Today is Pride day, when the LGBTQ community throws a huge parade to celebrate their pride. Each year, I get a bird’s-eye view of the parade from my window. I revel in watching a community of people who embodies the freedom to be who they are. I know this isn’t the case for many LGBTQ in our country; New York City is a special place.
Many of us know what it’s like to feel like you can’t be yourself. We conform to expectations to be or act a certain way. Although I don’t pretend to know the struggles of gay and transgender people, I can empathize with them. And I also have learned a lot from the LGBTQ community.
In celebration of Pride day, here are three lessons I’ve learned.
(1) Live Your Truth
Although we associate the term “coming out” with gay people, there are plenty of people who are hiding some part of their lives.
I don’t think there is anyone on the planet who hasn’t, at one point in their lives, hid some part of themselves out of fear of what others will think.
In fact, in this era where we live our lives online, I know many people who carefully curate an image online and then struggle to keep up with that image. They hide parts of who they are, even from themselves.
Gary Vaynerchuck says that most people don’t take action because they fear what others think. That’s the surface reason. The deeper reason is that we fear the consequences that might result from what others think.
What people think of us is generally none of our business, unless those people are the gatekeepers for what we want. In that case, it may impact us.
That’s the tension.
However, the fear of consequences is based on an illusion that if people felt differently about us it might lead to a different result.
In the end, what other people do and believe is not something we can control.
So the choice is ours: to live our truth or to pretend to be something we’re not because we believe it will take us farther.
People in the first group are free. Those who are pretending are slaves to the illusion they create around themselves.
What I’ve learned from my gay friends is that “coming out” is about harnessing courage.
It takes tremendous courage to say:
I am no longer going to hide. I am going to live my truth. I accept that I can’t control what others think, or what they do. But I can control what I think about myself and what I say and do. I can control my choices. And I choose to live free, rather than hide in fear of what others think.
(2) Biology is not Identity
How we define ourselves matters. Our identity dictates our thoughts and beliefs, which influence our actions, which create our results. Those results reinforce our identity.
Telling myself I’m an athlete creates a set of thoughts that gets me to the gym every morning. Calling myself a writer reminds me to write.
How do you define your identity? Many people define themselves or others by their roles in our families, or by what they do. Others define themselves by a physiological or medical condition: cancer patient, autistic, ADHD, and so on.
Do you have a relative who is always complaining about “my [insert ailment here]”? That’s creating an identity based on a medical condition.
Many people put so much stock in their roles and titles that they don’t know who they are without them. And it’s a common to place expectations on people based on their roles.
Transgender people teach us the labels assigned to us by culture are not our identity. What defines who we are is not the circumstances of our chromosome, inner chemistry, or anatomy. Biology is not identity.
Identity comes from a place deeper within you.
You define your identity based on what’s in your soul.
(3) We Are Human Beings First
Our culture often sets up a trap of the “duality reality,” an illusion that our options are limited to this or that. Nowhere is this more pronounced than in issues of gender and sexuality:
- man or woman
- masculine or feminine
- gay or straight
People who are gender non-binary, like Asia Kate Dillon, who plays Taylor on Billions, refuse to conform to the cultural expectation that they must “pick a lane.”
This brilliantly removes the entire construct that oppresses gay and transgender people. If there is no male/female, then there is no gay/straight.
We are human. behinds first. We love who we love.
There is a lesson in this about removing the construct that gives rise to our suffering. If we feel trapped by the expectations that we “pick a lane,” we can find a way to challenge the entire premise of the options made available to us.
By removing the construct, they remove the issue of conformity and the suffering that exists around it. There is no conformity because there is no longer something to which they need to conform.
There is just spirit and soul.
There is only being who you are on the inside.
I live. I breathe. I am. I love.
When we can see each other as human beings first and last, then we can see what is most important: the soul.
That’s a reason to celebrate pride.