My Story: More Than Gay
Photo Credit: Dani Halvorson
“Old dyke feels. Thanks to all the bi femmes who came before me, and showed me I was queer enough with long hair and dresses and boyfriends. Remember not to hate on ‘straight women’ at pride events, I promise most of them aren’t. I see you, baby femmes, and you look fantastic. Please teach me how to wear makeup.” – my Facebook post from June 6th
As you go out into the big queer world this pride month, remember to give space to queers whose identities fall outside of “gay.” Give space to queers who don’t “look queer.” I have gotten used to hearing complaints about straight people—particularly straight women—attending queer events and being in queer spaces. From a distance, this makes sense. Queer people have been denied space to be themselves in the wider world, and pride events provide that space.
But the thing is, we can’t always tell what someone’s sexual or gender identity is, and frankly it’s no-one’s business. Many of the “straight women” you see at pride events are probably bi, or pan, or ace, or trans, or any other identity that isn’t necessarily “straight.” And this space and these events are for them as much as they are for the obvious gays. Or they should be.
“Passing” (I hate using this word because the opposite of passing is failing, and being queer is not a failure) for straight does sometimes come with a certain small set of benefits, mostly encompassing physical safety in cis-het spaces, but there is no straight privilege for people who aren’t straight. When we are seen as straight, we aren’t receiving straight privilege, we are having who we are be erased, and that is not a privilege.
If someone brings an other-gender partner/date to a queer event, this does not erase their queerness. A bisexual woman in a relationship with a man is not any less bisexual because of it. Dating people of different genders is what bisexuality IS.
And pride events can be for straight people too sometimes—because trans people can be straight, or gay, or pan, or ace, or anything else, but regardless of sexual identity, they deserve inclusion at pride events because it’s about so much more than being gay. This isn’t to say there should be “straight pride,” but that gender and sexuality are separate, and some people’s queerness may not include what we at first think of as a “queer sexuality.”
As queers, we have spent so long having our identities hidden and policed by the cis-het world that we normalize this and do it to ourselves. Queerness is not a competition. Dating someone of a different gender does not delete someone’s queerness. The acronym we use has evolved in the last decades from simply “gay and lesbian” to LGBT to LGBTQ to LGBTTQQIP2SA, and will continue to adapt to include identities that have been denied space.
So remember that there are as many ways to be queer as there are queers, and we don’t—and shouldn’t—all look and act the same. Don’t erase the identities that fall outside of gay, it’s only one letter out of eleven after all.
Meg Land is a Nakota-Metis, bisexual, two-spirit writer and educator living in Saskatoon, Treaty 6.