June 4th, 2008

Me 2012


kc_risenphoenix wrote an interesting commentary on pride here. It's worth reading, but if I might summarize the main point, I'd say it's "Be proud of what you are."

It's not the way I usually think of pride, which is more like "be proud of what you've accomplished." I'm proud of having written two books. I'm proud of being financially self-sufficient. I'm proud of having an eleven year relationship with Lut. I'm proud of completing several online RPG campaigns. These are things I worked hard on. I didn't do any of them alone and I could not have done them without help and support, but they're still all things I can take some credit for achieving, and I take pride in that.

But the things I was born with -- it feels wrong to be proud of them. It's not that they're bad things, or that they're not worth celebrating. But they're not things I worked to achieve. I'm not proud of being white, or having German ancestors, or being bisexual, or having green eyes. I'm not ashamed of those things, either. I'm glad to be white and bisexual, etc., but they're not things that makes me feel proud. Which makes internal sense as far as it goes.

Except that there are other things I was born with that I am proud of. I'm proud to be an American, and proud to be a woman, and I'm even a little proud to be half-Jewish (the wrong half to be actually Jewish: my father is, my mother isn't). I didn't pick any of this, although I suppose I did in the sense that I haven't emigrated to another country or transitioned to male. But really, they're just happenstances of fate. I'm proud of my figure, and while to some degree that's something I've worked on by exercise and diet, the hip/waist/chest ratio that gives me an hourglass shape is mostly genetics, not anything I can take credit for. But I take some pride in it anyway.

And feel vaguely wrong for being proud of it. Glad, grateful, appreciative, celebratory -- sure, all that would make sense. But proud? Of an accident of fortune? Isn't that mere vanity?

In fact, I think being proud of being gay would make more sense than being proud of being a woman, because being openly gay requires courage and conviction. It's a struggle, and a recent struggle at that: a situation that's improved tremendously in America even within my own lifetime. It's gotten easier, but it's still not easy, not effortless the way being straight is. But I'm not proud of being bi; maybe if I were in a relationship with a girl I'd feel differently, I don't know.

But I do know that the emotion I have about being a woman isn't that different from the one I have about writing two books. The former is not as intense or unconflicted, but still: pride.

And ... I don't know how I feel about that. I want two different words, one that means pride-in-accomplishments and another that would mean grateful-for-heritage, to describe celebrating the things you are born with. But I don't know that the underlying emotion beneath the two is really that much different. Yet the latter feels like I'm taking unearned credit for something I had no control over, and that's what makes it seem wrong. I don't know how to resolve that, or even whether the answer should be "don't feel proud to be American" or "be proud of your green eyes, too." Pride is a difficult emotion, tangled up as it is with shame and vanity. Moreover, pride seems like the emotion most likely to lead to a sense of superiority and entitlement, neither of which are warranted or useful. And which I do not intend to imply: I may be proud of being a woman, but I don't see any reason why men shouldn't be equally proud of being men. Anyway, maybe that's why it's particularly hard to sort out.