Pride

I guess I look proud. And happy. Golden Gate Park, 6-20-10.

pride (n.) — 1. the quality or state of being proud as a: inordinate self-esteem: conceit; b: a reasonable or justifiable self-respect; c: delight or elation arising from some act, possession or relationship (parental pride) …

From Merriam-Webster Online

“Pride” is one of those words I wrestle with from time to time, especially as it pertains to something of which I’m now part. (“Courage” is the other, which will be another post sometime.)

Since I now huddle unequivocally under the back end of the LGBT umbrella (in more ways than one), and since this is the big Pride weekend in San Francisco — and since I’ll be heading up there in the morning to take part in the Trans Rally/March in the late afternoon, and maybe I’ll return for the big Pride Parade on Sunday morning as well — it’s inevitable that the word comes to the forefront.

I have a feeling I have a slightly different interpretation of the word “pride” than a lot of people taking part in this weekend’s festivities, which might or might not put me at odds with a few. But just as Thanksgiving makes many think of all the things for which they’re thankful, this last weekend of June makes me think of what I have to be proud of.

I’m still trying to figure it out.

I’ve long had a problem with people being “proud” over something over which they have no control. Over the way they were born. That pertains to ethnic background, sexual identity, gender identity, whatever.

You can’t be proud to be Italian, or gay, or straight, or black, or transgender any more than you can be proud of being born with 206 bones. We had no say in the matter. We were born the way we were born, period — random, accidental collisions of the right one of a million sperm with the right one of a million eggs, at a certain time, in a certain way, in a particular place.

We can’t, logically, be proud of the way we were born. But what we can be proud of is what we do with what we were born with.

As it pertains to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender matters, I certainly understand the history and the reasons for the Pride parades and celebrations. Anyone who has endured the taunts of the ignorant — or ostracism, or outright violence, or laws created to suppress us — certainly understands.

But it’s what you do with the situation with which you’re dealt. That’s where the pride comes in.

The queens who fought the cops at Compton’s Cafeteria and the Stonewall had reason to be proud — they said “Enough!” to decades of a status quo of fear and institutionalized violence.

Harvey Milk goes without saying — though, from what I’ve read and seen of the man, I’m sure he’d be prouder of the people who’ve carried on his work.

Everyone who has worked an LGBT-related cause can be proud.

The military personnel who have suffered silently under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — fighting for the same country that’s discriminating against them — should give themselves a figurative medal.

Every person who has had the back of an LGBT person, and has stood up to someone else’s ignorance, deserves to be proud.

Every person who has come out and have simply been themselves — living their everyday lives — amid great fear, both internal and external, can give themselves a hand.

That’s where the pride comes in.

Personally, though, in the early-to-mid stages of my own gender transition, I’m not sure I really have much to be proud of yet.

I’m certainly not proud of the way I’ve handled my unemployment situation. Of the utter despair I feel sometimes. Of how I let my dark moods really get the better of me from time to time. That, I’m certainly not proud of.

But I guess I am proud that I followed my inner voice 2 1/2 years ago — the voice that asked me out of nowhere, sitting on the bed one night, “Can you do this?” The inner voice of reason that said, “Are you gonna find out for real or are you gonna be fat, miserable and in the closet the rest of your life?”

I guess I’m proud of the way I came out to everyone around me — building my way outward slowly, organically, making sure this radical life change wasn’t a freak-show, Jerry Springer surprise to the people I care most about.

I guess I’m proud that, more than halfway through my life, I’ve decided to say “Screw it” and stop worrying about what other people think and just live my life — a good and decent life — the way I feel I always should have, and let the chips fall where they may.

If I have to be proud of something this Pride weekend, then OK; it’s those three things.

And one more.

What I’m really proud of is the people around me.

I’m proud of the friends and family who have embraced and accepted me — or, to put a finer point on it, accepted something they didn’t understand. Something they might have read about or seen in a TV documentary or at the movies, but a concept that was abstract, even flat-out foreign, to them.

I’m proud of my friend Heather — Lucy to my Ethel — the first person I came out to. Who told me early on in my transition that I’d be surprised at how people would react when I did get around to coming out. Who told some people early on, “If you have a problem with Frannie, then you have a problem with me.”

I’m proud of my dearest friends back home in Connecticut — the first people I came out to after Heather. People who told me, “That’s great!” or “I’m so happy for you!” or “What took you so long?”

I’m proud of my parents, devout Catholics, who have accepted me and are trying to understand and deal with something totally strange and unexpected to them in their twilight years. Of my brother Ken for having the instinct and foresight to start, without me knowing, laying down the paving bricks that led to me coming out to the family.

I’m proud of my friends in the Tower District. True, it’s the only real alternative area of a very hidebound, right-wing, so-called Christian cowtown, but it doesn’t necessarily mean everyone’s in liberal lockstep. From the folks at the Million Elephant and Revue, to my favorite local bands and their fans and loved ones, I heard a lot of “You look great!” and “Well, you’re still Fran” and “We like you regardless of how you look” and a heaping pile of other kind and wonderful words when I first stepped out.

I’m proud of my former Fresno Bee colleagues. (And, for that matter, my old New Haven Register colleagues as well.) I was only out to one person at The Bee while I was still employed, but everyone I’ve told since, or who has seen me since, has been great. (Except when the sports/poker crew is spanking me at the card table. And I do mean that most figuratively.) And that includes my dearly departed friend and cubicle neighbor Tom, who told me last summer, “Are you happy? That’s all that matters.”

I’m proud of the total strangers who have embraced the new girl in school — maybe said hi, introduced themselves, said very complimentary things out of the blue. I’ve made many friends out here over the past year or so, and it’s not because I’m a novelty or anything like that — it’s because they actually like and enjoy me for me. And for the first time in my life, at the risk of getting all Sally Field, I feel comfortable saying that.

All of them have made an incredibly difficult step in my life a lot easier to take. And each step I take on the streets of San Francisco this weekend, they’ll all be walking along. And I’ll be pretty damn proud to walk with them.

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7 Responses to “Pride”

  1. It's Drew! Says:

    I usually don’t like to speak for others, but I feel pretty safe saying that we’re all proud of you, Fran. I know I am.

  2. Margaret Tobelman Says:

    I’m proud to be your friend, Fran, and I am proud of you for having the guts to do something to make your life more complete.


    Margaret

  3. Jackie Says:

    GO FRAN!!! Im so proud of you too.

    unbeknownst to you, your blogs give me the courage to try to lead a more fearless life. Thank you for that, friend.

    by the way…..You look beautiful!!

  4. Jay Says:

    Fran, that was one of the most well-written pieces I have ever read of yours. It’s not just what you said, but how you said it. Why you are still unemployed is beyond me. A brilliant piece!

  5. Pride follow-up 2: The SF Pride Parade — ‘Look at us!’ vs. ‘Look at me!’ « Franorama World Says:

    […] I said in an earlier post, I have a hard time with the concept of being proud of the way you were born — being proud of […]

  6. Peggy Nemeth Says:

    Damn, girl! You look great in black, white and all colors in between! How do you do that? Keep on keepin’ on. I’ve got to catch up with these blogs of yours – I spend too much time on lesson plans and facebook. Love you!

  7. Crystal Bonvini Says:

    Fran I have to tell you how beautiful your writing is and just how happy I am that you have come in to my life. In a see of familiar faces at Livingstone’s yours is the only one with a perpetual smile. I love your presence you are a joy to be around. Please don’t stop coming Around I heart you.

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