- a feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.
- the quality of having an excessively high opinion of oneself or one’s importance.
Briefly: LGBTQ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer—terms that are meant to represent a diversity of sexualities and gender identities. Of course, there are only five letters in this acronym and many, many more than five identities within this group. For the purposes of this article, I refer to members of the LGBTQ+ community; some members (myself included) identify with one of these terms, some identify with all, and some do not identify with any. It is not my intention to leave out or invalidate those who do not align themselves with any of these five identifiers, but instead to describe a group that, in the month of June, is remembered, acknowledged, and celebrated through pride.
Given the complex and often fraught history of LGBTQ+ rights in the United States, it is appropriate that the movement is summed up by a word of equal complexity. According to Merriam-Webster, “pride” has a myriad of definitions, but I will focus on two here: the first, bearing a neutral (or perhaps even positive) connotation, is “a feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.” Conversely, the second holds a pointedly negative connotation: “the quality of having an excessively high opinion of oneself or one’s importance.”
The word’s etymological history, interestingly enough, mirrors the movement it describes: pride, which shares its roots with the adjective “proud,” is derived from Old English prud or prut, meaning “excellent and splendid” as well as “arrogant and haughty.” In Old English, in addition to other Indo-European languages (including Old French, Greek, and even Late Latin), there is only one word for pride, and it bears both a positive and negative connotation. In its negative form, pride is, by and large, discouraged. Perhaps most telling is the fact that pride is the deadliest of the seven deadly sins; too much pride and humans will assume they are God-like. In its positive form, some amount of pride is encouraged: it is a way to recognize one’s own achievements, “qualities, or possessions that are widely admired.”
For a very long time in the United States, being a member of the LGBTQ+ community was not considered a positive quality. Even if one was proud of their identity within this group, one had the potential to face very real and very serious repercussions for openly and visibly defying the norms of gender and sexuality. A particularly salient example of such repercussions was the 1969 police raid and subsequent riot at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City. The raid was said to be due to a substandard liquor license, but police often targeted designated LGBTQ+ spaces at this time. The riot at Stonewall Inn is considered the start of the LGBT rights movement in this country because those in the community openly and actively defied mistreatment on the basis of their identities. For many today, the ability to be visible, and to have pride, largely stems from the actions of these activists who fought and continue to fight for LGBTQ+ equality.
Today, pride is not all rainbows and glitter. (It’s a fair amount of rainbows and glitter, don’t get me wrong, but there’s certainly more to it than that.) Pride, as the definition suggests, is warranted for qualities that are “widely admired,” and being a member of the LGBTQ+ community is certainly not universally accepted, much less admired. Persecution for these identities, particularly among queer and trans people of color, is still rampant. We must not lose sight of the fact that, within the LGBTQ+ movement, having pride was, and still is, an act of resistance. However, we must also remember to acknowledge that the diversity in identity, self-expression, and school of thought within this community is certainly something to be uplifted, celebrated, and—to those in the community—to be proud of.