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Pride board had too much pride

The so-called Pridegate debacle started long before anyone awarded a bonus or fired anybody. It began when the culture of San Diego Pride became one of … well … pride.

Recently, Aaron Heier at GLTNN.com inspired us with a reminder of what the word “pride” really means. Heier used this definition:

pride: noun. 1. a high or inordinate opinion of one’s own dignity, importance, merit or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in baring, conduct, etc. 2. a becoming or dignified sense of what is due to oneself or one’s position or character; self-respect; self-esteem. 3. pleasure or satisfaction taken in something done by or belonging to oneself or believed to reflect credit upon oneself.

When you apply this definition to a community, as Heier did, it’s very inspiring. But applied on a personal level, it becomes more like the seven-deadly-sins version of pride. This was SD Pride’s real problem, and the lesson we should all learn now.

The Pridegate Three _ Phillip Princetta, Mike Karim and Carl Worrell _ certainly demonstrated a “high or inordinate opinion of their own dignity, importance, merit or superiority.” They definitely touted a “becoming or dignified sense of what is due to them or their position or character.” This was evident when they blatantly ignored their own bylaws, awarded bonuses, and fired their executive director.

In fact, these three had so much pride that it took a town hall meeting of hundreds calling for their resignation, public statements from several organizations, countless media columns, and a meeting with a state senator, the former deputy mayor and a city councilman to get them to relinquish their personal titles.

But long before improprieties were exposed, Pride was in trouble. They were impossible to work with. They demanded outrageous revenue percentages from community organizations that wanted to be a part of the official Pride event lineup, while offering nothing in return. They also used their website to post a blacklist of businesses that declined to purchase rainbow flags and fly them. The entire culture of San Diego Pride was one of “We’re San Diego Pride, and if you don’t like us, tough s**t!”

This prideful culture became abundantly clear when the Gay & Lesbian Times reported that Worrell wrote about his resignation, “It is sad to me that a group of pompous, spineless, politicos; pseudo-journalists; dinosaurs and fossils; and, pissant miscreants will set the tone for Pride.” [sic]

Set the tone for Pride? Do I even need to comment on this statement to solidify my point?

Ultimately, Pridegate’s lesson is this: Pride is not personal. It is a community phenomenon. Neither is San Diego Pride, the organization, personal. It also belongs to the community, not to any individual. Pride is not a title or a membership. Pride represents a future that we all seek to realize together.

This goes for all of our LGBT organizations. No one is interested in board members, committee members, or volunteers with personal pride. We need people who stand, fight, work, and speak for a community of pride.

Twice a year, I lead a course at Landmark Education called the Self-Expression and Leadership Program. Over four months, participants in the course organize community projects that make a difference for a community. One of the lessons they learn is that their project is not personal. I often remind them of this by saying, “You think you are here for you. You are not.”

As the community watches, the newly installed Pride board (and all of our LGBT leaders) should take copious notes. You are not here for you. You are here for the community. And pride should never be personal.

Note: This is an opinion piece, thus the opinions stated here are not necessarily the views of SDGLN.com or Landmark Education.

Arlon Jay Staggs received his Doctor of Jurisprudence degree from Mississippi College School of Law in 2000. He is a professional writer, business owner, professor, and activist. Even though his opinions are usually spot-on, they are not necessarily the views of SDGLN.com. He can be reached at arlonjay@arlonjay.com.