Label for One

Pride is a time to celebrate gay-given individuality

Save for a bit of tail-wagging at Pride of Pets this Saturday and the June 29 shindig at the White House to celebrate my birthday and The Gays, pride season has more or less ended. And kudos to Capital Pride for another well-executed tornado of Dorothy-inspired days of gaiety.

The festival is two days behind me as I write this, and I still see rainbows when I close my eyes. My voice is still hoarse from shouting at the parade and gabbing at the festival. And as our society continues its charge into a world of spin, politicking and flat-out deceit, I’m grateful to have had my sense of scrutiny recharged by Capital Pride.

When it comes to what makes me proud – and so very grateful – to be gay, it’s my sense of scrutiny. Some might take succor from the social solidarity. Others may point to our activism or accomplishments, our fearless exploration of sexuality and gender, or a number of other LGBT cultural components worth celebrating. For me, it’s primarily the honed sense of knowing shit from Shinola.

It may be a fading trait, as our families accept our budding orientations at ever-younger ages. But for my generation, as well as many younger and nearly everyone older, growing up gay meant growing up as a spy. We have lived within mainstream families, eaten at their tables, slept in the same rooms. From the start, many of our odd behaviors raised eyebrows – enough so that we learned to keep even tighter tabs on our outsider status. I knew well enough at 5, for example, that I should not share with my family that my Steve Austin Six Million Dollar Man doll was tucked in nightly into his Kleenex box bed with tissue blankets.

Other minorities of race, class, religion, what have you, may also be able to decipher society through the lens of an outsider; be able to see the forest, the trees and all the rest on their own terms rather than filtered through groupthink. Our privileged isolation, however, goes further than others’. The Jewish child making a visit to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum can discuss what she learns of the Holocaust with her family, for example. If she longs to be the daddy when she plays house with Jane, however, she might want to keep that to herself. In doing so, an exploration of why likely follows.

And that has been our curse of isolation, but also our gift. That is what I celebrate foremost during Pride.

As Joseph Conrad wrote, and I ultimately believe, ”We live as we dream – alone.” Being LGBT helps a person to understand that. It might seem sad, but the alternative is terrifying. It means that no one else can ever absolutely share your experience. It also means that each of us has ultimate sovereignty over our sentience, whatever forces attempt to manipulate us. Growing up with a sense of isolation gives us a head start in accepting that reality, and a better chance to celebrate it.

It’s the gift that helps us pull back the curtain on charlatans. The louder the voice of authority or dogma, the likelier our suspicion. It helps us to know that when someone professes to speak for God, whether to tell us we are blessed or damned, we know that it’s just a guess. It’s that prick in our brain when a blowhard insists marriage has always been between one man and one woman, as it points out to us that some cultures have embraced multiple spouses for eons.

Not all LGBT people embrace this sort of wonderful isolation, and certainly not all skeptics belong to our community. But if being gay has taught me anything, it’s that I am an individual before I am anything else, however cozy and content the herd may look.

Follow Will O'Bryan on Twitter @wobryan.

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