Straight Pride is a warped philosophy
These movements ignore all the reasons
Pride came to be in the first place
By Sarah Spisak
THE buzzer rang and Luther Boggs answered the door, anticipating a cab. Instead, he was met with the smell of lighter fluid and a burst of flames engulfing the main exit of the bar. Patrons celebrating the final day of Pride week in New Orleans panicked, and 32 people died, trapped inside by the fire and barred windows.
The UpStairs Lounge arson attack of 1973 was the worst mass killing of LGBTQ people in history … until 2016, when Omar Mateen entered Pulse Nightclub in Orlando with a semi-automatic rifle, killing 49 people and injuring 53.
Most of the victims were LGBTQ people of colour.
Though these attacks are particularly horrific, they are not isolated. They’re just the worst expression of anti-LGBTQ sentiment that has hit our society in a long time.
Queer pride and the Pride parade are about more than just being out and proud. They are about overcoming this bigotry.
There is a lot of wilful ignorance among heterosexual people when it comes to the discrimination and violence against the LGBTQ community, and the Pride movements that fight for dignity and equality. Born out of this ignorance is the concept of straight pride.
“It’s problematic when people start to equate loss of advantage or privilege with disadvantage,” nurse Keith King says.
King, who identifies as two-spirit, holds a master’s degree in public health, specializing in the intersections of gender and sexuality.
“Straight pride is like a reaction to that perceived loss of advantage.”
Straight pride arose during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, as a response to growing visibility and acceptance of LGBTQ people in America. In 1990, conservative students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst held one of the first straight pride rallies. The event was promoted as the “Burn a Fag in Effigy” rally.
Thirty years later, straight pride supporters are still making noise.
The National Coalition for Straight Pride is a U.S. organization with chapters across the country. The organization focuses on Christianity and fighting back against what it calls the “LGBT War Machine.” According to its website, “straight pride is hence on the frontline of the Religious War between Christianity and its Satanism/Humanism opponent” and that the Straight Pride Coalition represents the “culture of life,” while the Satanist/Humanist (LGBTQ people and Planned Parenthood) represent the “culture of death.”
“It’s frustrating because it shows me that there is a loss of critical thought,” King says. “I try to keep an open heart to whatever they are experiencing, because those types of reactions must come from some sort of perceived harm, but is it possible for them to develop that self-awareness or to see the world through another lens?”
As a white, heterosexual, cisgendered female, I have come to realize how ignorant I used to be about LGBTQ issues. I have never been a supporter of straight pride, but I was unaware of how hard the lives of LGBTQ people – especially LGBTQ people of colour – have been and continue to be around the world, including here in Canada.
‘All of human history is punctuated
with straightness and heteronormativity’
This country has a long history of mistreating LGBTQ people.
In the 1960s, an RCMP program called the fruit machine project was used to try to eliminate all homosexuals from civil services, the RCMP and the military. Many people lost their jobs, and the RCMP collected over 9,000 files on suspected LGBTQ Canadians in order to surveil them.
In 1969, homosexuality was decriminalized in Canada, but anti-LGBTQ sentiment persisted.
Raids by the police force – similar to the 1969 raid on the Stonewall Inn in New York that sparked the gay liberation movement there – also happened in Canada. In what was described by the municipal government as a “cleanup” of Montreal in preparation for the 1976 Summer Olympics, mayor Jean Drapeau ordered raids of multiple bathhouses and gay bars in the city, resulting in riots that sparked the LGBTQ rights movement in Canada.
Homosexuals from other countries were not allowed to immigrate to Canada until 1977, when the Canadian Immigration Act was amended, and it wasn’t until 1992 that LGBTQ people were allowed to join the Canadian Armed Forces.
Although same-sex marriage was legalized in 2005, there are still assumptions made about ,and biases against, LGBTQ people and who they marry.
Nadia Guest is a bisexual woman who is marrying a cisgendered, heterosexual man.
“I never thought my sexuality would be questioned not only by my straight friends, but also by some of my friends in the (LGBTQ) community,” Guest says. “The assumption that I have abandoned my sexuality or that it has shifted to the straight side of bisexuality because I am marrying a man is disheartening and dangerous because of its erasure.”
For almost 10 years, men in Toronto’s Gay Village were under attack from serial killer Bruce McArthur, who flew under the radar of the Toronto police, who failed to connect multiple cases of missing men.
McArthur is considered one of the worst serial killers of gay men, having pleaded guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder. Twenty-five additional cold cases dating back to 1975 are still being investigated with relation to his activities.
‘My biggest fear when it comes to being outed is being unaccepted,
especially by the people I value in my life’
Thomas, who requested that his identity be withheld, is a gay man from a small town in the Middle East where homosexuality is widely reviled. Although he and his family have been living in Canada for most of his life, he says he still has deep connections to his Middle Eastern culture.
“I fear that my family would not accept my lifestyle and think that I am somehow betraying my culture. While my fear is completely legitimate, I often get the feeling that it comes from a place of privilege. I do not worry about being killed, or about my physical safety being hindered in any way.”
According to Transrespect, an organization that has recorded and tracked murders of transgendered people around the world, 331 transgendered and gender-diverse people were murdered between 2018 and 2019. The United States had the third highest number of murdered transgendered people, with 31, behind Mexico which had 63, and Brazil, where 130 transgendered people were killed. And, these are only the recorded incidents; Transrespect believes the actual numbers are much higher, since many countries do not properly record these statistics.
Since the Trans Murder Monitoring report started in 2008, 3,314 murders have been documented.
Seventy-one countries criminalize homosexuality and at least six of them implement the death penalty when it comes to homosexuality. Three of those are in the Middle East.
“It puts me at unease to say that homosexuality isn’t tolerated,” Thomas says. “But I feel that I wouldn’t be accepted back into my town if I were to fully come out. This has caused me to keep my distance.
“People in my town have gotten the impression that I simply don’t have the desire to return, or that I have forgotten my roots. But that’s not the case at all.”
‘I have heard of gay people being referred to as
gross, unnatural and not normal, amongst other things’
According to a 2015 survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, LGBTQ people – especially bisexual and transgendered women – face the most sexual violence. The survey showed that 47 per cent of bisexual and transgendered women in the United States have been sexually assaulted.
These rates were even higher among bisexual and trans women of colour, ranging from 53 per cent to 65 per cent, depending on their ethnicity.
“During my last trip to (the Middle East), my cousins were discussing this person they knew who they thought was gay,” Thomas says.
“My male cousin was talking about how he wanted to beat up the individual for being gay. His sister said how wrong it was, and how the world would be better off if all the gays would die off.
“Out of fear of being outed myself, and although I am not proud of it, I didn’t speak up in defence of the individual.
“I just sat there in silence, pretending to be OK with what they said.”
‘Growing up in a world where homosexuality wasn’t tolerated … made me
ashamed and guilty of my feelings and my sexuality’
The Canadian Mental Health Association and the National Alliance on Mental Illness say LGBTQ adults are more than twice as likely to suffer from a mental health condition than their heterosexual peers, due to discrimination, harassment, physical and sexual violence, denial of civil and human rights, and rejection.
“Most of my life I’ve felt numb to any emotions and felt like my heart was made of stone because I was repressing who I was,” Thomas says. “My sexual identity has also caused many struggles with depression, anxiety and severe cases of identity disorders.
“Who I was supposed to be according to societal norms and my cultural traditions was constantly at battle with who I feel I truly was on the inside.”
Suicide rates are also much higher among the LGBTQ community. The mental health association found that LGBTQ youth face approximately 14 times the risk of suicide and substance abuse as their heterosexual peers.
Seventy-seven per cent of transgendered respondents in Ontario had considered suicide and 45 per cent had attempted it. Canada-wide statistics from 2016 show a drastic difference with 11 per cent of Canadians having said they thought about suicide and only 3.1 per cent saying that they have attempted it.
Unfortunately, the health-care system, which is supposed to help and support LGBTQ people, has work to do when it comes to being inclusive.
‘I came out in 2007. In 2009, I got
my hormone replacement therapy for the first time’
Transgender people must be diagnosed with Gender Dysphoria before they can receive hormone treatments from a doctor. They must also see a therapist.
“It took two years for this gatekeeper to decide I was trans enough to get hormones,” says Gina Bennett, who identifies as an asexual, panromantic, trans-identifying woman. “At the time, he was the only therapist I knew of in Halifax that was dealing with gender-related issues.”
Current research by BMC Medical Education found that health-care systems suffered from biases against LGBTQ patients, which hinders access to inclusive health care.
“Family doctors have assumed I’m straight or assumed I’m gay, and then made other assumptions about me,” King says. “I had a doctor ask me once if the medication they were going to prescribe me would interact with my anti-retrovirals.”
The physician had assumed King was gay, and therefore HIV positive.
“It’s a huge assumption,” King says. “It’s a leap. It was super-bizarre. They were so embarrassed about it. They apologized profusely, but it was one of those again – implicit biases.
“And it’s super irritating for me.”
Bennet says she has experienced similar biases during her transition.
“(The therapist’s) secretary constantly misgendered me and, when I corrected them, they would say they weren’t going to call me by my chosen name, because it wasn’t my legal name.”
King and Bennet agree that they would like to see doctors and health-care workers have better training when it comes to trans and LGBTQ issues.
“It’s all about the way you offer (health care),” King says. “If you offer sexual health screening when they come in for a cold—
“It’s all about being appropriate and sensitive to the issue. The more people start thinking about where they are in terms of these things and maybe even talking about it with their friends and relatives, the further along we’re going to get in terms of making some meaningful changes in society.”
Throughout our history, but even today, LGBTQ people face problems heterosexual people do not, just by virtue of who they are. Although queer pride doesn’t exclude straight identities from participating, straight pride excludes queer identities.
“We’re making slow gains,” King says. “But it’s up to straight people and cis people to also make those gains and to have those conversations.”