After reading Karen Pollock’s piece about the “Straight Pride” trope, which covers the usual (and entirely accurate) analysis of why there is no need for such a thing, I got to thinking about the question from a different angle.
What would a Straight Pride actually look like, and what would it involve?
More pertinently, suppose that Straight Pride was not, in fact, a shroud or figleaf for homophobia and transphobia, with the intention of campaigning to silence those minorities, but a genuine way to affirm those who are cis and het as being valid in their own right.
The arguments in Pollock’s piece notwithstanding, I can see how some people might feel that validation or affirmation might be something they need. I will say that this probably has a strong element of class bias, in that the people who will most be exposed to per pressure on these questions are more likely to be middle class than working class. On the other hand whether in good fsith or not, I have heard the same sentiments expressed by those I would identify as from working class backgrounds.
Put simply, there is sometimes a perceived denigration of those who fit the norm. For example, the term “vanilla” is seen by some as derogatory, implying “boring” or “unimaginative”. In the same way, there are plenty of people who put out a message suggesting that those who are not at least “bicurious” are simply repressed, or dishonest with themselves so that to be cishet is automatically a lesser state of mental awareness or enlightenment. (We see the same narrative presented in some Poly communities as well.)
To be fair, this is often a phase people pass through while exploring their own gender and sexuality, and most come to a less judgemental conception of their differences so that it isn’t a genuine position of LGBTQ activism. But the narrative exists out there and because there are always people at that phase, it doesn’t just fade away.
So maybe there is a reason (though I would stop well short of saying a need!) to say “it’s okay to be straight” or “it’s okay to be cis”.
So what would Straight Pride look like, and what would it involve, if it wasn’t about saying “Straight is the best” but rather “Straight is okay like all the rest”?
I haven’t been to a Pride event yet, so my impression of the parades is based on media representations and descriptions by other bloggers. But the impression I get of the parades is that they are very celebratory. There are less flashy parts, of course, but it’s about being visible. What would be the lifestyle/identity elements of straightness that would match that? What would a straight person wear to say “look at me, I’m straight and comfortable with it”?
To be honest, I’m struggling to think of what that would look like. You couldn’t have wedding apparel because marriage is not restricted to cishets any more and using it would seem like claiming same-sex marriage would be wrong. The best I can picture is perhaps showbiz event gear: tuxes for the straight cis men, frocks for the straight cis women – although that doesn’t really scream “I’m straight” either. This is the problem: straight as the “norm” makes it hard to point to the best of looking straight, since everyone else is likely to have those things too.
Maybe the costumes aren’t the biggest point. Maybe the point is just to express being out and confident in one’s straight, cis identity? So what sort of placards and slogans would you choose for that?
Here’s the thing: in order to make it about “straight is okay” rather than “gay is not okay”, and to make it about claiming the cishet identity, you pretty much have to acknowledge the other in whatever you say, because you have to take “normal” out of the equation.
That means you need to not just be “going with the flow” but to have actually paused and considered who you are and what makes you straight; what makes you cis? It needs to be something that declares “This is me” rather than “This is normal” with the subtext of “This is what I see others doing.”
Unlike being gay, the “have you considered not being cishet?” question is a real one because cishet is what we see everywhere and (personal disclosure time!) for me that was a big part in my not realising I was bi and nonbinary/trans/genderfluid. I only learned that when I stopped to question the assumption that I was straight. But a person who is gay, or trans, is someone who has at some point (possibly very early in life) gone against the dominant heteronormative narrative of binary, exclusive gender and heterosexuality. Their life has been about trying to be cis or het, but the pieces don’t fit that way.
So to be Straight and Out is to declare oneself to be straight despite the pressures to be straight, not because of them. It is a radical declaration to say “I choose this” over “I was taught this”. (Another reason why “Born This Way” as a slogan is weak to campaign for LGBTQ rights, incidentally.)
So a Straight Pride march with placards saying “I Realised I Was Straight” or “I’m Happy With My Assigned At Birth Gender” would challenge people to look beyond the “obvious” reasons and think about how they identify, rather than just assume they conform. It would acknowledge the existence and possibility of being the other way as an equal option.
Such a confident declaration should also undermine homophobic and transphobic tropes that keep men (particularly) from associating strongly with one another in warmer ways, and seeks to exclude those who aren’t cishet from spaces. It would undermine the homophobic and transphobic trope of “trans panic”, for example. If a person is confident in their own sexuality, they don’t need to destroy that which is other and comes into contact with them, because the other will not change them.
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But this is not how the idea of a Straight Pride works when it is raised. Its purpose is not to prompt a more mindful association with one’s cisness or straightness, nor is it simply to say that straight and cis are okay things to be. The point even of raising such things is to re-establish cishet as “normal” and as a space to which nothing is denied.
When that changes, and mindful cishetness is a thing that people actually do to engage with themselves as themselves, then we can talk.