will attempt suicide in their lifetimes. 

We need pride because wonderful, beautiful people fight every day for the right and will to live, and we are tired. It is an uphill battle, but I am fighting it, countless others in the LGBTQ+ community are fighting it, and straight cis allies are fighting it. I am pleading you to join the fight. It is hard for me to talk about pride. I do not immediately feel proud when I think about pride, and although my train of thought often weaves me from stop after stop in search of self-acceptance and validity through old faithful logic, I often never do. But I want to, and one day, I will.
 

Editor’s note: Alameda High’s Leadership Diversity Committee recognized June as Pride month by holding a city-wide writing contest for students of all ages. Diversity Committee worked in collaboration with GSAs from schools around Alameda to host an event that was as inclusive as possible. 

The prompt for the contest was, “What does Pride mean to you?” and writers were encouraged to be creative and genuine in their responses. The Alameda Sun presents Joy Diamond’s winning piece, a moving and personal composition.