Earlier this week a GOP candidate for the Texas state board of education named Lady Teresa Thombs shared a photo calling for “straight pride.” When she was called out, she defended herself by saying that she loves the sinner but hates the sin, just like how we still love murderers but not the murders they commit. Because gay people are like murderers, I guess.
No. No. No. Lady Teresa Thombs, you’ve just made it worse.
While that murderer comment is bad, it’s pretty easy to demolish. Being gay doesn’t hurt anyone. Being a murderer does. That’s kind of the definition of murderer.
But let’s talk for a second about pride movements. (Also, consider this a warning to all of you who are planning on making white history jokes come February.)
The point of pride movements – be they gay pride, or black pride, or whatever – is to take back some legitimacy for a group that the larger society has deemed illegitimate. It’s a way for an oppressed group to own what makes them different and say that those differences don’t make them subhuman.
I’m a straight, white, cis person living in the United States. I’m only a penis and a few million dollars away from being dealt the royal flush of life. Still, there’s a lot of privilege there. I live in a world that values these things over the alternatives. Even if I don’t want to unfairly benefit from this, I do simply by virtue of being. This is why “straight pride” is insulting, and it’s also why you shouldn’t ask why there isn’t a white history. The world benefits being straight and white every day in ways that can be hard to notice.
It’s of course OK to be proud of your heritage. Those differences make the world a more interesting and wonderful place. They provide different perspectives and ways of thinking. However, if you come from a background (i.e. white, straight) that is generally valued more than others, you need to be careful.
This is true even if you or your ancestors never owned slaves. This is true even if you’ve never thrown a homophobic slur. Because the world as we know it has been shaped by the actions of people who did those things. Today’s national borders were shaped by colonialism. The United States is still trying to shake off the legacy of slavery. Homophobia was so ingrained that it’s codified in law. Even if you don’t want to benefit from these things, if you’re white and straight, you probably do.
None of this privilege makes you a bad person. I cannot say this enough. Just because you benefit from a bigoted history doesn’t make you a bad person. What does make you a bad person is if you try to wedge yourself into the conversation about an oppressed group’s issues and history.
There isn’t a “straight pride” movement because there doesn’t need to be one. Homosexuality has been largely erased from history, and we’re only just now starting to get it back. The gay rights movement has made a lot progress over the past few decades, but there are still a lot of terrible people who suffer no consequences for being openly hostile to gay people. Co-opting pride movements is just another mechanism by which to hide or minimize oppressed groups, and it’s really not OK.
Photo Credit: Tim Green via Flickr