by Michael Raitt -
SGN Contributing Writer
This is the season when Pride is celebrated in the GLBTQ community in Seattle and throughout the nation. This is when we honor who we are, reflect upon what it means to be GLBTQ, and, for many, it is a period of personal and community growth. It is a time when leaders and members of our community highlight who we are individually and collectively and it is a reminder to the larger culture that we have a place - an important place - in our society because of our contributions.
Pride is about recognizing every serviceman and woman who is on active duty, or the members who have paid the highest price - their lives - so the rest of us can benefit from the rules of law and the liberties that are outlined in our Constitution. They serve with as much dignity, honor, and courage as any man or woman could. They personify the values and ethics that make every free society strong. They are the quiet servicemembers who are forced to stay silent so they can continue to serve. Some are outspoken, like Lt. Dan Choi, who publically protest anti-Gay policies and stand on their integrity while making personal sacrifices for the larger good.
Pride can also emerge from a horrific private tragedy invading one's life when one chooses to channel one's grief into a cause greater than one's own personal loss. Locally, Ms. Charlene Strong, who lost her partner in 2006, champions equal protection under the law so that adults in loving same-gender relationships can be there with each other in life's most important moments and not ever suffer the indignity and callousness in being denied the right to be with your partner when they die. She recently met with President Obama to move this cause along.
Pride is exemplified in the work that Judy Shepard, mother of Matthew Shepard - a young man brutally murdered in October, 1998 - does to make sure no other family goes through what she, Matthew, or her family went through. Pride is in never forgetting.
Pride is exercised every day in the tireless work that doctors, nurses, and other medical providers do to provide services without shame to men and women in the GLBTQ community. The doctors I am most familiar with are Dr. Vy Chu, Dr. Peter Shalit, Dr. Rob Killian, and Dr. Jeff Olliffe. All the providers at Madison Clinic who provide care and support to every patient they serve, as well.
Pride is about the parents, families, and friends I know about who work hard through their own fears and misperceptions about what LGBTQ is because they realize that loving and accepting their GLBTQ child, sibling, or friend is more important, which speaks more about their character, than anything else. Pride is our straight friends who love us and stand with us and accept us and include us as family in their family.
Pride is about the women and men who work privately and publically on issues, policies, and laws like Referendum 71 - which started in Washington state and the focus of a recent Supreme Court decision to release the names of those who signed the petition. Also, in California, it is about partners like Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo, and their attorney David Boies (who, by the way, politically sways right and is straight), who are fighting to defeat Prop 8, which denies equal marriage rights. There are national and constitutional implications in this. They devote their time, emotional energy, and money because they know the fundamentals of what being GLBT is: love, relationship, identity, and soul.
Pride is every GLBTQ firefighter, police officer, clergy, teacher, business leader, or volunteer who understands the human condition and intentionally chooses careers that are in service of others. Many of these men and women are still in the closet and unidentified to their colleagues and peers, yet the work they do and the services they provide are equally as important and impactful to everyone they touch.
Pride is in witnessing celebrities like Ricky Martin come out of the closet and show the world that having a Gay, loving partner and relationship is just as normal and healthy as any other. Locally there are untold same-gender parents in loving relationships raising beautiful, successful children who will be the next generation in making our world a better place. Celebrities are simply faces that represent the rest of us in our process of coming to terms with being GLBTQ and making public who we really are. They represent the strength we've all tapped into in facing the pockets of people and groups who hate us and in finding acceptance in those who love us.
Pride provides homage to the GLBTQ men and women who have come before us and who did what they could, based on the period of time they lived, to take a place in society. It is also about the present and the legacy we leave for GLBTQ men and women to come.
Fundamentally, Pride is how we see ourselves, and the way in which we see ourselves drives how we show up in the world. Pride is having confidence that we are loveable people who contribute greatly to our personal relationships and the greater society as a whole. Pride is taking our personal hardships and propelling those experiences and learnings towards the greater good, however we can.
I am proud to be Gay. I wouldn't want to be anything else! I am well-loved by my family and friends and am very proud of them and they are proud of me. I'm proud of all the people I work with and the work they do for themselves and the community.
Being Gay, Lesbian, Bi, or Transsexual is not about an act of sex. It is about love, relationship, identity, and soul. Take pride in that! As you celebrate Pride, feel good about yourself, reflect upon how you love others and are loved by others. Be intentional about seeing all that is good about being GLBTQ and see each and everyone as contributing to a greater good either through one small gesture at a time or on a large public scale. HAPPY PRIDE!
Michael Raitt, MA LMHC, is a therapist and a contributing writer to the SGN. He writes a bi-monthly column in the SGN. If you would like to comment on this column, ask a question you'd like him to write about, or suggest another topic of interest, please contact him at email@example.com.
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