Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Pride and Context (A Conversation)

R: What concept of pride is specific to homosexuals, which must be celebrated? Are we supposed to be defined by a different concept of humanity?

Fickle Cattle: Sorry if I take this too seriously, pero napaisip talaga ako, and this has been something that has crossed my mind a few times. Taken at face value, it doesn't seem to make any sense, simply because pride in being gay is as silly as being proud of the color of one's skin or in the shape of one's eyes; a superficiality that would normally have no bearing on the worth of any individual; that is, it would not make someone more worthy or less worthy than any other person who has different attributes (or a different sexuality, in this case).

But that disregards the roots of the word in the history of gay struggle and activism, as well as the context from which it sprung. Pride is the opposite of shame, and the latter undoubtedly has been fostered upon the gay community as a cultural whip in order to force us into a mindset that it feels is "correct". And the use of the word pride, in the context of sexuality (and in the same way that it has been used in the context of race) allows us as a community to fight shame, and to undermine the standards fostered upon us by a social structure that refuses to understand the struggles of gay men and women at large.

R: Napapaiisip din ako sa gay pride, Fickle Cattle. I am gay but I have always been ambivalent about gay pride, or for that matter, cultural struggles. What's fundamental is the feasibility of identity politics, which I think, sounds good on the surface, but doesn't hold up as a useful cultural practice. It diverts attention from class to culture, and makes class struggle more difficult by compartmentalizing praxis via essentialist identity categories. Pride itself has the tendency to become the end, at a time when self-worth is easily accessible. We're used to hearing things like I am gay, I am Asian, and I am proud of who I am - concepts that strike me as mere abstractions. How about citing some actual actual accomplishments? I look forward to the day when historically and culturally oppressed groups will realize that there's nothing inherently inferior about them that relegates them to second-class status compared to the prevailing white (straight) male.

Fickle Cattle: I'm not really into cultural struggles as well, but I've noticed, and history has proved this, that governments and politics and legislation are shaped by mindsets that spring from a shared identity. The concept of gay pride, I think, is necessary not in its literal sense (that is, "pride") but in the consequences of its implementation. It wasn't that long ago when sodomy was a crime, and it wasn't that long ago when holding a person of the same sex's hand could get you killed. If the community bands together in a common cause (which we termed "pride") in order to fight "shame" (which manifests itself in different ways such as in mindsets, moral systems or laws), then at least we manage to limit the abuses a less accepting society would have inflicted.

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