On Pride

Ophelia Benson is often proudly childish in giving vent to her emotions, but rarely falls into the kind of childish pride with which Peter Boghossian asserts the “adult” nature of his comments.

I don’t know if Tim Cook really meant to claim that he is proud of his sexual orientation per se rather than of his ability to thrive in a world where even to survive is often challenging for gays, but regardless of whether or not he meant his words to be taken literally, it is meanly small-minded to question that pride by way of a sarcastic “tweet” or “status” comment.

Personally, I walk in the Gay Pride Parade more to support the latter interpretation (so well expressed by Greta Christina and many others who responded to Boghossian’s Facebook post), but even if Tim either misspoke or feels a pride that I could not share, I am sure he deserves a more respectful response than was shown by Boghossian.

I do think, though, there is a sense in which some expressions of “gay pride” may be unfortunate – either by being misleading as to the intent, or by actually claiming a sense of superiority that just perpetuates the power of prejudice by seeking to reverse it rather than to end it. And there may be a context in which such concerns can be usefully addressed.

Pride in one’s sexual orientation is often challenged as inappropriate because that orientation is not chosen or “earned”, but in fact pride in other unearned qualities (or even in being part of a group whose virtues one does not share) is often expressed – and generally acknowledged as somehow appropriate. People of great talent are often as proud of what they were born with as of what they have done with it – which makes sense if we consider pride as the emotion associated with a sense either of superiority or of having special utility for others or in support and defense of the tribe.

And that last instance may actually point to a plausible justification for pride in one’s sexual orientation per se. Just as the worker bee, while by no means special, nonetheless plays an essential role in the survival of the hive, so it may be that non-reproducing sexual orientations are associated with greater cultural contributions which enhance the viability (and maybe even survival) of our tribes and communities.

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