Proud to be…

Via Man Boobz, the blog that gives me my almost-daily dose of depression, comes a particular poster from the MRA contingent of DeviantART (DA is a place I rarely dive into for this stuff, it’s there, but I really don’t want to get involved…).

I’m going to be nicer than David Futrelle here. I can’t just put this up and mock it relentlessly, because I don’t think there’s any wilful ignorance here to mock (there are a few others mentioned in the above Man Boobz post that come close to it, though…). It just needs explained. And when things are explained, there might be a chance that someone might change their mind and evolve.

So I can give the “proud to be a white heterosexual man” thing some benefit of the doubt. It’s not really an overt declaration of hatred or misogyny, it’ simply borne out of a little bit of incomprehension regarding what “pride” actually means when it comes to things like “gay pride”. Simply put, Person A sees other people being “proud” of simply what/who they happen to be, and so Person A thinks “hang on, can’t I be happy and unashamed of who/what I happen to be? I’m proud to be Person A!”

And, to a first approximation, there’s nothing actually wrong with this. When you understand the actual sentiment involved, it’s actually quite understandable and the thought process is harmless.

If another group gets to be vocally “proud” of their life and heritage, but you somehow aren’t, then that doesn’t feel particularly good. Now, personally, I don’t think the retort of “but every other day is Male Pride Day” or “White Pride Day” or “Cis Pride Day” is a particularly good one. It’s simply not. It’s a derogatory dismissal, and self-declared social justice advocates need to cut it out with that shit. Because no, your white, heteroseuxal, cisgendered males aren’t going out of their way every day to overtly display their personal attributes – what is actually going on is far more subtle than that and way beyond the word count of this.

Anyway, with that said, the trouble with the poster above (and the “every day is white pride day” retort, in fact) is that it misses the point of why certain groups have to be vocal about themselves in the first place – or at least deserve to be vocal about it after the fact.

As it stands, you simply do not need to “come out” as straight. You don’t. It’s effectively assumed to be the Default Position. While I’d prefer young children are presumed by default to be implicitly asexual (see implicit atheism) the fact is that they’re usually assumed to be straight. It’s expected anyway.  When little Timmy finally discovers what his penis is actually there for, the assumption is that he’s going to start fancying girls, and not develop a more complex and fluid sexual identity involving having emotional attraction exclusively to females but an open sex life with all genders and sexes. No, that would be weird, or at best unexpected. Even with the most progressive will in the world, you cannot deny that that sort of thing is at least in a minority (between 3% and 10% depending on which bias your survey-du-jour has), and outside your expectation value of “straight”.

So nothing is going to happen to you if you declare yourself as straight. No one will care. I can wear a wedding ring and show off my wife and no one thinks its strange, unusual, or out-of-the-ordinary or beyond the expectation value – in fact it’s so normalised people don’t even consider it as showing off sexuality. Yet it still is. After all, it is blatantly showing off my preferences publicly. Very, very few people who equate two men holding hands as “ramming your sexuality down my throat”, take the time to extend such derision to public displays by heterosexual couples.

In short, nothing really bad is going to happen if you “come out” as straight – and even more pointedly there’s no real “coming out” involved. Well, I do have one circle of friends who are so sexually fluid you really do, but that’s something else entirely. Sorry, guys, I guess I’m just boring… anywho…

Want to come out as gay to the world? That’s a different thing entirely. Oh, is it not as bad any more? Perhaps. But not everyone is privileged enough to live in a nice, clean, middle-class, and progressive environment riddled with first-world-problems. A place where homosexuality accepted and normalised and no one really has a fuck to give about your sexual orientation.

In many environments you risk – at best – being shouted at, condemned, blamed for hurricanes, or derided as a paedophile. That’s the thin end of the wedge; that’s if you’re lucky. Elsewhere you have the beatings, the murders, the arson attacks on clubs, and the places where perpetrators of violence towards don’t just get away with it but are actively celebrated. Sorry to break the “I’ll be nice and just explain things” character for a moment, but when the fuck did you, Mr Proud To Be Heterosexual, have to put up with anywhere near that level of persecution rather than your own imagined bullshit? If you want to come out as gay in that sort of situation, doing so requires an immense amount of courage and personal risk. It’s effort. It’s bravery. It’s achievement. A literal achievement; not just a little X-Box sign that flashes up temporarily because you shot 50 bad guys. 

There are many things I’m proud of being and/or doing, and a lot of areas of under-privilege I’ve fought against. I’ll not bother to list them here, but skin colour and sexual orientation would come pretty far down. So far down it’s really worth ignoring, it’s hardly anything at all, in fact, these are achievements for me on par with “breathing”. Perhaps one day everyone will be able to live in a world where coming out as gay to your parents can be so far down that list it’s worth ignoring, too, and “gay pride” will be as redundant as “white pride”. One can hope.

So, the problem with being “proud” of heterosexuality is that there is no effort involved. You can’t equate that with coming out as non-heterosexual. You don’t risk your parents disowning you, you don’t risk being beaten, you don’t risk being treated as a stereotype your entire life. In short, there is little to be proud of in just being part of a majority, where there aren’t real and tangible fights for your rights on a near daily basis. No matter what your persecution complex may claim, there simply aren’t instances where people wanted to ban heterosexual marriage, or blame lightning strikes on an endorsement of straight people. That’s why people claim “pride” and rightly so, but claiming “pride” for so many other attributes misses the point entirely.

As the snarky response goes; if being proud of being a white, heterosexual male is the best you’ve got, your life must suck.

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2 thoughts on “Proud to be…

  1. Well put, and I can only add that to me it seems odd at least for anyone to be proud of something they themselves did not bring about. I’m proud of what I’ve learned and done and worked at, but not of anything that simply happened, or that someone else did for me, however nice it might be. “Refusal to be ashamed” to be gay, fat, introverted, whatever, seems a bit more accurate. So does “proud to have summoned up the courage to strike back against the forces that wanted to crush me out of sight.”

    Reply
    • A refusal to feel shame and a pride in standing up is basically what is meant by ‘pride’ in these cases. In fact, the point is really that when the outside pressures you to feel ashamed, and pressures you to feel it every day, a refusal to feel shame is very much an act of standing up and striking back – and so something certainly to feel proud of.

      Reply

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