What Men Should Know

Health4Men: Taking Pride

Taking Pride

Like many a gay man… I love a good parade. But, I’d like to propose we do something in addition to this collective expression of identity, frivolity and partying.  Pride is awesome.  It’s a fabulous excuse for day-drinking in minimal clothing as you mince beside a flamboyant float with a bunch of your besties.  It’s an opportunity to celebrate your diversity and make a statement as you let your LGBTQIA+ status be known to the masses in a public forum.  Collective Pride is fortifying, inspiring and unifying for some of us. However, for many in the LGBTQIA+ community, it isn’t any of those things, and I take serious cognizance of that, but this is not about creating a more unifying Pride parade.  This is about “taking” Pride. This string of words and sentences is about adopting the concept of “Pride” as a philosophy, and perhaps even applying it as a way of life.

Pride is always going to be a collective effort. But, each of us needs to take this concept on board if we are ever going to make it a reality.  Taking Pride in yourself as an LGBTQIA+ person is going to require much more than rocking up at a fun event once a year.

As LGBTQIA+ people, we are also brothers, sisters, daughters and lovers and some of us are mothers and fathers.  It’s important that we take Pride in ourselves, individually.  It’s easy to scapegoat and point fingers at others, but how often do we take a look at ourselves and consider whether we are living our best lives in a way that we can take Pride in ourselves?

Do I take Pride in my wellbeing?  Do I know my HIV status?  Knowing that I may not necessarily show any symptoms, do I know if I have any other sexually transmitted infections? Do I do what’s necessary to take care of no.1? If I’m a proud and empowered HIV-positive person, am I adhering to my ARV regime in a way that I can be proud of?  And, if I am an HIV-negative person who prefers sex without a condom, do I take Pride in myself enough to take PrEP to ensure that I stay that way?  Taking Pride can be as simple as having a conversation about sex before having it.

Taking Pride goes deeper.  Do you take Pride in your word?  Are you proud of the things you say about other people?  Do you share words of encouragement like a PEZ dispenser or do you scatter wisecracks that “put people in their place” in a way that pays tribute to Joan Rivers on her cattiest episode of Fashion Police?  Are you someone you can be proud of?

What does not taking Pride look like?  It could be as simple as overdoing the coffee and energy drinks and burning out your adrenals so much that getting up in the morning is tantamount to raising the dead. It could even be the way you speak about yourself.  Do you often call yourself a stupid moron out loud if you make a typo?  If you don’t take Pride in you, who will?

What would it take for you to take Pride in yourself? Cherokee Native Americans tell the story of two wolves that live inside every one of us.  One wolf represents fear, inferiority, anger, guilt, resentment, and other evils in disguise; the other wolf represents strength, love, kindness, authenticity and genuine and sustainable success.  These wolves are at war, and the wolf that wins is the wolf that you feed.  Which one are you feeding when you eat crap that you know isn’t good for you, when you hang with draining and negative people, sleep with someone that you don’t really like or respect, or when you drink too much or ‘shnarff’ that little line on a Saturday night?  What would your version of taking Pride in yourself look like?

Like the song says, Pride is “a deeper love”, and nobody is saying that it’s going to be easy.  LGBTQIA+ peeps have a gayzillion reasons why taking Pride in themselves can be a challenge:  Trauma, abandonment, stigma, discrimination, internalised homophobia, and a whole industrial handbag of other stuff can cause us to feel shame, inferiority and the desire to consciously or subconsciously treat ourselves like second-rate citizens.  But how about we actively try not to – against the odds.  We can take Pride in our ability to be accepting of one another as much as we do in our appearance.  We can take Pride in how far we’ve come and how many hurdles we’ve made it over (many of us doing so in heels!) Let’s take Pride in ourselves every day, so that when it comes time to dress up and march down the main road together we really do have something to celebrate.

“My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.
Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
– Desmond Tutu

Bruce J. Little is a contributing writer for the Anova Health Institute.  These are his views, which may or may not reflect those of the organisation.