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Without Self-Respect, There Is No Pride

Without Self-Respect, There Is No Pride

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Photo by Ketut Subiyanto for Pexels

Reflecting on what the word "pride" truly means during an era of hate.

It’s that time of year again.

The word “pride” evokes many things — it’s historical and political. We take pride in our culture, our heritage, our backgrounds. For many of us, it represents a celebration of our complex intersecting identities and the ways they color our lived experiences.

It also calls to mind powerful displays of joy — upbeat music and vibrant confetti raining down on city streets. These images are inextricably connected to how we acknowledge Pride each June. But this year, in light of the unprecedented attacks on LGBTQ+ lived and legal equality, I’m interested in reflecting on what this word truly means.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines pride as “confidence and satisfaction in oneself,” equating the word to “self-respect.” So without self-respect, there is no pride. We could dive deeper into etymologies here, but I think this alone speaks volumes — especially to anyone who has lived through any sort of coming out journey. Understanding and appreciating each layer of our identities is integral to developing a secure sense of self-worth.

Loving ourselves is how we learn to speak up for ourselves.

This simple idea has fueled the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement. Perhaps this is why folks say “the first pride parade was a riot.” The Stonewall Uprising did not include glitter bombs, rainbow flags, and synth-pop blaring from a parade float — it was broken bottles, bricks, and years of discontent from being treated as second-class citizens. This moment marked a turning point when it came to LGBTQ+ visibility. Only a year later, on the anniversary of the uprising, protesters led America’s first ever gay Pride parade through Manhattan, chanting, “Say it loud, gay is proud.”

In a country that so often assaults our liberties and contests our humanity, self-respect isn’t just a political statement — it is a tool for survival. Pride is a product of our endurance. It is an ongoing endeavor, carrying us from one generation into the next, keeping us afloat in spite of challenging circumstances.

Our joy is our power.

It’s hard to believe how polarized the United States’ legislative landscape is right now. Pride seems indisputable in cities like San Francisco, which is often referred to as “the gay capital of the world” — meanwhile, on the other side of the country, Pride parades are outright canceled and restricted under the ridiculous guise of protecting children from “lewd” performances. This blatant attack on free speech is appalling and alarming — but if conservative policymakers think this is enough to slow us down, they are sorely mistaken.

Pride isn’t just a month, and it isn’t just a party — it’s a movement. Pride is about empowering ourselves to take up space, whether we’re working in Congress, marching down Christopher Street in New York City, or pushing our baby's stroller down Main Street in a small town in Oklahoma. It’s about realizing that respect isn’t some far-fetched ideal that we hope others will extend to us — it is the bare minimum we should expect. And we will continue to fight however we can — through protesting and parading — to defend our freedoms and enact real change.

Because our existence is a cause worth celebrating.

Stacey Stevenson (she, them) is CEO of Family Equality.

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Stacey Stevenson