First of all, it’s complicated. Second of all, it shouldn’t be.
This year—just like last year, and the year before, and probably several years before that—there has been at least one attempt, proliferated across social media, to host a “straight pride parade.” Most people’s first instinct is to laugh, not necessarily due to the nuanced absurdity of the situation, but because it’s just so incongruous with what we’re used to. “Straight people don’t need pride” is a common sentiment. And that’s true, but not for the reasons that everybody thinks.
Pride—at least, the LGBT pride that we celebrate every June—does not exist in a vacuum. Many people are proud of many facets of their identity: I’m proud to be a good student, proud to be a Minnesotan (seriously, it’s nice up here), proud to be a responsible person whom others can depend upon to get things done. Let’s indulgently refer to these traits as “virtues.” I’m proud of my virtues—as is everyone—because they make me a better person.
And this is where people get confused. Sexuality and gender identity are never virtues. They’re integral parts of our identity, nothing we have to work towards, nothing we actively cultivate. They exist, and that’s all. There’s no reason to be proud of being straight or of being LGBT, because neither of these are accomplishments.
Except that’s not exactly true.
Through no choice of our own, inherent and unchangeable aspects of the LGBT community’s personhood are combatted at every turn. In some parts of the world, this means that our existence is punishable by death. In the most progressive of areas, our right to marry is constantly in question. We are often unable to receive appropriate medical attention, especially if we are transgender. We are denied access to employment, to bathrooms, to interactions with young children. We are censored from TV, books, and music. We are beaten, degraded, robbed, tortured, mocked, raped, and killed simply for being ourselves.
I didn’t choose this. I don’t know a single human who would. I wish that my transfeminine friends could pass through a TSA security check without being flagged for an unexpected object between their legs. I wish that my girlfriend could wear a flannel jacket on the bus to work without being sneered and spat and cussed at. I wish that I could play online games without being called “a faggot who deserves to be lynched” due to my non cis-passing voice.
But these things happen anyway. For the foreseeable future, they will continue to do so. And we’re fighting as hard as we can, but nothing changes overnight.
In the meantime, we have pride. Pride in not only who we are, but in what we’ve done—pride in the virtue of our resilience. Each year, we aren’t using this month to flaunt our sex lives or paint everything rainbow, whatever corporations might have you think. We are using it to celebrate our survival. And since queerness comes with such a tremendous burden in today’s world, celebration of our traits and our achievements are one and the same. Meaning that our identities are, after all, virtues of a sort.
So, sure, be proud of your heterosexuality, if it really matters that much to you. I wouldn’t say I’m proud of having brown eyes—happy with it, sure, but not proud. What I am proud of is myself and all of my LGBT siblings for existing as ourselves, and loving who we love in spite of the threat it poses to us. I’m proud of us for surviving another year. Here’s to many more.