Pride. It's not about tolerance. No-one wants to be tolerated. It's like putting up with something irritating or bad.
I don't want to be tolerated. I want to be celebrated. Every soul on this earth, all living things can be celebrated - even for one thing, even for potential. From the smallest of creatures to those of the grandest stature, we can find commonalities and differences. Sure - we all just want to live, but let's make that simply the starting point rather than the final goal.
My culture, my people, have invaded just about every nation in the world in an effort to make other people "like us" because we believed we had it all going on and it would just be much easier if everyone behaved like us.If everyone had to look different then at least we could behave similarly - follow the same religious principles, same political structure and the same lust for land and what we perceived to be "riches." How could one tiny island of people contain so much ego - or was it fear? I'm not proud of that. All that being said, we British have done some pretty cool stuff over time as well and when I go back to that land of my ancestors I feel a different connection to the land of my people. I'm not sure it's national pride, but it is definitely a sense of connection to my roots.
It's not that I'm particularly "proud" of my sexual identity either. In fact, decades of abuse, beatings, marginalization and oppression have made me kind of self-phobic / homophobic. I am eroded and worn by the experience of trying to be myself and love whom I choose. It has been a lifetime fight and I am worn thin, but for all you right-wing, fundamentalist haters out there, don't think this means you have won. It only means you are bullies. I know who I am. I am proud of surviving and, at times, thriving, of moving the cause forward for those younger folks who have followed me with what I hope to be an easier path. I am proud of the brave souls who ploughed a path before me when it was still illegal to be gay in Canada.
I do worry that all the changed laws have only created a veiled acceptance and the same repugnance for those who identify as lesbian is only held under a blanket of law. I worry that the hate is more insidious. People are aware that it is illegal to commit acts of hate and discrimination so they find ways around it - excuses for taking away your employment, for not serving you well in a store, for excluding you. I know I have had jobs kept from me and taken from me because of people's perceptions and guesses about my identity.
I know things have changed and the battles have been well-fought by centuries of people who had to find their way around the hate to the time of Stonewall and the people who stood their ground publicly and said no. I remember when it was a PRIDE march rather than a parade - when you took your life and career in your hands by making that walk. Let us not forget the millions of lesbians and gays around the world who remain imprisoned under a death sentence because of who they choose to love. There are more than seventy-six countries where it is illegal to be gay. There are ten countries where it remains punishable by death.
It is time for me to pull back from the fight somewhat. The battle scars have begun a ceaseless ache in my being and the costs keep going up. It seems the more honest I have been with what I have faced and continue to face, the greater the chicanery and subterfuge used to perpetuate hate and discrimination. So, it is time for me to lay down my sword (aka flag) for the time being and hope that it is picked up by anyone and everyone who is appalled by fear and the hate it creates.
It's not that I am climbing back into the closet, far from it. I am making way for younger and stronger warriors to lead the charge. The whole battle analogy is weird anyway as I haven't ever raised a hand to defend who I am, with the exception of the instances in the early days where I had to defend myself against the physical blows and sexual assaults instigated by men who thought it was their job to show me what I was supposed to be like as a "real" woman. They are abusers and criminals against love and peace.
I am a warrior, a survivor, a lover and a philosopher. I am a healer and a teacher, a spiritual guide and a storyteller. I am your daughter, your mother, your sister and your wife. I am a human animal just as you and deserving of peace, kindness and love. I give these things to myself and your hate will never finish me. Of these things, I am proud. I am proud of my physical womanhood. I have no need for the social construct you call gender for that is only a political lie to keep women down. I am a free soul, a superhero of love and of all the things I wonder in the world, it's "Why the heck are you so afraid of me?"
May your PRIDE come from the knowledge of the worth of your life as it relates to how you value all life, how you raise each other up and celebrate one another for your beautiful uniqueness and difference, without the need to push another down to do so.
In loving memory of every soul who has been murdered, jailed, beaten, outcast, tortured for who they are. In other words, this is dedicated to every lesbian and gay human throughout time.
As always, thanks for reading.
Gillian Cornwall, edited re-post, June 18, 2017