Pride: N’s Perspective


“Pride” means many things to each of us: happiness at what we’ve accomplished as a repressed group of people, or admiration at those who have gone before us and trailblazed a path toward full equality. When some of us hear the word ‘Pride’, however, our minds might be filled with images of rainbow flags, parades, glitter, and kittens. We might think of parties with our friends or dancing in the streets, kissing the person we love — in full view of the world … and, for those few days of a typical “pride” celebration, those of us who have spent (or still spend) the majority of our time in the closet feel free — free to just be.

But ‘pride’, to me, is so much more than the party, or even a generic feeling of admiration on our accomplishments thus far. Especially this year, with the dynamic changes in our society’s perception of LGBT people, and the repeal of DADT, ‘Pride’ means so much more. This year, ‘pride’ is about freedom to be open and honest — all year long. It’s about holding your partner’s hand at the mall (if anyone still shops in a mall!) … kissing that person at dinner in a restaurant outside of the Castro, Hillcrest or 4th Street … it’s about changing your relationship status on your main page, not just your gay page.

Without a doubt, ‘pride’ is personal. Each person’s decision to be open, honest, and genuine with his or her family and friends is a tough choice, and is often not without consequence. Each person’s way of expressing his or her own ‘pride’ is unique, challenging, and beautiful. For instance, one of my goals this year as I continue my ‘coming out’ journey is to live a truer, more genuine life. “True” and “genuine” means being honest first with myself, because only then can I be honest with others.

‘Pride’ is also societal, even cultural — much bigger than the individual. In our unique military culture, ‘pride’ is about recognizing individuals for their contributions to the organization, without regard for their sexual orientation. ‘Pride’ is having the courage to stand up for what is right, to be strong enough to face discrimination, hate, and ignorance head-on. ‘Pride’, for LGBT service members, is the ability to finally answer — openly — the question of love; even if it’s only to those we trust the most — be that a roommate, a colleague, a trusted officer or an NCO confidant. Having ‘pride’, this year, means living without fear.

Our “family” watched with pride this past year as the true nature of our nation shone through the darkness of ignorance and bigotry. We’ve seen the polls gradually slide from unsupportive, to apathetic, to openly supportive of our freedom to serve freely, proudly, with integrity. We’ve seen politicians — both Democrat and Republican — shift their stance on gay rights and tolerance. We have watched in tears as our Commander-in-Chief signed into law legislation which allows us to finally be honest with the world while simultaneously serving the country we love so much. ‘Pride’, it seems, is about being proud to be an American again.

As I reflect on my own journey towards honesty and openness, I cannot help but think about some of the decisions I have made that have hindered my journey. I find myself occasionally questioning choices along the way, some of which have led to me to hurt those I loved the most. I sometimes second-guess my choices and wonder if I made the right ones. In the end, however, I look back with ‘pride’ at my own growth as a person — and as a service member. I think of how drastically different my life would have been had I made different life choices long ago, and how insignificant my contributions to my country would have been. With all of my regrets (and I have many), I have come to realize that my choices made me who I am today. Without the experiences subsequent to those decisions, I would not be the same person.

As Jane Austen so eloquently told us, “vanity and pride are different things.” This is an important distinction as we move forward in our marathon journey towards openness and equality. As frustrating as being patient can be, especially in the presence of those who do not understand or wish to understand, our duty is to educate those with whom we live and serve. Our duty is to be proud, but not vain. Our duty is to be respectful, loving, kind, and understanding while our society matures around us. Take care not to confuse patience with weakness or apathy. We must be strong and deliberate when necessary to ensure that the progress made by both our generation and those who came before us was not for naught. In our fight for what is just, and true, and fair, we must remain mindful of how far we have come, and we must keep our eye on the ultimate prize. ‘Pride’ is not only our goal, ‘pride’ is also our means of achieving it.

“N” joined the Marine Corps as a 2nd Lieutenant infantry officer in 2003. Currently a Captain, he is stationed in California.

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