This week, a Boston-based group, Super Happy Fun America, applied for a permit with the City of Boston to host a ‘Straight Pride Parade’, so named because, as the group believes, straight people are amongst an oppressed majority. In a world where they are subject to the politically-correct standards of the so-called gay agenda in media and government policy, this is seen as a necessitous step in reasserting pride in the heterosexual identity.
Not only does this development give us a troubling picture of the darkening social and political landscape of our neighbours across the pond, it also reveals something profoundly more worrying. The story rather lit the touch paper and, as people came out in droves either in support or opposition to the principle of a “Straight Pride”, it revealed a deep and regrettable misunderstanding of the very essence of the principles underlying the LGBT+ community’s need for a ‘Gay Pride’.
In a modern society inundated with commercialisation – especially in Britain and the US – where our media for the most part takes actively moderate or outright liberal stances to appeal to its consumers, it is easy to dismiss Pride as something that is quite ancillary to the more politicised aspects of the LGBT+ cause. With Pride flags plastered across everything from t-shirts to sandwiches, and festival-like performances from global superstars (at festival prices), Pride events become increasingly commercial and entertainment-orientated affairs – lacking a clear, and poignant political focus. Without this obvious political edge, it is also easy to see why “Straight Pride” enthusiasts feel rather left out of the party. Or, rather, left behind.
Advocates for a “Straight Pride” have long been heard, however it is only now that the movement has gained any real support. So, it must be asked why it has gained such a global momentum. The sociologist Anthony Giddens once theorised that as society undergoes rapid social change towards liberalisation, those groups deeply embedded within the traditional social framework turn increasingly to those values in a more fundamental fashion. And oftentimes, it is the cis-gender heterosexual men of our society – who once held a pronounced and acknowledged privileged social position – that aim to cling onto their power for dear life (one of the organisers of the proposed Boston event themselves has even been linked to a recognised right-wing organisation).
This perceived need for straight pride springs from the very ignorance that heterosexual privilege perpetuates. From a gilded cage of heteronormativity, the loss of the supremacy of the conservative heterosexual ideal undoubtedly creates feelings of deep insecurity that make moderate fundamentalism – such as the reassertion of the power of the ‘oppressed majority’ – an attractive and secure proposition. It perhaps provides the certainty that traditional conservative society offered them in the bucket loads. In the face of this ideological uncertainty, why shouldn’t like-minded straight people be able to come together to celebrate their dwindling influence and power in the world?
The answer is simple. LGBT+ identities, our experiences and our need for Pride go historically, idealistically and existentially deeper than the shallow commercial or joyful celebratory face that many may see. Pride does not arise merely out of the need to celebrate the LGBT+ community’s unique place within modern society nor to showcase the most beautiful and diverse facets of our rich culture. It also arises from a necessity for survival. As a community, we are faced with a historical background of degradation, intolerance and violence, where our rights of expression – the right to merely exist – were severely stifled.
Our creators and innovators have been imprisoned or interfered with by the state, regimes – ranging from the historic persecution by the the likes of the fascist Nazi State to, more recently, the country of Brunei – threaten us with the prospect of death, torture or extermination, and this week the shocking reality of the continued threat of violence against the queer community was reaffirmed in the attack of a queer couple on a London bus. Our positive experiences of being queer are often matched, or even outweighed, by the negative. It seems now that we are faced with a society on the edge of indecision, in which the acceptability of our identity and of our freedoms again becomes the centre for debate and comment. For us then, Pride plays an important role in safeguarding our community against its eradication from mainstream tolerance and representation. Its aim is to ensure against a regression into the past Thatcherite-esque nuclear family ideology, and to allow us a safe-space in which our unique history can be truly revered, respected and contemplated.
I’m all for equality, I really am. But I am also for realism. The LGBT+ community is a strong one – we are close-knit, diverse and proud. We are also vulnerable, and acutely aware of the majority’s ability to legislate against us, to turn our lives into political bargaining chips and the continued unease some feel as to our place in wider society. Until our heterosexual counterparts experience this existential threat, they have no need for a Pride. Join us as our allies, our friends and as our equals, but don’t forget to check your privilege first.
Words by Joey Lewin