Living in the Intersection: Pride vs. Shame

Authored by Anisha Cooper, APC

When you hear the word “Pride,” what does that mean to you? For closeted folks, Pride is a sentiment not readily available due to the immense shame associated with typical prideful identities (i.e., race, gender, and sexuality), but consider this: How do YOU identify? How have these identities shaped your worldview and your interactions with others? And, are you proud of this identity?

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For the GSM (gender and sexual minority) community, June is a month of pride. Ideally, this month-long celebration provides a safe space for the entire rainbow spectrum; however, for thousands more, this month is a reminder of what they cannot be prideful about, and a deep shame emerges. For any group, understanding this shame is important. For you specifically, where does shame end and pride begin within the context of your identity? What does that mean for your mental health? More relevantly speaking, why is this even important?

Shame is a powerfully and debilitating force that can cause a person to feel invalidated in who they are. It can cause someone to place a hierarchy on their identities, rather than reconcile them through intersectionality. Yes! You can be black, gay, AND spiritual, yet the interplay of all these identities can cause a person to be doubtful over one specific label. Moreover, when this conflict raises questions of safety for yourself or others, this is the time to consider mental health resources. When shame encourages you to disconnect from your friends, loved ones, and hobbies, this is the time to seek help.


Dr. Brené Brown: 

“Shame derives its power from being unspeakable.” 

With that in mind, this is why Pride is such a necessary antagonist to Shame. To reiterate, June is a month about speaking out on this unabashedly. It is about promoting unity among a very diverse group of people who live day in and day out in the intersection of their beings.

Maybe you feel you can’t relate to this feeling, but think again. You’ve felt alienated, cast out, and/or overlooked, Maybe, you’ve done that to yourself, your own body. Take a moment to think about that area of your body that you immediately want to cover up on the beach. What’s RIGHT with it? If you’re willing, love on that part of you, realizing that it IS a part of you. It's part of your very make-up, and like the rest of you, it deserves to be loved and celebrated in the way you deem fit. Pride isn’t about arrogance or a haughty showcase of perfection; it’s about combating shame and celebrating our uniqueness. Today, I encourage you to celebrate (have pride) in yourself.