An Open Letter to Straight Girls at Pride Parades
Hello to the cisgender, heterosexual Pride-goers. I’m here, I’m queer, and I have a bone to pick with you.
If I remember correctly, I shared this article — with which I agree one hundred percent — to my personal Facebook page last summer. A friend recently shared the article again, and I still have something to say regarding the topic of straight people at Pride parades — especially when it comes to teenage girls and young women.
I want to douse myself in kerosene and rest my hand on a blue-flaming stovetop burner whenever I see very-clearly-cishet* teenage girls, half-naked and half-rainbow-clad, saying things to each other like, “Oh my god, let’s make out when we get there! It’ll be so funny.”
I have heard some kind of iteration of that sentiment every year I have attended Pride — i.e. the sentiment that non-heterosexual identities are novelties for heterosexual people to exploit and mock under the guise of progressiveness.
June 2012 was the first time I went to Pride, shortly after coming out to my mother as bisexual. (I identify as queer now, for it is a good umbrella term and reclaimed label. My wibbly-wobbly, sexy-wexy identities are so hard to define. #specialsnowflake) For years leading up to that point, I had a lot of anxiety about what she would say — and appropriately so, because she told me, “I love you and accept you, but I don’t believe you.” That bizarre sentence has been seared into my memory forever.
My coming out experience was not as bad as it could have been — after all, many others have faced much worse, obviously and unfortunately including murder — but my mom’s swift dismissal of my sincere confession was still hurtful. She rolled her eyes at any mention of gender and sexuality being prone to fluidity and existing on multiple spectra. She saw no validity in my admission to having a crush on a girl in my fourth grade class, since I did not have the vocabulary to explain my feelings at the time. (I had never heard the words “gay” or “lesbian” — let alone “bisexual” — until I watched Mean Girls when it came out in theaters. In regards to my crush, back when I was 9–14 and in denial, I thought to myself, Oh, you’ve got Asperger’s and you’re just being an obsessive weirdo because you think she’s pretty — prettier than you’ll ever be. You’re a fucking creep. That’s it. No further explanation needed. Also, prepare to be lonely forever.) She was unable to wrap her mind around the fact that I had kept my crushes on girls secret for many years for self-preservation, knowing how biphobic she was, remembering her saying, “I’d never date a bisexual guy because he’d probably cheat on me with a man. Claiming to be bisexual is a stepping stone for coming out as gay.”
A few days later, I mentioned SF Pride and my mom had no idea what it was. Her head was shoved so far up her heteronormative ass. I had to explain it to her. She looked confused and a little weirded out.
I started planning logistics and mentally preparing for Pride. Would the LGBT community accept me? Would I be considered “gay enough” to attend? Would I encounter gay people who are like the straight people who have told me that I am greedy and I should make up my mind? Why is the B in LGBT seemingly silent?
Some time after that, the day had come. I arrived at Walnut Creek BART and found myself surrounded by careless, very tanned teenage girls, talking about kissing each other because they thought it would be entertaining and “hot to any straight guys who might be there.” They completely disregarded how many people from all over the world have died (and continue to die) over the freedom to make such public displays of affection with their actual romantic and/or sexual partners.
Holy fuck. What a proverbial slap in the face. All of those girls were clearly straight, laughing in support of this mockery of same-sex affection. (That, or any queer peers present felt too uncomfortable to speak up.) I would bet so much money on the high likelihood that none of those girls had ever hidden in their bedrooms to sob over unrequited attraction to another girl. None of them understood the emotional weight that comes with lying about such an important aspect of one’s identity. None of them had ever feared judgment or violence on the basis of gender or sexuality. They stood there and laughed in privileged bliss.
Being pro-equality is not trendy — it is necessary. You do not get ally cookies for being disrespectful in queer spaces where you were never invited. Wear your fucking rainbow flower crowns and tie-dye crop tops elsewhere if you need an excuse to wear that shit so badly. (Coachella, maybe? Where else do white, rich pseudo-hippies go?)
While you are at it, respect the struggles of your queer friends. Acknowledge your position of privilege as a guest in a space that has been historically used for the celebration of otherness. Better yet, don’t show up at all unless a queer friend specifically invites you.
Does that sound harsh? Keep some perspective. Remember that every day is Straight Pride Day.
EDIT (Thursday, June 23, 2016 at 7:35am): A friend asked me how I can tell who is a “very-clearly-cishet” teenage girl, short of engaging in “lol omg let’s make out, so funny” crap. This is a very good question. After all, many closeted/straight-passing queer kids go to Pride as “allies” and then find the courage to come out at a later point.
To answer the question — I cannot know with absolute certainty unless I ask every person at Pride whether or not they are straight, but I can certainly see who’s making asses of themselves and who isn’t. While anyone, regardless of gender or sexuality, can show up to Pride in a flower crown and tie-dye-everything and there is nothing inherently wrong with that, my point is that Pride was never meant to be rainbow Coachella for straight people. Besides, it is very difficult now to know who’s fair flirting game and who isn’t. In my opinion, straight kids unaccompanied by queer friends are overcrowding many spaces that have held historical meaning to the LGBT community.