This post was a guest submission by Corey Nyhus. Corey is a New York-based writer and activist focused on allyship, the power of rhetoric, and long-form poetry.
If you haven’t been living under a rock, by now you have no doubt noticed that there are, in addition to a whole bunch of straight people, a lot of people who fall under the LGBTQ banner in this world. Because we’re humans and humans are supposedly social animals, we will all inevitably interact, regardless of gender identity or sexuality. And it is my hope that I can rattle some neurons in Straight People Brains, to keep them from mistreating a large portion of their species. I know, don’t all line up at once, but this is basically a quick rundown of how to “increase the peace,” fight hatred, and not yodel heterosexually over the voices of queer people who need and deserve to speak their minds.
1) When Straight People Straightsplain “Butwhataboutstraightpride?”…
Now I’m not always the most alert person, but the last time I checked, I didn’t have a chair and derogatory slurs hurled at me when I sat down to have a meal with my partner in New York City. That would be entirely because my partner would be female, and I am male, and together we would be what is accepted. Queer pride is about showing public solidarity for the millions we refuse to accept. It’s about select people wanting to be comfortable in their own skin because frankly, a lot of Straight People throughout the world would like to see them brutalized for reasons spawned only from ignorance and hatred.
I had a conversation with a kid at my day job the other day. He said “Well now we shouldn’t have gay pride. Because of the marriage. They’re the same as us now. Shouldn’t we get a straight pride parade?” “It’s more about activism and identity,” I told him, and he shrugged and fell silent. I don’t know if he cared, but unfortunately someone like that is only likely to have a portion of their opinion swayed if they hear it from a straight voice—a voice they respect. And they’ll need to hear it over and over again. And on a side note, you can technically jump down the rabbit hole of Straight Pride groups on Facebook and Tumblr. It just so happens that, for some strange coincidental reason, that rabbit hole is a unanimous den for hatred against “Gays,” “Erosion of Family Values” and “AIDS.”
2) Oy with the “Heterosexual Yodeling”
Like I said, by all means, when hate or ignorance is being spread around you, use the Straight Voice—it’s the voice that hateful people sadly value more. But because we straight folk tend to forget it a lot, gay people can still talk on their own. And they do talk. And frankly they should be allowed to talk more. And they don’t need to hear people like me preaching and feeling self-righteous about it. Humble thyself before the church-and-family-destroying megalith that is The Gay Agenda. Now, if you are an “ally”—the phrase always sounded a little too buzz-wordy for my tastes, but call it whatever you want—your use of Straight Voice only applies to conversation with other straight people.
So listen to the voices of your loved ones—and in queer circles beyond your loved ones. The opinions that leave you stunned and beyond words are likely the most correct. If you try to shoehorn your own anxieties into the conversation, you’re just being a heterosexual yodeler—yodeling, I thought, was how people in weird green overall pants communicated with each other in the Alps at first. So my initial intention for the metaphor was “straight people, shhhh.” But according to my cursory internet research, yodeling was eventually incorporated into somber American country and blues and soared shrilly over the instrumentation, though it lost popularity around the 50’s. It ceased to be a language of the downtrodden long ago. Don’t try to bring it back. Queers aren’t your backing blues scale and you aren’t the frontman. This is America, it’s 2015, and you’re not selling cough drops, so stop. Offer insight only when it’s supportive. Use your voice to amplify, not to overwhelm.
3) Embrace the Weirdness of Abstract Compassion, and the Quest for Peace
How can we foster happiness and health if our civilization pushes back against it? I don’t know, but I think it can begin with us all understanding that our compassion alone has limitations. This one is for if you have zero personal stakes in LGBT issues—you have no loved ones who are queer, but you do care, and you educate yourself on the queer issues cycling through your newsfeed. I say to this straight person, you are, admittedly, in a weird spot. You feel compassion abstractly—you know hate crimes are vile, you know tormenting someone for their gender dysphoria is grossly immoral—you know the institutions are bad, but it all seems institutional alone, like it’s a metaphysical evil. You never have to clean up the blood. So you treat it with hashtags alone. Don’t get me wrong, that stuff can be great for showing symbolic support, but symbols just don’t hold weight after a little while, if nobody offers to physically clean up and push back. So for you, maybe write a stupid list to yourself, do some introspection, and get to know people out of your usual straight bubble. But don’t treat your friendship like charity-~-never forget that this struggle is very much a struggle to treat people like actual people.
And for the straight people with queer loved ones—family, friends, mentors—I assume that your love for them runs deep. You don’t want to see them hurt. You don’t want them to become a suicide statistic. Believe me, Straight Ally Reader, that love runs deep in me too. But our stakes will never be as high as the stakes of our queer loved ones. Their lives are immediately threatened by the deluge of hate. Our concern and anxiety about them is just runoff.