Latebian Life: June/July 2012

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Pride, pomp and circumstance

Latebian Life, By Kathryn Martini, PQ Monthly
My first Pride celebration was in 2005 and the one thing that stands out in my memory is being at the (now closed) Egyptian Room, where a woman looked me up and down and said to her friend, “What happened to our dyke bar?†It certainly wasn’t a very welcoming introduction to what Pride is about, but I didn’t let it bother me — too much. I can’t really help the way I look (very femme) and even if I could, I wouldn’t want to. I enjoy cute clothes, shoes, and makeup and there’s plenty of room for ladies like me in our ever-widening diverse community. I’ve managed to let go of that uncomfortable feeling of wanting to fit in. I’m involved with lots of people, activities, and organizations that validate me as a full-fledged member of all things gay and I’m proud to be part of the Portland queer community. I’m reminded of that pride each June. Pride has several meanings, depending on definition. It’s one of the seven deadly or cardinal sins (along with lust and gluttony and a few others that were detailed in a Brad Pitt movie). It can mean an inflated sense of self-importance or superiority (bad), self-recognition for an accomplishment, or the feeling of belonging and attachment to a group of people (both good.) As an emotion, it stands alone, meaning it is different than happiness, sadness, or anger. Pride is a personal or collective feeling, hard to describe but apparent when it’s there. Pride for our community is a time to come together, enjoy the festivities, see a parade, and reflect on the past year — kind of like a family reunion. Whatever the participation level, most of us at least pause and recognize its significance and know that a lot of people are celebrating who we are in the world. Pride also increases our visibility in the greater community; even Safeway has “Celebrate Pride†signs hanging from the ceiling! This year, I will be missing the parade and festivities, because on June 17, I will be graduating from college. I have a lot of things to be proud of in my life, some of which is pride for other people’s accomplishments, like my daughter’s academic and athletic achievements and my wife’s perseverance and dedication to anything she puts her mind to. Some are personal. I’m proud to be mothering strong and competent daughters who have all made it to their teenage years without any apparent significant damage. I’m proud of my small successes, the help I’ve given others, and the life I’ve created. Seven years ago, I wouldn’t have imagined my life now. I was in a very sad and confusing place, knowing I brought it all on myself. Not only was I dealing with the guilt of breaking up my family with divorce, I was grappling with my identity and trying to figure out what I would do for the rest of my life. My role was wife and mother, and even though I pursued outside interests, I never considered my own future or who I would become beyond taking care of a family. Slowly I started to build a new existence. I met my wife and with her help and encouragement went back to school, first at a community college and then to Portland State University, where I’ve been studying English and writing. Every term I’ve held myself to the highest standard and lamented every grade that wasn’t perfect. It was highly annoying to all of my friends and family, but it was what I needed to do. I almost didn’t graduate high school but for the grace of my geometry teacher, who gave me a “D†instead of the “F†I deserved. I failed out of college the first time, failed at two marriages, and believed somewhere inside that I would fail at this, too. I had nightmares that I forgot to go to class for the entire term or didn’t do any of the work and needed to take an exam; even during this final quarter, a remnant of that doom and disappointment was lurking just around the corner. I realize now that I worked so hard for good grades less because I wanted accomplishment and more because I feared failure. In retrospect I probably could have saved myself a lot of worry and grief by just chilling out and enjoying it more. I’ve heard other women my age say that going back to school would be too hard, too time consuming, and too expensive. It is indeed all of those things but not without reward. Learning what I have and earning my degree has been the most difficult but best thing I’ve ever done for myself and I wouldn’t trade the past four years for anything. I’m a different person now than I was then, because of education. While everyone else is watching the parade with merriment, I’ll be wearing a god-awful-unflattering-ridiculous-looking cap and gown waiting for my name to be called. I will walk across a stage in front of thousands of people to shake the university president’s hand and be congratulated. I’m pretty sure it will be the proudest moment of my life.  
Kathryn Martini is a writer, blogger, and columnist. She lives in the Portland suburbs with her beautiful wife and three teenage daughters. She blogs at and can be reached through