Pride Month is here, and in the last five days I’ve already seen more than a few references to who Pride is or isn’t for. A few of those references I can agree with (say, for example, agreeing that Pride is not for empowered organizations who carry guns and wear uniforms).
But then the other thing happens. And it happens all the time.
The use of “straight” as somehow the opposite of queer, or as synonymous with “not queer.” I see it in books and writing (and even in books and writing from queer authors), I see it in memes, I see it in well-meaning slogans of support. Basically, once you look for it, you see it everywhere.
When I say queer, it’s important to note I’m using as wide an umbrella as I can with the term. Especially because of discussions like the ones around who Pride is for—and more to the point, who Pride isn’t for—it matters to be clear. Pride? Pride is for queer people.
So, when I say “queer” I’m including aromantic queers. I’m including asexual queers. I’m including trans queers. I’m including demigender individuals, enbies, pansexuals… The entire queer alphabet, is what I’m going for here.
Some of those queer people are straight. A trans man who is attracted to women absolutely is allowed heterosexuality/straightness as his label, and he’s still queer because he’s trans. Pride is still for him. An aromantic woman who is sexually attracted to men? Same deal. Straight can also be applied to romantic feelings when sexuality isn’t at play, meaning asexual queer people can—and do—refer to themselves as straight on the romantic spectrum, but they’re still asexual queers. Pride is for them.
There’s also the reality faced by people in queer relationships who aren’t queer themselves. If one person in a relationship is queer, that relationship itself contains queerness. Bi and Pan queers who are in relationships with straight people don’t suddenly become not-queer, and their partner(s) are exposed to the same queer-hating crap that rains down on the rest of us queers (with the added “bonus” of sometimes getting crapped on from within the community, too, which just adds to the suck). There’s an intersection happening here, and the reality of saying Pride is for a person, but not their partner strikes me as yet another faced of bi- or pan- erasure/exclusion. Queer relationships are queer. Queer families are queer.
Anyway. I mentioned earlier this month that “Love is Love” isn’t a singular rallying charge for all of queerdom (because, again, queer doesn’t mean romance), a flip side of that same coin is to remember that straight doesn’t mean not-queer. They’re not opposites. If you mean not-queer, some variation of those two words should suffice: “people who aren’t queer.” “Non-queer people.”
Making a new habit of language that includes queer people rather than gatekeeping some of them out—even by accident—is always a worthy endeavour. We’ve been changing our language since we started. This is no different.
(I’ll also note here: It used to be a combination of allo- (meaning allosexual and/or alloromantic), cisgender, and hetero- (meaning heterosexual and/or heteroromantic) worked to be specific about including trans and ace queers, but variations of that word has been repeatedly weaponized against asexual and aromantic queers, so right now I’m going to stick to the easiest and go with “not queer” or “people who aren’t queer” or the like.)