“If they just didn’t have to flaunt it.” “Why do they throw it in our faces?” “Can’t they act like Americans?” “I like the ones who fit in with the rest of us.” “Why do we have to have all this Pride month propaganda?”
All these complaints are typical of statements like this one by a state lawmaker: “When you look at the tenets of religion, of the Bible, of the Quran, of other religions, there is a distinction between homosexuality and just being a human being.”
All reflect where anti-LGBTQ people who’ve convinced themselves that they’re not prejudiced are and how those who still raise money off of anti-LGBTQ crusades get the attention of their followers. They’re in sync with anti-LGBTQ claims that the goal of “the militant gays” (you know, like some mafia) is to destroy “traditional” American culture or some part thereof.
It’s also another example of what members of dominant groups say about any outsiders. White racism doesn’t mind gouging on its version of the food, or usurping the music, of the cultures of people of color, but it wants their individual members to act as White as possible.
Any person of color knows how white they have to act to get ahead in our society just as LGBTQ people know how acting as straight as possible is a way to keep their heads down. There are so many pockets of America where the finest compliment any group can get is: “they fit in well.”
And then the complaints begin about a Black History month, a Women’s History month, or an LGBTQ Pride Month. The complainers even go so far as whining that their dominant group ought to have a special month.
But the dysfunction of discrimination — in terms of how it separates even the discriminators from their own humanity — would make such observances little more than attempts to prove that they’re not like whatever they conceive those others to be. Can you imagine a Straight Pride without picturing it as some display trying to celebrate how they’re not whatever “gay” stereotypes they accept?
The dominant group in any discrimination is willing to admit that those other people are around (“I don’t care what they do in private” or “I know some people in our church are gay” are often lines they recite even though they’re usually obsessed with it.). They just don’t want anything “those people” do to challenge their privileges, especially their sense that they’re the definition of “normal” human beings.
They don’t mind “those gays” around as long as they don’t act as if they love being LGBTQ. If they can see them as sick, scared, lonely, failures, and suicidal, that’s okay.
For them it’s best then that LGBTQ people stay in their closets and come out at night so no one can see them or might think they can be proud of, and happy with, who they are. And the history of outright threats experienced by LGBTQ people is reflected in the fact that so much of LGBTQ nightlife began late after dark to hide in the shadows.
In particular, then, celebrations of LGBTQ Pride contradict so much in American straight culture, that they’re really a healthy threat to many of the assumptions and limitations of conforming to being straight acting, thinking and posturing. Of course, it scares those who’ve bet their lives on all the straightness and don’t see how the straight role they’re performing with all its gender rigidity is limiting and hurting them.
Homophobia is a key part of that role. And though it takes many forms, the key culturally conditioned basis for all others is the fear of getting close to one’s own gender.
That fear is used to promote America’s warrior culture and turn little boys into men who will cheer culturally approved violence particularly against other men. It’s used to encourage competition among women for the limited number of “good men” straight-acting women are supposed to need to save themselves from hopelessness, emptiness, loneliness, and meaninglessness.
So, if two heterosexual male friends walk down most streets in the U.S., they’ll still possibly become victims of some form of gay oppression. That’s not about who they’re in bed with or in love with; it’s about their acting as if they don’t have to fear getting close to their own gender — they’re “flaunting” it.
Homophobia isn’t natural to human beings. And being heterosexual is not the same as living the straight role that takes decades of fear-based conditioning to install in everyone.
But being straight-acting is still useful to encourage competition and the fighting spirit that will mean that no man’s masculinity will be questioned if he displays anger and violence. Should he show gentleness and the ability to be in touch with other human emotions, he’s likely to be a threat to the straight role.
That’s the danger Pride Fests pose to this whole system as well as do other examples of LGBTQ people out and proud as healthy and happy. They challenge what’s actually a house of cards by saying and showing that human beings don’t have to be afraid of closeness with their own genders but can enjoy such closeness.
And that means that all friendships could be different and close no matter what the gender of their members. It means that heterosexual coupling doesn’t have to be limited by straight-acting – both partners can choose how they want to express their closeness with each other.
It means that we’ll have to come up with better ways of selling our products, motivating people, investing in our future, and doing our currently patriarchal politics.
LGBTQ Pride is a radical notion not because it expresses some twisted idea of humanity but because it confronts every human being, causing them to question the limitations of the straight role they’ve been scared into, a role that becomes a straightjacket.
And that is what anti-LGBTQ communities fear – all of this means they’ll have to move out of their comfort zones and learn again what it is to be as they were born — full, unlimited human beings. No wonder Pride Fests feel threatening to them.
Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at the University of Kansas where he taught for 33 years and was department chair for six years, Robert N. Minor (he/him), M.A., Ph.D is the author of 8 books as well as numerous articles and contributions to edited volumes. He is an historian of religion with specialties in Biblical studies, Asian religions, religion and gender and religion and sexuality. His writing has been published in Whosoever since 2005 and he continues to speak and lead workshops around the country. In 1999 GLAAD awarded him its Leadership Award for Education, in 2012 the University of Kansas named him one of the University’s Men of Merit, in 2015 the American Men’s Studies Association gave him the Lifetime Membership Award, and in 2018 Missouri Jobs with Justice presented him with the Worker’s Rights Board Leadership Award. He resides in Kansas City, Missouri and is founder of The Fairness Project.