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ISSUE 121 VOL 13 PUBLISHED 3/7/2008

Sex on the Hill: Pride not prejudice

By Miriam Samuelson
News Editor

Friday, March 7, 2008

Of all our emotions, I think pride gets pushed to the side most often, especially in the United States. Yes, we can be proud "to be an American," proud of getting an "A" on a paper or proud of getting a pay raise, but how often are we actually proud of ourselves for just existing, for being who we are? We become focused on how much better we could be at something, on what we should be doing, that we forget how awesome we are just by virtue of being ourselves. Pride takes effort, acute attention to aspects of ourselves that deserve our attention. It takes daily practice -- an ongoing appreciation of what makes you special.

Okay, enough of the cheesiness -- let's talk about sex. How does pride relate to sex, you ask? First of all, pride and self-confidence (and the potential lack thereof) often manifest themselves in the bedroom. In 1999, the National Health and Social Life Survey found that unhappiness with life corresponded with sexual problems. Duh. If you're not confident, proud and happy in regards to your life outside the bedroom, how can you feel those emotions in sexually intimate situations? Pride in your body, your abilities, your relationships and your selfhood all affect the ways in which you interact with people, in and out of the sack.

Secondly, and more pertinently this week, pride relates feelings about sexual orientation and identity. In case you haven't noticed the deluge of rainbow balloons and lingering discussions about people's Drag Ball outfits, this week is Pride Week, a celebration dedicated to honoring the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and queer community at large. The week is held each year in commemoration of the Stonewall riot of 1969, during which patrons of the Stonewall bar in New York City resisted a police raid. This incident set the Gay Rights Movement into motion and has set the stage for GLBTQ individuals to obtain some (though not all) rights equal to those of their heterosexual peers.

Although most of us weren't alive for a lot of what the Gay Rights Movement has done since the 1970s, we can certainly see its positive effects and ongoing efforts in our culture today. Legal decisions -- such as overturning sodomy laws in several states -- have been made, thousands of queer alliances have been formed and education about GLBTQ issues abounds. On college campuses, GLBTQ students can, for the first time in generations, feel safe and accepted in a community of queer and ally peers.

A few straight students I know have questioned the need for gay pride. Why not straight pride, they ask? Can we not all celebrate our sexualities? Indeed, everyone can and should celebrate his or her sexuality proudly. But straight people have never been on the receiving end of discrimination based on their sexual orientation, and have thus never had to develop a way of talking back to culture or a way of asserting happiness with their lifestyles. As the NHSLS survey mentioned above reveals, acceptance of oneself and emotional contentment are key for healthy sexuality. Discrimination, hateful homophobia and the labeling of homosexuality as sinful are only a few of the negative social forces that GLBTQ individuals must consciously acknowledge and deal with in their personal lives and in their relationships, not to mention their sex lives.

Heterosexuals have social privilege. They can marry one another, and most do not walk in certain neighborhoods or areas in fear of their lives being taken because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. In light of Pride Week, it's crucial that those who haven't experienced discrimination examine their privilege. That's why the gay pride exists -- in the face of hatred, backlash and opposition, pride is a powerful counter-force that produces activism, visibility and acceptance.

I know not everyone is okay with homosexuality, and while that deeply saddens me, it inspires me to take even more pride in the achievements of the GLBTQ community, especially the gains the movement has made in the last 40 years. Our society has come so far in such a short time. Let's keep that proud momentum going.

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