An Open Letter To All Those Calling For “Straight Pride”
It’s time to take a seat and reflect on what it means to be queer
Ever since Pride Month came into existence and began to achieve international recognition, we’ve all heard that same line that gets thrown around year after year whenever rainbow flags start to appear: “if LGBTQ+ people can have pride, why can’t we have straight pride?” While it’s the sort of phrase that has been traditionally relegated to Twitter brawls and “devil’s advocate”-type conversations, this year it appears the once-unthinkable concept will very likely be turned into a reality — thanks to an organisation called Super Happy Fun America, “Straight Pride” will come to Boston this August, aiming to “create spaces for people of all identities to embrace the vibrancy of the straight community.” The group even boast their own “blue and pink” flag, one which they claim has “represented our community for 0.4 years.” Yikes.
Of course, to give too much importance to what is clearly a desperately-cynical publicity stunt would be to play right into these people’s hands. The set date of Boston’s “Straight Pride” is only “tentative[ly]” marked as 31 August, and given the organisation vice-president Mark Sahady’s rather pitiful record, which includes hosting a 2017 “Rally for the Republic” that saw less than one hundred attendees, it’s unlikely much, if anything, will come of this. Nonetheless, it’s vital not to underestimate the more powerful, widespread sentiment which lies behind such gimmicky events.
Across the Western world, we’re seeing an alarming rise in far-right populism, which has always gone hand in hand with queerphobia. Hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community are on the rise both in Britain and across the pond, and right-wing governments are taking increasing measures to erase queer identities from the public sphere. After successfully pushing for a ban on transgender people in the military and even attempting to remove the category from legal definitions, US President Donald Trump and his administration have refused to fly the rainbow flag on the White House this Pride Month.
But in spite of all this, many people still do not fundamentally understand the concept of “pride”. They’ll argue it’s either a superfluous by-product of the recent “SJW snowflake madness” and endemic “identity politics” culture, or some kind of attempt to impose a type of “queer privilege” at the disadvantage of the heterosexual, cisgender majority whose voices are being increasingly silenced. As such, I would like to share my open letter which is addressed not only to those in Boston planning the “Straight Pride” march this summer, but to all of those who may casually support the notion or silently complain of “reverse discrimination” anytime Pride Month comes up.
Dear “Straight Pride” supporters,
I know you feel profoundly marginalised and oppressed. In a world which is being overtaken by ghastly rainbow banners and parades, you feel as if you have no space to express your cisgender, heterosexual identity. Everywhere you go it’s all about “gay pride” here and “trans acceptance” there and you ask yourself: “what about me? Where do I fit in? Why is no one acknowledging my existence?” It just seems so unfair that they can openly take pride in their identity, but you can’t.
Nevertheless, I’d like for all of you, just for a moment, to reflect on why “Pride Month” exists. I know — it’s something you’ve never really done before. “Pride” is just about LGBTQ+ arrogance and self-entitlement, right? But maybe, for a short instance, think about what it’s truly like to be queer. Put yourself in their shoes. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll understand where this whole palaver is coming from.
Imagine being a closeted gay teenage boy raised in a deeply conservative, religious family. Every evening, your parents take you by the hand in prayer, sparing a thought for the “gays” who should repent from their sins and give up their “abominable lifestyle”. At school, gay people are routinely mocked, name-called and bullied. At home, you fear that coming out might mean being sent to a conversion therapy camp, or even facing disownment in the worst of cases. At night, you pray that maybe tomorrow you’ll wake up straight, and all your problems will go away.
Imagine being a closeted gay teenage boy born into a largely liberal, progressive environment. You know you could safely come out but at the same time you realise that doing so will ensure that your sexual orientation will end up becoming, for many people, the predominant aspect of your identity. You’ll suddenly turn into her “gay best friend” or his “gay bro”, and suddenly your sexuality will be objectified as some kind of “trendy” accessory.
Imagine going through every day, feeling like you were born in a body that doesn’t really belong to you. As a kid, you were laughed at and derided for wearing clothes, playing games and enjoying activities which you were told weren’t meant for people like you. As soon as you decide to transition, you fear being groped, insulted or harassed every time you set foot outside.
Imagine being a lesbian woman, reviled for your identity but at the same time fetishised as part of countless straight men’s sexual desires. The kind of men who claim they could “turn you straight” if you just gave them a chance, who might harass you for turning down their advances or even beat you up in the street, but who would gladly fantasise about you and your girlfriend getting intimate.
Imagine being bisexual and constantly told that your sexuality is “just a phase”. You’re either straight and seeking attention, or just gay in denial. The mere notion of your orientation is a source of shock and confusion to many.
Imagine seeing how almost every billboard commercial, every successful rom-com, every popular TV programme does not reflect your sexual identity in any shape or form. Attempts to expand LGBTQ+ portrayal in the media will automatically be deemed a “political statement” and a part of the “gay agenda”.
Imagine knowing that the vast majority of people you meet will not share in your sexual orientation, and that you have to resort to LGBTQ-specific clubs or forums in order to safely find people to meet and date. While all your straight friends were learning about love and relationships since middle school, you’d have to wait until you reached university to have your first romantic experiences.
Imagine having to pretend your significant other is “just a friend” at family gatherings and reunions, to avoid upsetting your homophobic older relatives and “making a scene”, in the words of your self-purportedly accepting, “gay-friendly” siblings.
Imagine knowing that any minimal public sign of affection with your significant other will be deemed “inappropriate to children” and elicit the disgust of several onlookers.
Imagine having to fight for the right to legally marry the person you love, and having the validity of your relationship debated as part of a wider political conversation.
Imagine being born in a country where gay people are routinely imprisoned or even killed. Your only point of refuge is online chat rooms, and even then you know you’re running a major risk of being caught. You decide to escape and seek asylum in other countries, but in many cases will be turned down. In certain situations, the only way to avoid prosecution is to change your legal gender and undergo reassignment surgery.
Imagine growing up in a country that is “LGBTQ-friendly” and “tolerant”, but learning through popular books or films that homosexual activity was banned there until the 1960s and that its citizens, including some of its most brilliant minds, were either forced to endure chemical castration or face time in prison.
Imagine all of these things and then ask yourself, “have I ever had to undergo any of this myself?” If, as I can confidently expect, the answer is “no”, you’ll finally understand why pride exists in the first place, and why your attempts at constructing this phony “straight pride” are not only profoundly obtuse, but also immensely disrespectful to the countless LGBTQ+ people who’ve shed blood, sweat and tears just to have what you can so easily take for granted. It’s time for you to take a seat, rethink your sense of entitlement, and reflect on the immense privilege you have in never needing to fight for your right to love or be the person of your choice.
The entire LGBTQ+ community and the many allies who’ve helped their loved ones carry these crosses.