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Feelings of Pride

Feelings of Pride


Feeling of Pride

I began writing this column during the month of June--Gay Pride Month. Therefore, it felt appropriate to focus my column on the concept of pride--what pride means to me as a gay man who is HIV-positive. For some reason I felt as though the column would write itself. It seemed logical that a gay therapist and author disposed to self-reflection and insight would draft an article quickly and easily, given that such topics are much like the air he breathes. However, this was not the case. Each time I sat down to write I went blank. My words were clumsy; my ideas, tired. I kept writing the column as I felt I should write the column. And it was flat. And I was frustrated. Of course, the issue of writer's block in this situation raised a question: Why was this topic so difficult to write about? At first I thought that it's because gay pride is an enormous concept, encompassing big ideas like identity, sexuality, oppression, human rights, and liberation. This certainly is partially true. Such big concepts cannot be expressed succinctly in a one-page essay. And the complexity of the ideas reflects the complexity of the topic, not likely to be reduced in formulaic slogans or quaint phrases. The larger issue, though, was that I was avoiding something. The clumsy words and tired ideas obfuscated an uncomfortable feeling I was trying to conceal: shame. The feeling is uncomfortable to experience, not to mention unpopular to discuss. Especially during Gay Pride Month, a time to celebrate who we are, not to notice the ways in which we are ashamed of ourselves. However, upon further reflection, I think the concept of shame is necessary for the concept of pride. The concepts need one another. How can one notice light if one doesn't notice darkness? It wouldn't be necessary to celebrate one's identity if at other times it's denigrated. It wouldn't be necessary to celebrate California's ruling on gay marriage if other states were not mobilizing to amend their constitutions to prohibit it. In an ironic way the very presence of shame makes the presence of gay pride all the more remarkable, for it amplifies the resilience of this community of which I am very proud. We survive. We thrive. We live to tell our story. I realize that not all of you are gay, and so I certainly do not want to monopolize the conversation in this forum. Therefore, I encourage you to also consider that every year in June (June 27 to be exact) is National HIV Testing Day and that the concept of pride is equally applicable to our shared illness. For most who test HIV-positive, there are at least moments of shame--but more commonly, years of shame accompanying the illness. And with good reason. In a number of communities and throughout the world people with HIV continue to be denigrated, pathologized, and persecuted. However, many of these same people lead courageous lives to address inequity in health care, to ensure that medication is sent to Third World countries, to strive for safer sex education in order to prevent the spread of this insidious virus. In short, we are resilient. And on a more local scale, although certainly not less significant, we tell those we love. We share our lives. We do not hide in shame, even though at times we experience it. I encourage all of you to take some time to notice not only ways in which you have experienced shame but also ways in which you have risen above it. Fransen is a licensed clinical social worker who is in private practice in Chicago. E-mail him at

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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