Growing up pride felt like the worst of all of the sins. Well, I mean, other than the sins that involved whispers sex and bodies. Pride was the worst of the sins that we felt that good Christians were capable of. Pride was the one we were warned about.
Don’t be too big for your britches. Don’t get a big head. Don’t forget your place. God wants you to be humble. God wants you to give the glory to Him (again, in these situations, God is always Him).
We were told it in slogans “Joy means Jesus, Others, You.” Or the popular one of recent years, “I’m second.”
Self-denial was the best way to be a good Christian. Do whatever God wants you to do. Give up your own desires. If you’re good at something and love doing it it’s probably a test to see if you’re willing to give it up. So best just to give it up so God will get the glory.
So it was pretty complicated when I came out and there was this whole movement about being “proud” of your identity. Good Christians aren’t allowed to be proud.
And of course, that’s what the anti-gay folks will harp on: Look at these homosexuals being PROUD of their sin! They are flaunting their identity! They are proud to spit in the face of God!
But when the Bible talks about Pride the Bible is talking about people who lord their station over others. People who are oppressors and tyrants. People who think they speak for God. The Bible is talking about people who are cruel to others, who sow dissension, who don’t act in the best interest of the community.
It isn’t talking about people with a healthy self-definition. People who understand that God has made them special and good. People who understand that God has given them gifts to be used for the good of the community. When queer and trans folks talk about being proud we’re talking about our pleasure in being able to be who we are. We’re talking about being glad that we had the courage to come out. We’re talking about the joy of surviving a hostile world. And yes, we’re talking about being proud to claim our identities in the midst of a world that is constantly telling us we are less than.
But this isn’t the sinful pride of oppressors and tyrants (those crying about baking cakes and gay marriage notwithstanding). This isn’t the pride of speaking for God. This isn’t the pride of using your wealth to hold yourself up and pushing the poor toward deeper poverty.
What I came to realize is the opposite of pride isn’t humility, it’s shame.
What I was really being taught, over and over and over again, was to be ashamed. For taking up too much space, for daring to be a leader, for asking questions. For looking different, for loving who I loved, for using the gifts I had been given. The way we were taught about pride was as if to make its opposite humility. But we weren’t being taught to be humble, we were being taught to be humiliated.
These Christians didn’t just want queer and trans folks to not be proud (as in haughty and stuck up) they wanted us to be ashamed. Because ashamed people are easier to control. They are easier to keep in their place. They are easier to push to the side.
People who are ashamed hide. They sometimes engage in risky behavior. They sometimes hurt themselves. And the anti-gay folks would hold up that hiding as evidence of how sick and sinful being queer and trans is instead of realizing that these actions were symptoms of shame. They were symptoms of a disease that was being pushed on us by those very anti-gay people.
But people who have a healthy sense of self, who can stand in their own identity especially in the face of hatred, those people are dangerous. Those people fight to protect themselves and their communities. Those people feel that they are deserving of rights. Those people will unite and work to get those rights. You can see why this terrifies the oppressors. Because when people claim their space in the world, suddenly the oppressor feels their hold slipping a little bit. When queer and trans folks walk through the streets proclaiming their identity; that they and their bodies and their desires are good, the people who are afraid of that get a little more afraid because they see their power slipping. They see that queer and trans folks aren’t just going to go away. They aren’t going to hide anymore. They aren’t going to allow themselves to be sent to conversion camps or hide their relationships or not transition.
When people stand up and say “We will no longer be humiliated” this isn’t a sin. Itâ’s actually fulfilling what Jesus said his mission was: “That they will have abundant life.” When queer and trans people say that we are proud of who we are we are claiming that abundant life and living it to the full.
So go out there and be proud. Claim your identity. Live into the fullness of the gifts that God has given you. This isn’t a sin, it’s salvation.