Waving the White Flag at Pride
The weight of shame around gender and sexual diversity is damaging to all of us. Is Pride the antidote?
If only declaring ourselves fabulous could lift the pain of being told there is something wrong with us. The trouble is, when we declare an ‘us,’ we’re creating a ‘them’ at the same time. Who is included and who is excluded? And then those who feel excluded create a new ‘us’ which creates another ‘them’ and the pattern continues. Apparently there are currently more than 20 versions of Pride flags to represent a range of identities, everyone wanting to be included.
Of course, we all want to feel included, embraced, loved and celebrated. The wholeness of who we are can never fit into any label, any category. Who we are is so much more than any image or story we might have of ourselves. But our beautiful subconscious mind can carry beliefs through years and years that show us only some limited, cartoon version of the full wonder and beauty that is within each and every one of us.
The pain of this shame – of believing there is something wrong with us, that we’ve done something wrong, that we’re not good enough, or whatever it might be – it can drive us to distraction. And so we see at Pride events, tremendous consumption of alcohol and other substances. Or searching for something in sex or shopping. If we believe, on some level, that we are lacking in some way, then we keep searching for what seems to be missing.
I’m sorry to say that corporations take advantage of this, trying to increase profits (i.e., inequality) by joining in the celebration of ‘Pride’. If someone really honours who we are, they aren’t trying to get something out of us. They aren’t trying to get us to buy something. They are simply celebrating the beauty of beingness that we all share. The glorious diversity of this life is sacred. You are sacred. I am sacred. All of life is sacred.
When we step into seeing from this point of view, through the eyes of the heart, there’s no possibility of ‘us’ vs ‘them’ – the basis for wars. And I’m sorry to say that governments sometimes use gay rights to justify bombing ‘backwards’ countries that aren’t as ‘progressive’ as ‘us.’ Unlearning racial supremacy, or any supremacy, isn’t easy. Unlearning gendered inferiority, or any sense of inferiority, isn’t easy. Letting go of hubris and shame takes time. They are two sides of the same coin. This unlearning, this healing, takes compassion, patience, support and love. Sometimes that love is gentle and sometimes it’s fierce.
Some of us may feel called this year to wave a white flag at Pride. The flag of surrendering the need to make our sex lives, our gender feelings, our personalities, our stories into a sense of an ‘us’ that is different from ‘them’ in any way. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick offers us as axiomatic (a simple truth) that: “People are different from each other.” We can all be queer which comes from an old German word meaning to cross. Our lives naturally cross all imagined borders of identities. No one fits in the boxes. We all trans-gress gender norms because none of us is the idealised image of a man or a woman. We can all be gay as in happy. Within us all there is a natural wellspring of joy. It can be felt in the heart. And sorry to say, probably none of us can really be straight because life doesn’t flow in straight lines. It twists and turns and circles around again to familiar places, seen with deeper awareness and insight from before.
We all have the attractions we have. The desires we feel. The love that expresses itself through us, each in our own way. What if instead of Pride, we could simply have a celebration of Love?
White light contains all the colours of the rainbow which we see when it passes through the prism. The rainbow in nature fills us with awe because we see revealed what is hidden in ‘ordinary’ light. And we see the rainbow in the brilliant white of opals and diamonds. We are all gems without any real need to show ourselves as more special, brilliant or unique than anyone else. And if we are feeling that need in some way, it means we have yet to fully discover the beauty of ourselves. This discovery can take time. May we all be patient with ourselves and each other.
Now some will want the rainbows, the triangles, the circles, the colours, the markers of being one of these or one of those. How beautiful those colours and shapes all are. There’s something that can feel safe, in a way, in being part of a group with a shared identity.
My own experience is that identity has never been safe because it always creates the border, the outsider, the other. There’s something beyond all this that’s deeper, wider, and more open to all of life than any identity. Something felt in the heart. Thank you, Eve, for reminding us that we’re all simply different from each other. There’s no need to put anyone on a pedestal or to put anyone down for the way they appear in the world. These imagined hierarchies cause so much suffering and help no one.
As I prepare for Pride Shetland this weekend, I hope I am able to let the white flag of peace, of surrender, carry me. May I love myself so deeply and fully that I see everyone only through the eyes of love. Perhaps love is the antidote to shame. Just Love.
Vishwam is a former organiser of Pride Scotland (1999-2000). This year he is part of a team organising the first Heart Festival near Bath 24-27th August. It is, as you might guess, a celebration of Love. You can find out more at HeartFestival.co.uk