Celebrate Pride month by finding pride in yourself, then sharing with others

Todd WhitleyGrowing up in church, I was familiar with the verse from the Psalms: “… I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” But most of my life I did not believe it about myself.

Despite the things about me that were good — including those things that were different from other boys — I never liked who I was. In fact, I hated myself for decades.

My church, my peers, certain teachers, even members of my own family made me feel ashamed of who I was. Fortunately not everyone in my life was that way, and that is one reason why I believe I survived.

As a young father, I would always pray with my sons at bedtime and whisper over them, “You are fearfully and wonderfully made.” But always in the back of my mind, I wondered, “Do they know I’m a fraud?”

Toward the end of my five-year attempt at “ex-gay therapy” — where they tried to cure me of my “same-sex attraction disorder” — I decided I could no longer suppress who I was, and I came out. Admitting that my authentic self could be prayed away, cured or stifled no longer probably saved my life.

In the process, my well-intentioned but misguided therapist gave me some amazing words of advice on that day in 2008: “Your issue is not whether to come out gay. Your issue is whether you will come out Todd.” Undoubtedly, “coming out Todd” was a painful process but was the first step toward having a sense of pride — not shame — in whom I was created to be.

Six years of living out and in the open but bitter toward religion would ultimately lead me — kicking and screaming — to a faith community that would, every time the doors were open, in one way or the other, affirm that each of us was “fearfully” — or as I like to say fabulously — “and wonderfully made.”

Not perfect. Not without need to refine and grow. But OK just as we were. And that included Gay Todd, too.

Eventually, I became mostly OK with who I am, allowing a real sense of pride to take hold. Not the clanging symbol kind of pride that says, “Hey!

Hey — look at me!” (Though if you see my Facebook and Instagram, you might think otherwise.) But a kind of pride that I can describe only as an exuberant joy — kind of like a parade. And in that parade, my banner says: “Hallelujah! Look what God-the Goddess-the Universe, et al made me to be!”

And as we enter a season of Pride, nowhere can that be more ideally expressed than within community.

Parades? Absolutely. Pride parades remain one of my most favorite occasions! But let me provide another couple examples of what Pride means to me.

Pride can be expressed by a community of gays and lesbians on behalf of mostly gay-phobic British mine workers and in the process, not only change a union also change a country.

Pride can be expressed to respond to issues of police brutality, transphobia, economic injustice, sexism and a host of other –isms and phobias that plague our community and country. For indeed, gay lives, white lives, all lives cannot matter until black and brown lives matter. Until transgender lives matter. Until immigrant lives matter. Until women’s lives matter. Until the lives of the poor matter.

When those of us who understand and believe we are fabulously and wonderfully made say that to ourselves and to the world — that is pride.

Leveraging that pride collectively to ensure that everyone feels that they, too, are worthy of pride — whether they believe it themselves or are treated that way by society — well, that is a holy kind of pride that saves lives and makes the world a better place for us all.

So, as we celebrate Pride month, may we all be proud of the creation in each one of us and commit ourselves to being a community that leverages that pride one for another so that no one is left out or feels ashamed of who they are.

Todd Whitley is a local activist. Read his blog at tdub68.wordpress.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 19, 2015.