Aside from partying, volunteering and otherwise immersing ourselves in community, LGBT Pride Month can also be a time to look inward and reflect on the very notion of pride, and the myriad of different ways there are to live with pride. Some of TheBody.com's bloggers, guest contributors and other community members have shared their own Pride Month reflections here.
The conversation's not over! Whether you like what you read or have a completely different opinion, share your thoughts in the "Comments" area at the bottom of the pages you view.
To Tell the Truth
Every Pride season I think back to when I first came out to my mother. I was out to my friends and a few family members that were my age, and that was it. This experience was nothing like I expected it to be.
I was 13 years old. It was a day like any other. I went to school, came home, did homework and chilled on the porch for most of the evening. After a long day and dinner I decided to join my mother in the living room and watch TV. We didn't do much talking while we watched TV unless we were debating what program to watch.
My Stages of PRIDE
So this month is Pride Month on TheBody.com and, after thinking about the topic, I realized that I went through many stages of Pride in my 31 years.
Stage 1. NO PRIDE
Like many young, gay men, I was teased in school all the time. I was called fag, faggot, queer and so on. So I always viewed being gay as a negative thing. Something people wouldn't accept. It was something I thought I couldn't accept either.
Queer, Poz and Colored: The Essentials
My name is William Brandon Lacy Campos (talk about a heck-of-a-name). I was born and raised in Minnesota (bet you could guess that from my picture), though I had a bit of a nomadic childhood that took me to the Philippines and Missouri with stops back in Minnesota in between. My menu of ethnicities reads like the roster of member states at the UN.
I grew up in extreme poverty, precariously housed, and my family received public assistance. I come from illustrious stock. On my mother's side of the family, I am a direct descendant of Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams, and a cousin of Nathaniel Hawthorne. The former head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs under George H.W. Bush, Dave Anderson, is my cousin (I have never met him, and to his credit, he quit Bush's administration after one year).
Marching Toward the Meaning of Pride
When people ask me whether I'm "proud" to be gay, the question always makes me a little uncomfortable. Part of my discomfort probably comes from having been raised Roman Catholic, so when someone says the word "pride," the first thing that pops into my mind is an image of one of the stony-faced nuns from my Catholic grammar school, delivering stern warnings about giving in to "the sin of pride." Thus, at an early age, I was taught that pride was a bad thing.
And religious indoctrination aside, I'm really not sure I can be proud of being gay. After all, my being gay isn't some kind of personal accomplishment. I was born this way, so being proud of my sexual orientation would be a bit like being proud of the fact that I have brown hair. Can I really be proud of a personal characteristic, something that I had absolutely no role in bringing about?
Don't Walk With Your Head Hanging Down
The definition of pride is: a high or inordinate opinion of one's own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct.
The word "pride" standing alone can be viewed as someone coming off as a conceited, pompous, self-righteous, egotistical person. But, when you marry pride with words like honor and courage, it takes on a very different look.
First, I should let everyone know I grew up in a small city in northeast Florida during the 60s and 70s in a religious, conservative and military family. I also knew from a very young age I was "different" from the other boys, but did not truly realize what the difference was until puberty. But when I did, I knew it was something considered dirty and wrong. I was told by the church and Catholic schools I attended I was a sinner and going to hell for even having the thoughts of being with another male.
During that time period in the South, there was no "Pride" in being gay. There were no openly gay men or women in my city. In fact, there were only two small gay bars in the 70s, which both ended up being firebombed. Luckily, the acts of arson happened after closing so none of the patrons were injured.
The Gay Pride PSA That Never Aired
"Gay Pride" is easily confused by our culture with lesser values -- having the perfect body, drink specials, and the almighty dance floor. It must be just as confusing for younger gay men today to find "the pride inside" as it was for me a generation ago. Anyway, that was on my mind when I created this video, a send-up of earnest public service announcements and a swipe at nightclub culture. Here's hoping your quest for real pride doesn't bear the cost of my own misspent youth.
Living Out Loud
I have been living out loud, so let's get this party started!
I attended the 17th Annual Spirit of Hope Awards for Being Alive at the very glamorous, rooftop, poolside Skybar on Sunset Blvd. in Los Angeles. It's more than worth mentioning that Being Alive was not only the first AIDS service organization (ASO) in Los Angeles, carrying the history of the darkest days of AIDS; it also is now the oldest. And like most AIDS organizations in these hard times with constant cutbacks and threats of losing AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) funding, Being Alive has held its head above choppy waters thanks to the generous donations generated by their volunteers, clients and their family members and friends. They truly embraced the spirit of hope.
The Gay Pride experience has evolved for me in many ways over the last 20 years. Initially, I remember being 20 and nervous that someone, who didn't know about my sexual orientation, might see me at a rally -- though I was probably covered in glitter. Subtlety has never been my strong suit. Then, in the 90s in New York, Pride became less about the concept of pride and more about the parties. Not as political, but fun as hell. Personally, as I enter my 40s, Pride has a much deeper meaning. I understand the purpose of the events around the world, from the massive New York extravaganzas to the tiny marches in some of the most homophobic countries. For many of us it takes real guts and bravery to even be present. I applaud that! I've been to Prides in Sydney, Copenhagen, Madrid, Amsterdam, and virtually every major city in the U.S. They are all amazing in their own unique way.
My Journey to Gay Pride
I knew from an early age that I liked men's bodies. In central Florida where I attended junior and senior high school in the '60s, chain gangs regularly scythed the tall grass that grew alongside the state highway that intersected the road I lived on. I spent many afternoons hidden in tall grass looking through my father's army binoculars at the sweaty, shirtless convicts in striped prison pants as they toiled in the hot sun. When I went to the circus, I loved to watch the male trapeze artists in their tights and bare chests. Gym class was only bearable because of the showers afterwards. I still remember a blond god of a boy who caught me looking at him and took his dick in his hand to show it to me.
We asked LGBT community leaders and members throughout the U.S. how they'd answer the question:
Is LGBT Pride Still Significant Nowadays?
Thomas DeLorenzo, Publicist, Rising Law Student and TheBody.com Blogger, Los Angeles, Calif.
In spite of the fact that Will and Grace reruns are in heavy rotation on Lifetime, and the ABC prime-time lineup loves to include gay couples, Pride is relevant now more than ever. We must always take a moment to reflect on the struggles of the past, and thank those that fought them for us. We must also thank our brothers and sisters with HIV that literally fought on the front lines so that we would be able to have our lifesaving drugs. Pride is never over. Pride is never irrelevant. LGBT Pride is our own 4th of July. Like that holiday, we must celebrate it every year and make sure that the future generations of LGBT individuals never forget what life was like before gay made prime time.
Johnny Jesus Guaylupo, Intake/Outreach Coordinator, Housing Works, Bronx, N.Y.
Pride is definitely relevant in 2010. But is AIDS still the first thing in the agenda? I personally feel that AIDS has dropped down on the list in the agenda that many queers before fought so hard to put on the list from the start. We are celebrating pride and in the news we are hearing so much about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) and marriage equality as the main two issues to work on. Many gays have forgotten that AIDS is still here and the numbers are not dropping. Yes, we have better medication than before, and yes, people are living longer. But you must ask yourself did the rate of new infections drop? No, it has not; in fact, it has increased in young men who have sex with men (YMSM). We still have people dying from an AIDS-related illness. So, why is AIDS not the first in your agenda?