I Shall Celebrate Pride By Just Being Some Boring Straight Guy
Enjoy your celebration that is not mine!
It’s Pride Month, and you know what that means: trite, tossed-off statements of support from mega-corporations. The titans of capitalism are using their stature to tell the world in a bold, clear voice: “The idea of a doing tweet or something came up in a meeting and the boss said ‘fine, whatever’”. That principled spirit has led to resolute statements of support for LGBTQ+ rights from everyone from fossil fuel companies to makers of military weaponry. Not to mention whatever this is:
A limited-edition box with some sort of vague connection to a not-gay pop star from one of America’s top breakfast “food” providers. Just what the Stonewall rioters explicitly asked for. The Promised Land has been well and truly reached.
How should one celebrate Pride? I would like to know, because — though I will never use the word “ally”, the obnoxious label that is to white liberals what the One True Ring was to denizens of Middle Earth — I would like to be a good human being. In days long ago when I was tolerant of things like early-summer heat and standing, I would sometimes go to the well-kept part of town and attend a Pride parade. I would cheer and wave a little rainbow flag and politely say nothing when the festivities reminded me of this classic Onion headline:
What’s the right way to celebrate Pride today? I can’t say I have a definitive answer, and I’m loathe to criticize any effort that’s well-meaning and sincere. But it does seem like straight involvement in gay rights these days is often very silly. We were once a vital part of the alliance; now we seem to be blundering around in an embarrassing attempt to be interesting. Straight people might want to consider that sometimes, the best way to support gay and transgender rights might be to shut up and chill the fuck out.
Consider this survey, which has gotten a lot of attention:
Clearly, these numbers are capturing three things:
The momentous shift in attitudes that has allowed more gay and transgender people to live as their authentic selves;
Deep confusion; and
Embarrassing straight people trying very hard to be interesting.
I doubt that anyone would dispute that thing #1 has happened. You don’t have to be very old to remember when being gay or transgender was widely seen as a form of deviance, like being an animal torturer or someone who takes their socks off on an airplane. There weren’t any openly gay people at my high school, which makes me sound very old; saying “I knew no openly gay people” feels like saying “I saw Babe Ruth play” or “my first job was Zeppelin Conductor”. The fact that everyone from IHOP to the Marine Corps now trumpets their support for gay rights is a pretty good sign that times have changed.
I always felt that the main point of Pride was to push back against the mindset that forced people into the closet. Hence the name “Pride”, the slogans (“we’re here, we’re queer”), and the scores of mostly-naked men doing body shots off of each other in full view of everyone. Pride meant living without fear or shame at a time when those things were common. It seemed important that the crowds be large — which required straight people to show up — in order to say: This is all good. Those of us in attendance accept people as they are. If my presence contributed to that, then great, because that’s why I was there, though honestly the street food didn’t hurt, and as the cause went mainstream Pride also became a great place to meet women.
Maybe it’s not surprising that as society has broadly1 accepted the right of gay and transgender people to live without judgment or fear, parts of the movement seem to be struggling to find meaning. Which brings us to the second thing being captured in that Gallup survey: deep confusion. There’s a lot of mission creep in gay activist land these days. Some people seem determined to expand the “LGBTQ+” moniker past the point of parody; here’s a flier (albeit from some no-influence idiot) unironically referencing that “LGGBDTTTIQQAAPP” movement. Umpteen flags have joined the iconic gay pride flag, as evidence by this recent tweet from (eye roll) the Brooklyn Nets, and if you need those flags explained, I recommend this explainer from (sigh) the good people at Volvo.
That looks like what semaphore signaler sees on an acid trip. Or possibly something a Ralph Lauren designer would put together if they were trying to get fired. Of note: There’s a straight pride flag in there. The black-and-white stripes — that’s the “straight flag”. Finally, straight inclusion in the gay pride movement! Now, if only I can get the NAACP to represent me even though I’m white, or the Austrian Embassy to stick up for me even though I’m not Austrian and find their country kind of hilarious.
The core of the arguments that proved persuasive in Obergefell and Bostock (which legalized gay marriage and outlawed discrimination against transgender people, respectively) was that being gay or transgender is an ascriptive characteristic. That is: It’s not a choice. Remember when people argued that being gay was a choice? That period was from from BCE 200,000 until 2015. Thankfully, we’re mostly past the days when people thought you could “cure” being gay or transgender with an intense bible camp or some idiotic “scared straight” program. The “it’s not a choice” argument has won the day, thanks to its brilliant articulation by activists, lawyers, and a very persuasive Lady Gaga song.
But the expansion of LGBTQ+ dialogue often includes things that are choices. We now frequently discuss behaviors, not traits. The “Q” in “LGBTQ” is the problem. The “Q” stands for “queer”, and “queer” — which is not a slur in this context — can encompass basically any behavior that’s gender nonconforming. The Human Rights Campaign says that the term refers to “a spectrum of identities and orientations that are counter to the mainstream.” Okay — but what does “counter to the mainstream” mean? And what “identities and orientations” are we talking about? Remember: This term was added to LGBT, so it’s not any of those. Ultimately, attempts at definitions (see more here and here) don’t do much to build on the Webster’s definition of “queer” as “at variance with what is usual or normal”.
That opens the door for bored straight people. We can cram any gender nonconforming behavior under the “queer” umbrella. Are you a woman who likes football? A guy who paints his nails? Congratulations: You are now the same as a person born with a characteristic that at an absolute minimum complicated their life and who very likely faced serious discrimination. You’re just like my gay friend whose family is from Pakistan, Guy Who Likes To Wear Jazzy Socks. Birds of a feather, you are. You should get together and swap stories; you can tell him about the time you’re pretty sure you got a sideways glance from a co-worker, and he can tell you about how he will never, ever come out to his dad for as long as he lives.
Obviously, this straight co-opting of gay identity is massively insulting. But it’s not unheard of. I don’t for a minute believe that 20.8 percent of Gen Z is gay; I believe that some of that 20.8 percent have rounded up minor eccentricities into a gender identity. Those lost little doofuses are aided by activist rhetoric that seems designed to be confusing. I’m not surprised that many gay people are annoyed by this; what surprises me is that normie liberal culture seems to tolerate it. We’ve nodded along as voices claiming to speak for the marginalized have blurred the line between fundamental orientations and minor proclivities. This seems to be part of the broader left-wing project to be completely duped by any movement that wraps itself in the language of social justice no matter how stupid or antithetical to the cause of actual social justice that movement may be.
So, here’s how I’m celebrating pride this year: By admitting that I’m just some fucking straight guy. I am not a beneficiary of The Struggle, the gains of recent years do not belong to me. I’m not going to seize on some gender non-conforming trait that I can use to construct a Saul Goodman-esque argument about how, actually, I am the one being celebrated this month. I’m going to recognize that the gay and transgender rights movement — once starved for allies — is now somewhat beset by straight people bumbling around and making it all about them. And I will consider that maybe the most supportive thing I can do this year is to sit my straight ass on the couch and play video games instead of crashing someone else’s party.
I will have to find some other way to be interesting. That is truly terrible news; I’ve been trying and failing to answer the “what’s my angle?” question since I was 13. I did 15 years of standup comedy — a field where it’s basically your job to carve out a niche — and I never came up with anything better than “guy who wears New Balance”. I’ve had brushes with disaster; a fedora was once purchased, and I confess that one night I watched a bunch of Jimmy Buffett videos to see if it appealed to me. I do understand the desire to not just be some random dude. But I realize that appending myself to the gay rights movement would be selfish and dumb.
Maybe the phenomenon of slightly-quirky straight people identifying as LGBTQ+ was inevitable in a culture that attaches so much weight to identity. For some on the left, marginalized identities have become so celebrated that they’re actually preferred. The worst thing you can be is some boring white guy, so people look for a loophole that allows them to say “actually, I am not that thing.” Seems dumb; seems like the opposite of the anti-judgment, all-are-welcome vibe that defined the left as recently as the Obama era. I choose not to partake. I’m going to admit that — for better or for worse — I am a garden variety, dime-a-dozen straight guy. Which might presently be the best way to support people who aren’t.
“Broadly” meaning “generally but not entirely”. I don’t want to deny that there’s still plenty of bigotry out there.