It took me more than a little time to unpack my resistance to the idea of Pride Month. Enough so that I had to first interrogate my entire relationship to the idea of Pride, and where that came from. A large part of my life, the whole idea of Gay Pride month felt wrong and evil and sinful to me — terminology that wasn’t really popular in my upbringing. I mean, a Pride month is obviously a bad thing, right, because Pride is obviously bad, right?
I think in my case it ties into, of all things, the Care Bear Cousins.
When you’re raised by weirdoes, you get weirdo effects, okay. It’s not a matter of there being a correct cultural axis for these things. Some people get to say ‘oh, Dead Poet’s Society was so formative for me,’ but no, I get to point out that I at one point got trauma thanks to the Care Bear Cousins.
If you’re not familiar, the Care Bear Cousins are a wing of the Care Bears branding, which are branded mascots made by a greeting card company. I talked about them in the past, in the context of their accidentally genderfluid elephent, but they’re not important. They’re not culturally significant. These are toys made to make money for a greeting card company that wants to make the most superficial and forgettable merchandisable media in the world. But merchandised they were, and that meant that you wound up with a lot of cheaply made, unremarkable tat churned out by a media empire.
When I was a little kid, my sister got, at our local second hand store, the Sallies, a Care Bear Cousins book, which was about a little girl trying to handle getting better at team sports. In this book, she learned a valuable lesson about how it didn’t matter if she won, but what mattered was playing to the best of her ability, as best she could, a lesson she learned from two of the Care Bear cousins – a lion called Brave Heart Lion, and a cat called Proud Heart Cat.
Proud Heart explained, in this book, that it was important to take pride in what you do: To value what you do, to look at your own work and your own effort, and consider that important enough to try and do a good job of it. It seems, for all that it’s the most surface version of its complex idea, that that’s a pretty good handle on that particular position. It doesn’t matter if you can win the game, it matters that you did the best you know you could, because doing your best is worth doing.
Not a terrible message! Not a bad idea!
I wound up bringing this book to school and reading it at recess. And that was where one of the teachers took the book off me — maybe she was bothered that I was reading something so aggressively pink — inspected it and spent my recess lecturing me about how bad it was. It was bad, she said, because you see this cat? She was a demonic attempt to convince you that ‘pride’ was good.
Pride, after all, is a sin. Pride is about presuming that you know what’s best, Pride was about you being able to judge yourself and judge your own abilities! Pride meant that you, the person doing a thing, felt you had any right,s and any ability, to make judgment about whether or not it was good, and that meant you were thinking as if you were capable of judging good or bad. Only god was good, and only he could judge you. This was why Pride was a sin.
Pride was daring to think you had worth, and not to allow God, and others around you, to recognise that worth.
This little cat was here to make you think something terrible, and she was here to convince you it was okay to do, and she was fooling me! Fooling me, and I was bad for bringing this book to school, where it could present a stumbling block to other students, who might read the book and not realise how dangerous this little cat is. This woman was, I am sure, important to other people growing up in that space. Like for the longest time I was terrified of losing my temper (a thing I did a lot) because she told me that getting angry filled my blood with cancer, and eventually it would give my other cells cancer, and then I’d die. She was an adult, and that’s fanciful, but at the time, I believed it, and it gave me a lot of very real anxiety and sadness about the way my feelings were killing me… even as looking back on her I can’t help but think about how pathetic it is that she tried to instil in me a fear of Proud Heart Cat.
Because knowing yourself, trusting yourself, listening to yourself and taking pride in yourself, that was something bad. That was something she, and the voice of the church, wanted to stop me from doing.
Because Pride is bad.
The lesson was learned and even now I struggle with it. I struggle thinking of myself as good at things, or if I can really ever say how good I am at things. I don’t think it’s a matter of being my own harsh critic, because a critic would have meaningful insights into what was bad or could be done better. I just doubt myself, and doubt if I’m good enough, all the time.
Good job, asshole.
As a post-script, this article got me curious about the woman who taught me that, when I was a child. Like, do I have the name right? And I looked her up. What I found is that back in 2013, she was writing concerned letters to the local government minister to ask them to not permit gay marriage. Her arguments are exactly what you think — institution between a man and a woman, long history, all that, you know how it goes. ‘Homosexuals make up a small percentage of the population,’ that garbage.
This woman instilled in me a deep fear of pride, and wound up feeling so confidence in the certainty of her convictions she figured she should contact a government minister to argue about whether or not a person like me should have legal protection under the law.