Yesterday’s top trending topic on Twitter was a hot mess. Here’s a look at that steaming pile.
Writing as a human refuse, I think I’m the perfect person to address just how much trash was posted to Twitter yesterday. In case you missed it, #HeterosexualPrideDay was the top trend on the social network for much of Wednesday. A lot of the posts associated were calling out the ludicrous nature of the celebration. In fact, “White History Month” started to trend as people began using it as the go-to analogy for breaking down just how ridiculous the concept straight pride really was. (See also: #AllLivesMatter.)
But there was a fair amount of sincere pride being expressed by heterosexuals. And, more notably, there was a fair amount of counter criticism to the commentary that straight pride is not only an unnecessary and harmful notion but also a trivialization of LGBT+ pride celebrations.
I’m so hesitant to even engage with this topic, but I feel like putting some of my own thoughts into words will help me organize the clusterfuck of frustration, consternation, and bewilderment that’s been swirling in my head since yesterday morning.
So let’s take a look at some of the most popular arguments in favor of straight pride from yesterday and break them down.
The Equality Argument
Several straight people were desperate to explain how the trend was a push for equality by them. And how brave of them to do so! To assert their right to co-opt the thematic crux of the LGBT+ movement must be a hard thing to find the courage to do, especially in the face of the the merciless oppression their pride faces every June at the hands of the LGBT+ community.
But seriously, this argument that straight people need pride because LGBT+ people have it is a case study in how and why equality is actually a poor term for the goals of this (or any) social justice movement. For some reason, there’s an assumption that ~*~equality~*~ means that everyone gets exactly the same thing, that we’re all advancing towards a better future.
This, of course, ignores the fact that equality for underprivileged groups is prioritized by activists because of the things these groups are lacking when compared with the cultural classes in power. To believe that arguing for a straight pride is a push for equality is to argue that all of the efforts the LGBT+ community is still making to catch up the straight world are unimportant or only as important as the continued advancement of heteronormativity.
It’s not hard to find heterophobic rhetoric in certain circles. But even when this rhetoric is sincere (i.e., not a rhetorical tool used ironically to capture the inherent powerlessness of heterophobia), it cannot be as damaging as homophobia and is arguably less damaging than straight pride. The idea that marginalized groups can somehow oppress privileged groups is not new; concepts like affirmative action, safe spaces, and trigger warnings continue to be attacked by those who believe that another person’s attempt for liberation is an attempt at tyrannical control of them.
But what these analyses miss is that a minority doesn’t have the power to enforce their attitudes on a majority in a democratic (or really any other) system. Being anti-straight, anti-cis, anti-white, anti-capitalist–these ideologies have no overarching systems (such as the ones of heteronormativity, cisnormativity, white supremacy, or pro-market capitalism) to make them dangerous. To use an imperfect (and probably problematic) analogy, they’re like bullets without guns.
Most LGBT+ people I know don’t have a problem with straight people being proud, but they do have a problem with straight people appropriating the concept of pride. LGBT+ pride exists because being proud to be out of the closet and under the rainbow is still a radical and revolutionary concept. Having a parade matters because many of us are still afraid to walk down the street on a normal day. Heterosexuals, as an overgeneralized group, don’t need this kind of self-conceptualization in order to find a way to survive.
Anyone making the case for equality in this instance is prioritizing a privileged group’s equality before a marginalized group’s. This is also called reinforcing oppression. It’s all summarized pretty well in this tweet.
The “Straight People Have Problems, Too” Argument
This is a really common tactic when people are criticizing social justice movements. By drawing attention to the fact that a group with privilege faces problems, people attempt to re-contextualize the struggle of the marginalized as part of our collective struggle as humanity.
Certainly, within a group as diverse as straight people, there’s room to explore the intersectionality. Black pride, female pride, Muslim pride–these are things we can celebrate because they’re people who have historically been shamed by the powerful. But heterosexuals, as a group, have very little to celebrate when it comes to their sexuality.
This is really a twist on the Equality Argument insofar as the people making it want equal recognition of their own personal problems. But, like the equality argument, the problem is that the struggles faced by the heterosexual community aren’t as dire as those faced by the LGBT+ community.
Many people point to heterophobia from the LGBT+ community as a form of discrimination. This is an obvious parallel to reverse racism that entirely misses (again) the systemic implications of things like racism and homophobia.
The Sexual Reproduction Argument
A lot of people shared the idea that only straight people can make babies, which is so really easy to shut down that I wasn’t even sure I would include it. But it’s easy to do quick and dirty, so here we go.
First off, it’s not love that creates children; it’s sex. Love is an essential part of raising children and it definitely helps make the initial stages of reproduction go more smoothly. But it’s not hard to figure out that you don’t need love to get sperm to an egg.
This same concept was expanded to posit that only straight people can reproduce at all. I hate to break hetero hearts (wait, do I?), but LGBT+ people aren’t inherently infertile by virtue of our non-conformity. While many of us can’t reproduce with our partner or due to medical interventions, coming out does not (yet) require mandatory sterilization.
Many LGBT+ people can and do reproduce sexually. In same-sex cis couples, scientific and social advancements have made it possible to conceive children. And for trans people, freezing reproductive material is common for those who can afford it. And, of course, you don’t need medical or surgical interventions to be trans, so many trans people still have the original functionality of their reproductive system in tact.
But there’s really no way I could make this point better than The Birdcage already did.
Thank whatever gods you want that this hashtag was more satire than sincerity. It seems like it might’ve even started that way. And even a quick search through the annals on Twitter reveal that the vast majority of responses were from people conscious enough to understand the problematic nature of the idea.
But in a social media age where almost anyone can find a platform, ideas like the satire here become harder to contain. Even as we can mock the people that took yesterday seriously, that doesn’t change the fact that they exist and that they could very well have a lot more power than us.
This is why, even if it is satire, events like this hashtag trending are a reminder to people in the LGBT+ community that the struggle continues, that the conversation is on-going, and that there are many, many people who still aren’t willing to listen.