Self-Compassion and Pride

Written By: James Rosser, LCSW

When Pride season arises, many LGBTQIAP2S+ people encounter questions as to why pride celebrations are important.  I’ve been asked many times why we need a pride celebration and why “straight “people do not.  For us in the Queer community, who experience micro-aggressions frequently, this kind of questioning is not new. It is the product of living as a marginalized group in a society that still struggles with any difference. It is a little like the idea of a fish swimming in water that does not know what water is. In this case, the water is the dominant cultural view of what is “normal.” It can be difficult for people to see the prejudices deeply embedded in our world because they are not challenged to do so. 

In the face of all of this, pride is essential.  A deep sense of pride comes from compassionately facing all the negative messages that follow us and the shame that arises when they revisit us. The kind of genuine pride we need is brought about by heartfelt self-compassion. This self-compassion comes from learning to gently, kindly, and lovingly show up for ourselves daily. As Kristen Neff, Ph.D., says, we need fierce self-compassion.  The self-compassion we need comes from learning to care for and love ourselves. We draw boundaries to protect ourselves (kindness), find others who are like us (common humanity), and clearly see and speak what is true (mindfulness). We ask ourselves what we need and listen to the answer. We take steps to fulfill our longings (kindness) supported by knowledge of our authentic needs (mindfulness). Mindfulness and deep kindness help us envision the world we want to live in. The world we all need to live in.

Unfortunately, after many years of struggle and significant changes in many parts of the world, the predominant lens excludes LGBTQIAP2S+ people, and resistance to acceptance is resilient. In some countries, it can still be dangerous to be out and proud of your queerness-including our own. In the USA, at least 32 transgender and gender-expansive people lost their lives to violent means in 2023. That figure only includes reported cases and does not include suicides related to identity. There have been some 520 bills introduced in state legislatures over the past year to block rights and healthcare for Queer people. Active bills in the United States aimed at blocking services to trans persons alone exceed 200*. A new trend in state legislatures is bills that promote LGBTQIAP2S+ Erasure – attempts to remove protections already in place. 

Internationally, this last year saw Uganda enact a law that results in life imprisonment for anyone who engages in gay sex and carries jail time for those who advocate for our rights. Several other African countries enacted similar laws. 

As we enter this time of pride celebrations, we remember pride is essential to supporting us as we journey through internal and external sources of harm and shame. What is required is pride born of kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. Pride sends a message to others worldwide that you are not alone—others are like you. Indeed, the essence of pride is self-compassion. Self-compassion equals pride.

(*Data from Human Rights Campaign and Human Rights Watch)

James Rosser, LCSW is a Trained Teacher for the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion. James has meditated for over 30 years and is a graduate of CMSC’s Teacher Training Program, InsightLA’s Facilitator Training Program and Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach’s Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Certification Program (Inaugural Class). He is a student in Spirit Rock’s Dedicated Practitioner Program. James leads secular and Buddhist-based mindfulness training, sits, and affinity groups (LGBTQI, Mental Health Professionals, Anti-Racism Practices for White People).  His interests are community building for the LGBTQI/LGBTQI senior mindfulness community and consciousness-raising around racism and heterosexism. 

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