I grew up in Abington, Massachusetts during the 1990s. My family home was not the standard. I didn’t really have neighbors. Yeah, there was a house semi-close to us but it only held an elderly couple – nice people but not the best playmates. On the other side of my house? A graveyard…quiet neighbors, really.
So I spent a lot of time in the woods, which surrounded most everything else. It was a great back then, the deer population hadn’t quite blown up yet so deer ticks were still few and far between. It was also fairly young, for a woods. Maybe 150 years old?
It used to be farmland and you could tell this as you walked through it. Stonewalls stood, long abandoned, cutting through the woods every few hundred yards or so. They’ve held up surprisingly well, despite not being cared for in over a century. While the landscape has definitely changed, these walls remain – as does the occasional farm antiquity.
When I walked in those woods – then and today – I am reminded that history does not have clear cut endings. Periods don’t end, get obliterated, and replaced with something new – not usually. No, instead the new typically grows over the old. It disguises it, but it does not remove it, not without effort.
Some of you may have guessed where I’m going with this. The woods I grew up in can be seen as society. They grow, they change. Species settle in and get pushed out (plants and animals). Vernal pools form, marsh deepens, only to have both dry in the summer.
But the bones of the land change much more slowly. The stone walls are still there and may very well be hundreds of years from now…unless someone makes the effort to pull them down.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, a movie called The Last Jedi came out and a lot of people saw it. While there were a multitude of reactions to the film, everyone agreed it was just a movie and that there were far more important things going on in the world…
Well, if they didn’t, then they certainly didn’t push a bunch of false narratives – during and after the film’s release…
This post is way overdue. I’ve been thinking of writing it for years – but somehow never put the text to page. Perhaps I was optimistic – I think part of me thought “Do we really need another straight person weighing in on gay rights? Does anyone really want to hear from me?” I think I also told myself that maybe the situation was okay now – that we as a people had embraced the LGBTQ community as equals and could finally put decades of hate and mistreatment behind us. I now see that I was foolish and complacent.
Hearing about the so-called Straight Pride parade happening in Boston (my home city) later this summer has made me feel many emotions – mostly sadness. While I welcome everyone to read this post, I confess that I am writing it for my fellow straight people – particularly anyone who feels that a “Straight Pride” parade is needed. My hope is to enlighten you by sharing my own journey of discovery. I’m not here to name-call and I’m not hear to insult – there’s too much of that going on right now. Let me just share a story and, hopefully, change your mind.
Where I Started
I grew up in Massachusetts during the 1990s, at a time when “gay” was often used as an insult. I called things gay to say that they were weird, lame, or stupid – and I used this word fairly often in my high school days. I won’t say that I was the only one, but I was part of that culture. I didn’t think much of it. I didn’t say it with hate – I didn’t hate gay people, at least not consciously.
As a teenager struggling with an avalanche of hormones, social anxiety, and mental illness – homosexuality was just something else that I didn’t understand. It weirded me out to think of people who were so different from my own budding sexuality – it made me uncomfortable to think about, but mostly because I kept thinking “man, I hope I don’t turn out gay.”
And it wasn’t because I saw them as inferior or wrong – I just saw all the shit they got. I didn’t fully process it (that didn’t come until much later), but I externally was like: These people are looked at as wrong in society’s eyes. Even though Massachusetts had just legalized gay marriage, we were surrounded by states that hadn’t, and I saw a lot of stories on the news that were essentially debating the humanity of these people.
I didn’t understand the hatred, mostly because I didn’t see gay marriage as a big deal. “As long as they don’t get married on my lawn – why should I care?” Was a common joke of mine back then. I thought I was being supportive – but I’m cringing writing this now.
“What’s the big deal?”
High school ended and I started college – going from Massachusetts to Montreal (or from liberal to more liberal). Canada had legalized gay marriage as a nation in 2005, so I just figured it was a non-issue. I was honestly surprised to see that Gay Pride parades were still a thing and that the gay village was a vibrant community in Montreal. I still initially avoided it – mostly due to insecurity.
But I started getting annoyed at gay pride. After all, what was the point? Gay marriage was legal – equal rights achieved – end of story, right? That’s what I figured anyway (in my glorious wisdom as a 20 year old). I started to think that they were being crass – pushing the rest of the world to not just acknowledge them but demanding our perpetual attention. I believe my thought process was “Yeah, you’re gay. I get it. Can we move on?”
I just kept thinking that “pride” was wrong. After all, pride is a sin in Christianity and shouldn’t we only be proud of WHO we are, not WHAT we are? Wasn’t that why Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was so famous? I wasn’t proud to be straight – I just was. Why wasn’t that enough for the LGBTQ community? Why did they still need all the public dancing and parades and attention?
During this time, I met two women who were in a relationship with each other and we all (somehow) became friends. They were patient enough to put up with my antics – including my continued questioning of the need for gay pride and wondering why it was all a big deal. It’s not that they didn’t call me out – they did, but they also kept talking to me, which, in retrospect, was huge.
Eventually, one even convinced me to spend time with her at Queer Concordia – the LGBTQ student area on my college campus. I had stopped by there a couple times before to see them, but never to hang out. I still saw it as somewhere that wasn’t “mine” if that makes sense. It was a place for queer people and, since I wasn’t queer, I figured there was nothing for me there.
But she had to stay so, if I wanted to hang, it meant I had to stay there too. So I sat – being bored at first – chatting with her and watching as people came and went. Queer Concordia was really just a couple rooms. The main one was a common space – there was a couch and a couple desks for computers. The walls were lined with posters and bookshelves.
It pains me on multiple levels to admit that, despite being a writer, it took me a while to really look at these bookshelves. It actually wasn’t until that day that I really took the time to read the titles and several excerpts.
And holy shit.
I was expecting books on famous LGBTQ people or inspirational stories about gay pride or something like that. What I found was book after book of “Hey, you’re gay. Please don’t kill yourself.”
It boggled my mind. Gay marriage had been legal here since 2005 – why did people still need these. It was that day that I realized being legal didn’t mean being accepted. It didn’t even mean widespread tolerance.
The Truth about LGBTQ Pride
It’s funny how you can know things without understanding them. Reading those books didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already “know.” I knew gay people had been mistreated. I knew they had suffered. But I knew it like I knew basic math. It was all abstract – all just facts existing in the ether. But reading the personal, often heart-breaking, stories of people (some of whom had since committed suicide) was different.
Because of a multitude of factors, including my own personal insecurities, I had always kept LGTBQ issues distant from me. I acknowledged them the same way that people might acknowledge a spider on a tall ceiling. I looked into it as little as possible.
Reading these books made me realize the simplest truth. These were people. Human beings who went through the same insecurities and hardships I did, only they had a major extra issues piled on. They weren’t “normal” in society’s eyes. They were the insult that people like me had been so casually tossing around. They were the other that we weren’t sure deserved all the same rights and protections.
Did God love them? It was a matter of debate and who you asked.
Holy fucking shit.
When I think of what a mess I was as a teenager (and really through my early 20s), I can’t imagine dealing with any more challenges. The fact that some of these people had taken on my problems and more…and without my caring.
It was that day that the apathy I had built up began to crumble and empathy and sympathy started rushing in.
You see, gay pride isn’t about being proud. It’s about being okay. LGBTQ people have felt not okay for so long – so fucking long – that they need sometime to feel okay. To feel like, “yeah, I’m gay, so what? I’m still human!”
As a straight person, I never had to feel bad about being straight. Every major romance I read or saw on television/or in theaters featured my sexuality as the norm. Every religion supported my sexual orientation. No culture criminalizes straight sex. I had never had to think about these things…because I was “normal” in that regard.
And I never considered what my “normal” was doing to other people, mostly because I was too busy using it to reassure myself that I was okay. Heck, at least I wasn’t an “other” – so, even at my lowest, I had that going for me.
It was a selfish form of humanity. I had claimed to care about these people while still not seeing them as people. I identified them as an “other” and that got annoyed when they started to turn that into a positive (or at the very least a neutral).
I was the asshole. I had given them only token awareness instead of human understanding.
From that point on, I never said “gay” as an insult again – and I started going along to Pride Parades. It was the god damn least I could do.
So to you out there who may feel you need “straight pride: – my question is, why? Which LGBTQ person ridiculed you for being straight or made you feel inferior? If you’re feeling left out now – it’s because you are doing it. You may not be doing it consciously, but you are separating yourself from them. LGBTQ pride isn’t about making us feel inferior, it’s about bringing them up to our level.
We’re all the same. We all need to react with compassion and kindness. If you want to live in a world where LGBTQ pride isn’t needed, then you have a simple job to do: support, support, support. Go to the parade – make a friend – have a chat. Denounce any who use their religion as a smokescreen to be cruel to their fellow humans.
It’s not hard. It’s super fucking easy. We’re not the front-line here. We’re the backup singers to musicians who are finally getting their chance to sing. And it’s amazing – it’s so amazing that children born today MAY actually grow up in certain places where being LGTBQ is okay – and not a source of shame.
It is our job as allies to support these people and to help them fight the unfairness they still face.
I promise, if a day ever comes when LGBTQ people rule the world and start saying “Hey maybe we should outlaw straight marriage” or “hey maybe we should start a religion where straight people are evil,” then I will be on the side of straight pride. But that day is a science fiction parody at best right now.
The rainbow is all colors guys – we’re on there too. Please reach out to the LGBTQ community and get to know them. I’m sure you’ll reach similar conclusions.
And – to all the LGBTQ people reading this – All I can say is I’m sorry for taking so long to see you as people. I love you all – Your spirit and patience are fucking inspiring. Keep being awesome.