“Listen to me when I say, I’m beautiful in my way, ‘Cause God makes no mistakes. I’m on the right track, baby. I was born this way.” — Lady GaGa, “Born This Way” Born This Way
June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month and the Temple of Witchcraft is observing the occasion by marching in the 2014 Boston Pride Parade, proudly carrying our banner that says “Temple of Witchcraft: Love, Will & Wisdom.” We have this done for several years now, succeeding the Independent Pagans of New England, who carried the torch for many years before us. (Want to march with us? Check out the Facebook event, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or just show up at Copley Square before 10 am on Saturday, June 14th and look for our banner!)
What does it mean when we talk about “queer pride” and “Pride” as a queer mystery? Much modern spiritual lore suggests pride is a failing, after all. “Pride goeth before a fall” we’re told, and hubris, or overweening pride, is one the tragic flaws of many a Greek hero. For that matter, what are we proud of? As some ask, whether sexuality is nature or nurture, it seems largely fixed at a very early age, and certainly not something we choose, so it is an achievement of which we are proud?
Our pride is invested in different achievements. Through the mystery of coming out, we learned to say “This is who I am.” Through the mystery of ecstasy, we experienced the paradox of being a part of, and apart from, everything. We “find ourselves” anew and learn what it means to be who (and what) we are. As I mentioned in talking about the mystery of ecstasy, one of its key concepts is the return: We must come back from that state of ecstatic bliss, return to the Realized World of form, time, and change, and put what we have learned to work. That work, saying “I will create something better” is the mystery of Pride.
That “something better” is for our community, our people. Pride is not the aggrandizement of self, but just the opposite: It is humble service to a higher ideal, intended to elevate everyone, a dedication to smoothing the way for those who come after you. It is the creation of sacred space—queer space—that not only says “You are safe here” but goes beyond to say “You are special. You are loved and celebrated here.” Pride is having enough of a sense of self, a sense of worth, to not be satisfied with mere “acceptance.” It says, “I’m better than that. We deserve better than that, and I’m going to help make it happen.”
It is fitting that Pride is associated with the longest, and therefore brightest, day of the year, when the Sun reaches the peak of its power. Pride is about shining a brilliant light—not a spotlight on us, but a light that illuminates, a beacon others can see to guide them to the better spaces and ideas that we create. It is fitting that one of the pagan gatherings for Men Who Love Men in the United States is called “Prometheus Rising,” as Pride is a Promethean power: daring to steal fire from heaven in order to give it as a gift and liberate those kept in darkness, and accepting the consequences of that action, all because it is necessary.
Pride is the assertion of the Will, the power to demand change and to make it happen. Rather than accept what is, it is the ability to see what could be, and the determination to bring it into being. It is heat as well as light, the fires of passion, dedication, and, yes, anger: The patrons of the Stonewall Inn, did not act initially from a higher vision. They had simply had enough: enough of harassment, enough of persecution, enough of shame, enough of mistreatment and, for the first time, they fought back, and the community put the power of that Pride behind better visions of the future, a better world for themselves and those who would follow them. They marched for their recognition and their rights, and helped to earn them, passing the torch on to the generations after them, to us, to continue the work.
Pride embraces and seeks to create community in common cause. It’s a time for the diverse people of the queer rainbow to come together as one, not to quash our differences for everyone else’s comfort, but to celebrate our differences, from the mainstream community and even amongst ourselves. I have seen the powerful magick and sacred space this creates, when our community sets aside our cliques and artificial niches, and it is necessary for the pursuit of our common rights. As Benjamin Franklin observed at the signing of the American Declaration of Independence, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we will all hang separately.”
In that common cause, with our Pride, we raise up new possibilities and create a new and better world than the one we left behind upon realizing our differences and claiming them as our own. We celebrate who and what we are and use it, not as a stigma or source of shame, but as a source of strength and inspiration. Blogger Joe Jervis, activist and author of Joe.My.God, sums it up brilliantly in his annual Pride Month post:
Possibly you’ve heard the Jewish in-joke that sums up the meaning of all Jewish holidays? “They tried to kill us. We won. Let’s eat.” My Pride version?
They wish we were invisible.
A happy and blessed Pride to all!