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Pride is an adaptive response to shame.

To grow up queer in America is to grow up under the shadow of shame. From our first moments, we are barraged with implicit and explicit messages of heteronormativity, cisnormativity, and patriarchal hierarchy. When a young person feels urges to deviate from standard gender or sexual expression, frequently the resulting emotion is a guttural sense of misalignment with one’s community. This is shame, and its voice can sound threatening to our very existence, like self-hatred, like unrelenting “what-ifs”, and it can stick with us well into old age. Often, shame drives us to conceal parts of ourselves in secrecy, which only increases its intensity. For many of us, shame lies at the heart of our most difficult times of personal growth and recovery.

The 1969 Stonewall Riots in Manhattan have become a collective monument in time for the LGBTQ community, representing the beginning of “Pride.” These events are a tangible demonstration of gender and sexually expansive people pushing back on systemic oppression created to delegitimize, criminalize, and eradicate their identities. Intuitively and through hard-won wisdom, we knew that radical visibility and joyful defiance are the most effective correctives to a hostile culture. Pride is the antidote to shame.

This wisdom is echoed in empirical research. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is a mental health approach developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan in the 1990s. It has since been shown effective in hundreds of studies for helping folks navigate dysregulating experiences like shame. At the Scott Hines Behavioral Health Clinic at the LGBTQ Center of the Desert, we often utilize DBT with our community to address the negative impact of minority stress. One of the principles of DBT is called “Opposite Action” which invites participants to change deconstructive emotions by doing the reverse of what they urge us toward. Misplaced anger might be reduced through kindness. Unneeded fear can be soothed through approaching. Maladaptive shame can be countered with self-exposure (pride).

For our privileged cisgender, straight, and gender-normative siblings, June’s yearly celebration of pride might be written off as superfluous or condemned as arrogance. Our lived experience tells us that these judgments couldn’t be further from the truth. We know that pride is the antidote to shame. When we show up as our full selves in the world —whether at a drag brunch, queer support group, a colorful parade, our favorite gay bar, or through a flag out front at home — we transcend language and culture and marginalization to reaffirm our value and beauty. When straight cisgender allies use their privilege as tools of solidarity against systems of oppression, shame is the casualty. This June, when the hostility against LGBTQ people continues to show up on front pages of newspapers, in city council meetings, and out of the mouths of public figures, may you see your pride as a bullous of hope. May your courageous expressions serve as vicarious pride for anyone mired in self-hatred and concealment. May we together know that we are enough.

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