As the Pride season ends, Karen Pollock asks why some people keep demanding they be allowed to have a “Straight pride”
Pride season is growing to a close. Angel wings and face-paints are being packed away, as school uniform ads remind us that the seasons will, inevitably, turn. This year we have seen many of the perennial Pride arguments, and explored some of them on our pages. Who is Pride for? Should police be at Pride? How can Pride be more inclusive of people who aren’t cis, white and/or not disabled ? Last, and very much least, comes “what about Straight Pride?”
There tends to be a tendency of LGBTQ+ people to roll their eyes and turn the page when yet another person thinks they are being original, or even radical in suggesting “Straight Pride”. The trope keeps recurring, partially because some people seem to think rights are like a pie; if someone gets a bigger slice, then their portion will be smaller. This is of course untrue, but we need to digress slightly into what privilege is to understand why.
Privilege is a term which is often misunderstood. It does not mean that your life is perfect, that you have no problems, or that you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth. Instead, consider ladders positioned to get over a wall. One ladder belongs to Jessica, who is white, not currently disabled, cis, not a refugee/ economic migrant and straight. She still has rungs to climb to get over the wall, because of her gender and class, but it is a shorter ladder than Rani, who is next to her. Rani is cis, not white, judged to “come from ” a different country to the one in which she was born, not disabled, and a lesbian. The wall Rani has to climb is higher, there are more rungs on her ladder.
Jessica did not ask for a shorter wall and ladder, she may well want to knock the wall down, she may fight for the rights of Rani, and campaign for better ladders for all. It doesn’t change the fact that Jessica will always have a shorter wall to get over, and a shorter ladder, she will always be more privileged than Rani.
some people seem to think rights are like a pie, if someone gets a bigger slice, then their portion will be smaller
Privilege is not an accusation, nor is it about saying someone cannot be struggling. Jessica still experiences very real oppression due to her gender and class. Privilege is simply about trying to get people to recognise those ways they interact with the world where the world does not make the wall higher from the start.
What does this have to do with straight pride?
If you belong to the gender, sexuality or relationship diverse communities then your ladder is instantly given a few extra rungs. How many usually depends on how much you deviate (and I use that term deliberately) from the norms society believes you should adhere to. Straightness, in cis people, is seen as the correct way to be. This idea of closeness to the desired norm also excludes aro and ace people, whose “deviation” is also judged to be lesser in the minds of aphobes. Society may pass laws, talk of acceptance, and tolerance, but within that is carried the idea that there is something to be tolerated, something which needs acceptance. Barely a day passes where one clickbait site or another doesn’t run a piece which can be summed up as “Look at these wonderful parents who didn’t disown their LGBTQ+ kid”. Not being made homeless, not being beaten, or even killed, not being punished for your identity, is seen as something worthy we should praise.
Privilege is a term which is often misunderstood. It does not mean that your life is perfect, that you have no problems, or that you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth.
Into this world of othering, of some identities being deemed lesser, even if we give out legal protections to some identities, comes Pride. Recently someone described their first Pride to me as “A victory parade just for being yourself”. The truth of this struck me. Crowds cheer you, corporations fete you, entire transport networks celebrate your existence, simply the fact you exist is enough.
The contrast is striking, from being told you are merely tolerated to being celebrated. It seems to be this aspect of Pride which the straight Pride proponents have seized on. They want their victory parade, their moment where they are told that they get a prize simply for existing.
The caption may seem harsh, a lot of people have claimed it is, insisting that it dehumanises a whole section of society. However it speaks to a truth about oppression and privilege. If some people have higher walls and longer ladders, for others the wall barely exists, it is closer to a kerb they step over without even thinking. This does not make them bad people, they did not ask to be born with more privileges, it is simply a fact. This lack of barriers impacts on their life as much as barriers impact on others, it gives them confidence, self belief, the idea they deserve to be treated well.
If Pride is in some senses a victory parade, it is one which says despite the daily aggressions, which lead to minority stress, despite being told you are something to be tolerated, you have made it. My tongue might be slightly in my cheek, but isn’t there something of saying you want a prize just for participating? Being straight, and sexual, and romantic, and cis, is the default, the expected norm, society is shaped according to your identity. No one expects a reward for not disowning their straight son. No one expects sympathy for having a cis child.
It might be argued that if privilege is not a pie, then how is anyone hurt by straight pride also existing. However this ignores that LGBTQ+ people are struggling daily to be themselves, that the victory is not inevitable. Some may have a bigger struggle than others, if their gender and/or sexuality intersects with race, disability and other oppressions. It is still the case though that when being cis het, or straight is the expected default there is much to celebrate in simply surviving as a non cis het person
If some people have higher walls and longer ladders, for others the wall barely exists, it is closer to a kerb they step over without even thinking
Which is not to say that all people, of all genders and sexualities do not at times need moments when they are celebrated for being themselves. We all need to be told that we are valued. If your life has included barriers,whatever they may be, you might need to hear that you too matter. However straightness is not one of these barriers. You might even say that every day is Straight Pride.
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3 thoughts on “Straight Pride Matters?”
Thank you for your well-argued piece on straight privilege. Privilege of any sort, however, needs to be considered not from the individual rungs hung on each of our ladders, but from the institutional structures that put the wall up in the first place. Audre Lord noted in her very eloquent way that there is no hierarchy of oppression, no “oppression olympics”. Why this rings true for me is because of the institutional structures that lead to privilege.
What straight (one may substitute any term here to refer to any oppressor) folks forget is that they have, intentionally or unintentionally, constructed the wall — a system of injustice, hatred, heterosexism — and thus have created the need for ladders of any height.
Thanks for your comment, and I agree, in trying to simplify I have ignored several important aspects of privilege, especially how people as Lorde says, do not lead single issue lives. I cut a whole paragraph about some people’s ladders starting from holes dug in the ground, perhaps in the desire to be simple, and maybe I could have kept it. My hope is that that even if it is an analogy which oversimplifies it may make people reflect, and then go on to learn more about how privilege affects all of us in different ways.