Friday Philosophy: Pride (a photo journal)

It’s been a long hard work, trying to get back into the swing of teaching.  The course we are teaching only lasts for 5 weeks and is at a very low, introductory level (Computer Literacy), but that is where these students are.  The program is part of the New Jersey Equal Opportunity Fund, an attempt to rescue students who had fewer opportunities for advancement during their time in high school.  Most are from the inner city areas of Jersey.

Last weekend Debbie and I decided to march in the New York Pride Parade for the first time since we moved to the area in 2000.  We are, generally speaking, not designed for marching.  I marched in both the Dyke March and the Pride Parade in Seattle and in the San Francisco Pride Parade once upon a time, but that was back in the 90s.  I was so much younger then;  I’m older than that now.  Debbie is from Los Angeles originally, but never marched there.

Anyway, we gave it a shot this year in The City.  We didn’t make it all the way.  Having to stand in the heat and wait for 3 hours before we could start marching took most of the starch out of us.

But I took plenty of pictures.  The point of these words is to provide some wrapping for those pictures.

These are the people

There wasn’t a Pride Parade in Little Rock when we lived in Arkansas, though there was a Pride Festival for a couple of years.  It was pretty much a standard picnic, but with a rainbow motif.

I am vicariously proud of the fact that two of my friends in Conway, Ar have been the driving force behind the parades they have had for the past 6 years.  Go Robert and John!  John was my hair stylist.


One can’t just march in the parade as an individual.  One has to be part of a group.  Debbie teaches at City Tech as an adjunct and they had a group.  So there was our opening.

The City Tech contingent

(Debbie is on the left)

This first piece was a short address to the transgender community, as I knew it at the time.

The UBS Rainbow Arch


I’ve been known to catch flames on the issue of pride. 🙂  But it’s just my belief lack of pride in myself can’t really be good and pride in being me includes pride in who I am, pride in who I used to be, and pride in what I have accomplished.  Part of who I am is a transsexual woman.  Part of what I have accomplished has been to survive changing sexes.

The Quaker “float”

At one time I was terribly ashamed of what I was, so much so that I wasn’t a very functional human being.  I was so tremendously unhappy that in order to survive it, I had to stifle my emotions nearly completely…if one refuses to acknowledge that there can be happiness, then one can stay away from true unhappiness (at least, so I thought).  But one can only live that way for so long until one’s personality begins to fray at the edges.

So I put that old persona aside and tried to build a new one.  My first attempt at this was to try to build myself from scratch.  Three months later I realized that I was now pretending to be a woman in just the same way I had pretended to be a man.  That’s when I decided to let down all the barriers and just be myself and take whatever comes.

Float People Waiting

I’m no longer ashamed of “who I am.”  I can be ashamed of “what I do,” in theory, but I try never to do anything to be ashamed of.  I don’t have an ability to hate anyone, though I can find what people do distasteful.  I can be angry at times, but I try to direct my anger at its source.  I try to be nice to people even though I don’t expect them to necessarily be nice to me.

Sometimes I get upset if they aren’t nice to me, even though I know I shouldn’t take it personally.  I try to be helpful to others, do what I can to make the lot of the transgendered community a little better, feel concern about the lives of my brothers and sisters when they are having troubles, and feel happy when I hear that they have had good things happen to them.

Above all I guess I’m a voice of reason and a calming influence (at least that’s what Leslie Feinberg and others have called me, and who I to disagree with Les.  🙂 ).

Gay Israelis

I’m still searching for that happiness that I know is out there waiting for me somewhere, but now I have hope…which I had given up so long ago.


It quite often takes some time and experience in our new gender to realize that it is what we think of ourselves that is of paramount importance (and unfortunately many of us never do).


In the late 90s, I wrote a column aimed at the Arkansas GLBT community.  The following is one of  the pieces, which was originally posted to Daily Kos as part of Teacher’s Lounge in 2007.

Jerry Nadler (mostly)

A note:  In Little Rock, we didn’t have a parade.  It was all we (meaning the Arkansas Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Brothers and Sisters (yes, race was an issue as well), Queer Frontier (a community radio program), Little Rock PFLAG, and the Women’s Project, with support from local gay businesses) could do to muster up a picnic with a stage and open mic, with a few panel presentations and parties in the week running up to it.  We called it PrideFest.


From Outside the Gender Prison: Pride

Triangle Rising Newsmagazine

July, 1997 (which hit the stands in June…why it was called the July issue is arcane knowledge of publishing I do not possess)

We March at Last

It is June, the month of Gay Pride all over this country and Canada and in many other places.  As I write this, it is a week and a half before our local PrideFest.  It seems an appropriate time to discuss the pride issue.

No, I’m not going to discuss PrideFest. Pride is not an event. Pride is a feeling about ourselves that, in my opinion, too few of us really have. I’ve been there. I know what it feels like to wish that I could be someone else…anyone else…or perhaps wish that I were nobody at all…just so that I wouldn’t have to face another ugly day filled with perceived slights and abuses, real or not, heaped upon me by an unfriendly society. But you know what?  I got over it.

Nobody promised me that the world was going to be a kind place.  And it is not sanely conceivable that everyone that I meet is going to like me.  That doesn’t have anything to

Panels of the AIDS Quilt

in the windows

do with my gender identity or my sexual orientation.  It’s just the way things are.  Oh, sure, given that I’m a transsexual lesbian, I may have less opportunity to make friends with some people, but those people who would discount me as a possible friend because of that are not people who I would wish to have as friends anyway.  And, to be sure, people who don’t wish to have me as a friend are more likely to make rude or disparaging comments, but I can handle that…now.

Now, you hear me say? Yes, now!  Now that I have discovered that I can be proud of who and what I am.  When I first stated my pride in being transsexual to an email list in 1993, I got flamed for saying it.  I was told that transsexuality was a birth defect.  I was told that my pride was akin to being proud to have cancer.  When I first stated my pride in being lesbian, I was flamed for claiming that as well.  I was told that homosexuality was normal and innate and I shouldn’t claim pride in something that was out of my control.

The Long Line

My reality doesn’t have room for those positions.  In my reality my transsexuality is a variation, not a defect.  It is not a disease, but rather a state of my being.  My lesbianism is also a state of my being.  And in my world I can be proud of any aspect of my being, including these.

When we espouse pride in ourselves as les-bi-gay-trans people, there are those that would profess that this shows how hopelessly lost we are, because “pride” is a sin…one of the Seven Deadly Sins, as a matter of fact.  I don’t buy that.  The “pride” that is of concern in that arena is the opposite of humility…and the pride that I believe in is not exclusive of being humble.  The pride I believe in is that which allows me to hold my head up in the presence of those around me who would wish to drive me down.  The pride I believe in is the force that lets me live my life in the way that is best for me irrespective of the wishes of those who see my existence as a threat.  The pride I believe in allows me to be happy to be who I am.


That pride doesn’t exist for a day or a week.  That pride doesn’t exist for the month of June.  That pride is with me always.  And when people see me live that pride every day, they begin to understand what it’s all about.

Care to join me in this brand of pride?  Maybe if we we start living our lives as if we already had those rights we seek, people will see that we deserve them.


These guys over at the left?  Feh.

In the grand scheme of things, we will win our rights.  It’s only a matter of time.

The sad part is remember that some of us don’t have that much time left.


Okay, so if you get to the end of the pictures that follow, there may be a graphic and a poem.  Anything is possible.


54th Street

Kenneth Cole window display

UBS and Hunter College

Mother and Child

Looking Back

City Tech

Review Stand

5th Avenue

Ruby for Slippers


One step

at a time

one foot

in front of the other

ever forward


for equality


for justice


for honor

of our heroes

for freedom

to be ourselves

Heads held high

we march in pride

for a better future

–Robyn Elaine Serven

–July 3, 2009


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    • Robyn on July 4, 2009 at 00:01

    …since the landlady says we have to move by the end of summer.  But I’ll try to keep my spirits up for the duration of this evening.

    • Robyn on July 4, 2009 at 02:21

    …in Orange.

    Is it bad form to add the Recommended tag myself?

    • Alma on July 4, 2009 at 03:54

    Fits perfectly!

    Nice pictures too.  🙂

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