Pride is a Celebration of One’s Achievements, Not Association with a Group

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There has been a roaring outcry over the recent bill signed by Russian president Vladimir Putin outlawing the public visibility of homosexuality. In the US, by contrast, recognition of homosexuality has grown tremendously. Many popular TV shows have at least one gay or bisexual character. Gay men and women can openly serve in the military and have been granted marriage equality in fifteen states. After years of second-class citizenship, gays and lesbians are beginning to make progress in winning recognition and protection of their rights.

As homosexuality becomes increasingly socially acceptable, we hear more about “gay pride.” There are now numerous holidays and events intended to celebrate “gay pride”—National Coming Out Day, Day of Silence, Pride months, Pride parades, and Gay and Lesbian film festivals. These celebrations of “gay pride” are similar in spirit to the various ethnic history months, film festivals, and other events celebrating “black pride,” “Korean pride,” “feminist pride,” etc. To take “pride” in such things implies that it is important to take pride in one’s biology or some other accidental collective attribute. Gays should be striving for the recognition of an individual’s right to pursue relationships of his or her choice. Yet what these events celebrate is not individualism, but rather, collectivism.

One doesn’t take pride in having blue eyes or blonde hair, so why would one take pride in being gay or bisexual? If we shouldn’t judge people based on their skin color, gender, or sexuality, because these characteristics are innate or trivial, than why should we take pride in them? If there should be “black pride” and “gay pride” then why shouldn’t there also be “white pride” and “straight pride?” In truth, there shouldn’t be any of these kinds of pride, and for the same reason.

To share in a group’s collective “pride” one would have to abide by the rules defined by that group. So many believe that to be gay one has to be flamboyant or fashionable. But this attitude spurns the individual who takes pride in himself contrary to group standards and values. That’s why “white pride” or “straight pride” would be nonsensical, because no one expects or believes all white individuals to abide by the same characteristics or share the same beliefs. However, many do believe that gay individuals must dress and talk a certain way and share the same beliefs.

To say or believe that we are defined by innate characteristics such as our race, gender, or sexual orientation ignores the fact that we choose what we wear, how we talk, and what we value. These choices are what we are defined by, and what make us more than barnyard animals. What advocates of “collective pride” ignore is that we are self-made. We choose our values, careers, and relationships; they do not choose us.

To be successful in any career or relationship one has to actively pursue it. One has to be growing constantly in one’s skills and knowledge. One who takes pride in one’s work or career is not taking pride in the accidents of one’s birth, but in one’s accomplishments and achievements. One is taking pride in a hierarchy of skills and knowledge one has acquired through years of dedication and hard work. Skills and knowledge are gained through one’s choice to acquire them; we are not born with them. Pride is then not something you are born with, but something that one must achieve.

You must choose to value certain things required of your work and then act on those values. If you want to be an engineer you must choose to demonstrate precision and accuracy through your actions. If you want to an entrepreneur you must choose to be innovative and determined. True pride is achieved through one’s chosen effort and values. Therefore, pride is not something that should be celebrated once a year or even once a month, but every single day of one’s life.

If gay people want to achieve full liberation from prejudice and to truly defend the rights of homosexuals, they must abandon the notion of collective pride. Instead of celebrating their membership in a group, they should be celebrating individuals’ chosen achievements. By taking pride in their achievements, gay men and women will succeed in being taken for who they are—individuals.

Sarah Martinson is a journalism student at Columbia College Chicago.

Creative Commons-licensed image from Flickr user Guillaume Paumier.

Posted by on November 26, 2013. Filed under Culture, Fall 2013. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
  • Fabiano Borges Guillerez

    The argument tends to be that coming out of the closet is a big achievement. I agree however that the criteria for pride have lessened. It is fibrotic. And the people who just put the difficulty of coming out of the closet behind them blend with people who only seem to celebrate their flamboyancy and lifestyle.

  • Bob Thatcher

    Whoops, a typo.
    The 5th paragraph, the second to last sentence.
    “What collective pride takes for granted……..”.
    It should read “What individual pride takes for granted…….”.

  • Ray Shelton

    This is a terrible essay from a number of standpoints. Gay Pride isn’t about being proud in being gay – it’s pride taken in standing up for oneself in regard to being gay. As someone who grew up as a gay kid in the 60’s and 70’s, I can say the writer of the above essay has no clue what gay people had to endure. The culture (the schools, the churches, the government, etc.,) was screaming every day that I was a FAGGOT; I was a child molesters, evil, and psychologically unhinged. Anyone who could withstand that battering should be proud. It is even worse that this essay should be in the _Undercurrent_. As the Objectivist movement has never embraced, let alone publicly championed the individual rights of gay men and women. NBI never took a stand – except to condemn homosexuality; and ARI has remained silent in every single gay related legal issue – most noticeably marriage equality. This sends the strongest of messages – gay people are not welcome here. This despite the fact that two of the leading Objectivist philosophers are gay – I know because I’ve been the spouse of one for 15 years. Finally, I can only say with disgust that the writer of the above essay knows in some sense what I say is true – because she hides behind a pen name. I was writing LTE defending the rights of gay men back in 1979. I signed my real name then – as I do now.

  • Ray Shelton

    And on a further note. If _The Undercurrent_ wanted to publish an essay on pride, why bring gay people into the issue at all? Only to criticize us. If the staff of_The Undercurrent_ wanted to do outreach, if it wanted to uplift, to inspire, to draw students in, then this is not the way to do it. What one of the writers should do is write an article *defending* the individual rights of gay Americans. But of course, that is something they will never do without a million qualifications. Because “MIchelle” has dropped the entire historical/cultural context of gay people fighting for their individual rights. “White Pride” or “Straight Pride”? Is she joking? Neither group had to fight tooth and claw to simply be left alone. This is the kind of unintellectual context-dropping that gives Objectivism a bad name.

  • Tom

    The essay is remarkably ill informed. For example, “As homosexuality becomes increasingly socially acceptable, we hear more about ‘gay pride.'” Actually, it would be more accurate to write that the more homosexuality has become socially acceptable, the less we hear about “gay pride.” Attendance at gay pride marches has been declining. Gay neighborhoods are becoming less concentrated, as one would expect as the wider society becomes less bigoted and hateful.

    It also suggests that “pride” is only properly used in reference to taking credit for one’s accomplishments. Since being gay or black or tall is not an accomplishment, but merely a fact, how could one take pride in it? If that were the only meaning the term could have, the writer would have a point. But if it means “to feel good about oneself and to be happy to be alive,” or, as Mirriam-Webster defines the term, “a feeling that you respect yourself and deserve to be respected by other people,” then there is nothing odd or “collectivist” to encourage people to be proud of themselves, especially when they have been told that they should be burned, beaten, imprisoned, shamed, expelled, and when they have in fact been subjected to such abusive treatment. When one grows up and sees children expelled from families for being gay, and when preachers inform children on Sunday’s that “those people” must be killed, and when one grows up in fear of people finding out one’s secret, then asserting pride is quite appropriate.

  • Todd Walton

    I think it’s a narrow and overly literal idea of “pride” that leads a person to dismiss the pride of LGBT people as illegitimate. The Ayn Rand Lexicon quotes Ayn Rand defining pride as “the recognition of the fact that you are your own highest value and, like all of man’s values, it has to be earned — that of any achievements open to you, the one that makes all others possible is the creation of your own character”.

    I love going to my local Pride event every June. It’s the absolute opposite of collectivism. You have so many different people there, in different outfits, different configurations, different levels of comfort with being out, different sexualities, different interests, different causes. What thrills me about the LGBT community of people, what makes me feel so good at Pride and drives me to work for my LGBT community center, is that so many people I encounter value their individuality so highly and seem so willing to grant it to others. Pride is a reaction to the incessant tendency of everyday life to push us into conformity. Even if that conforming push makes sense for the other 360-some days of the year (after all, who doesn’t like civilization?), there’s a little flame of pride that every individual can hold in having created their own character free of the manacles of a too-often disapproving public-at-large. If a community of like people can have a way of celebrating that pride, of celebrating the diversity that exists among thinking people, and of allowing individuals to be individuals, who’s going to fault that??

    Don’t get hung up on the phrase “gay pride”. It’s just a phrase. Instead, look at what people do with that enthusiasm, both at parades and in everyday life, and see for yourself the celebration of just what Ayn Rand was talking about. It’s not pride at being gay or bi or trans or otherwise. It’s simply pride that a person can create their own character, their own life, without having to define it by a stereotype.

  • Travis

    The role of gay pride is to counter the stigma of being gay. Gays are making advances, but as you pointed out there are many places where they are still being treated unfairly. It is silly to be proud of being gay, but it is also silly, and more damagingly so, to be made to feel ashamed of being gay. Pride movements function as a way for groups, and the individuals who make up groups, to free themselves of the negative self-image imposed by society. There is a time and a place for them, perhaps the time for gay pride is drawing to a close, but it hasn’t arrived.

  • Rachel Garrett

    Ayn Rand’s comments on _Roots_ (I think it’s in _Ayn Rand’s Q&A_) are relevant. She thought the series gave American Blacks something they needed – I don’t know how she phrased it – not “mythology”, but something like “hero stories.” At the same time, she disapproved of the concrete ancestor-worship that was leading some people at the time into dubious genealogical quests to find their own family’s “Kunta Kinte.”

    I don’t think Objectivists need to be so wary of any kind of “group
    pride.” It’s true that there are groups which advocate a collective,
    tribal self-identification and feelings of difference and superiority
    based on group membership. But this does not mean that it’s wrong to identify with
    people who have a background similar to your own. Would you chastise
    Americans who say “I’m proud to be an American”?

  • Mathieu

    Gosh, i am gay and i have been saying this for years, but people shrug and leave when i start talking about this i guess that why i m single, I don’t like the all gay pride movement i found it offensive and disgusting …

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