A per­son to be proud of

Kim Rig­gins lives in Smyrna with her two in­cred­i­bly spoiled dogs and an un­healthy ob­ses­sion with Star Wars.

GA Voice - - Outspoken -

I will share a lit­tle-known fact about my­self be­cause shar­ing is fun. I love coun­try mu­sic. Well, let me clar­ify, I love old coun­try mu­sic. Not this new coun­try/pop/rap hy­brid non­sense that peo­ple call coun­try. I mean ac­tual coun­try mu­sic. Loretta Lynn, Con­way Twitty, Johnny Cash…that sort of coun­try.

Dolly Par­ton is one of my fa­vorites and my fa­vorite Dolly song is “Jolene.” Granted, the lyrics seem a lit­tle far-fetched. “Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, I’m beg­ging of you please don’t take my man” is not the con­ver­sa­tion I would be hav­ing with Jolene. “Jolene, it cer­tainly seems like you de­serve each other so take him, be­cause af­ter to­day he’s def­i­nitely go­ing to need a new place to sleep,” seems like the more likely sce­nario. Or maybe, “Jolene, you can try.”

I shared this thought with my friend and, to­tally mis­tak­ing my mean­ing she said, “Okay, fine. Change ‘Jolene’ to ‘Joe’ and beg him not to take your woman.” We laughed, but I couldn’t help feel­ing just a lit­tle sad. In that mo­ment I felt de­fined by my sex­u­al­ity. It dawned on me then that many peo­ple I know re­ferred to me as their “les­bian friend.” That was the im­age I por­trayed. I was “out and proud.” I was not afraid and they were not afraid to call me their friend. There was a time when I was younger and fresh out of the closet that my chest would have swelled a lit­tle with pride, but all I could think was that there was so much more to me than that. “Les­bian” was my de­scrip­tor but not who I was.

When we talk about “Pride,” we are talk­ing about the strug­gle of our com­mu­nity against hate, big­otry and in­jus­tice. We are

Septem­ber 30, 2016

talk­ing about the fact that we no longer have to be afraid or ashamed of who we are. What would that look like if we weren’t just proud to be gay, but proud to be who we are.

What if, when peo­ple ask, “Why don’t we have straight pride?” the an­swer was, “Well, why don’t you?” Pride isn’t about be­ing proud to be gay. I was born that way. There is no room to take pride in some­thing like that. I just am. I didn’t ac­com­plish some task that be­stowed the bless­ings of gay­ness on me. So, in that sense I am not “proud” to be gay.

How­ever, I am proud that I am no longer as afraid of what peo­ple may think or say about me. I am proud that in place of a big­oted, judg­men­tal heart there now beats a kin­der, more com­pas­sion­ate one. Those are re­sults of a very real strug­gle di­rectly re­lated to my sex­u­al­ity but have lit­tle to ac­tu­ally do with it. I am proud of the per­son that I am now be­cause of those strug­gles.

So, the ques­tion is, what are we proud of? If I am proud to be me, what ex­actly does that mean? Is it just that I’m proud to be gay? That isn’t enough. Not for me. I want to be more. When I die, will they say, “She was gay,” and stop? I hope not, though af­ter con­sid­er­ing that for a bit, it’s kind of funny. What if they re­ally did say that? Any­ways, there must be more and so I have to ask my­self, “What am I proud of?” and not only that but “What am I not proud of?” Then be­gins the ar­du­ous strug­gle of cut­ting away all the things I am not proud of like fear, anger, hate and self­ish­ness to make room for a bet­ter me. A me I can be proud of.

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