Response To Sierra Mannie – Dear Straight People: Stop Stealing Gay Culture

Below is a response to Sierra Mannie, author of the piece titled Dear White Gays: Stop Stealing Black Female Culture on Time Magazine‘s website dated July 9, 2014.

 

Sierra Mannie Time Magazine Opinion Article

 

While her article wasn’t all incorrect or offensive, plenty of it was.

Sierra, I get the point you’re trying to make, but you could have been a little less homophobic more graceful about the whole thing. Also, I would suggest using the word “that” less often in your writing.

Just a note.

I think you may find a little bit of what you could have said in the following piece.

And I hope you check your privilege, too.

 

 

Dear Straight People: Stop Stealing Gay Culture

 

I need some of you to cut it the hell out. Maybe, for some of you, it’s a presumed mutual appreciation for Andy Cohen and good haircuts that has you thinking that I’m going to be amused by you approaching me in your best “Bruce from the gay bar” voice. I don’t know. What I do know is that I don’t care how well you can quote Queer Eye For The Straight Guy, who told you that your beard was getting butcher than his, how funny you think it is to call yourself a fag, who taught you to Vogue, how funny you think it is to call yourself RuPaul or Richard Simmons or for which gay person you’ve been tolerating — you are not a homosexual, and you do not get to claim either homosexuality or gay pride. It is not yours. It is not for you.

Let me explain.

Gay people can’t have anything. Any of these things include, but aren’t limited to: a general sense of physical safety, comfort with law enforcement, adequate funding and appreciation for gay community support spaces like GLBT teen homeless shelters and GLBT churches, appropriate venues for our voices to be heard about criticism of issues without our sexuality going on trial because of it, and solid marriage rights (cc: Gays VS Every State).

And then, when you thought this pillaging couldn’t get any worse, extracurricular gay activities get snatched up, too: our music, our dances, our slang, our clothing, our hairstyles. All of these things are rounded up, hetero-dulled and repackaged for your consumption. But here’s the shade — the breeders who get to enjoy all of the fun things about gayness will never have to experience the ugliness of the gay experience, systemic homophobia and the dangers of simply living while gay. Though I suppose there’s some thrill in this “metrosexual” philosophy some adopt, straight people are not sexually oppressed in the United States of America.

Straight people are not sexually oppressed in the United States of America.

Straight people are not sexually oppressed in the United States of America.

Nothing about straightness will get a straight person in trouble the way gayness can get a gay person shot down in their tracks. These are just facts. It’s not entirely the fault of straight people. It’s not as if you can help being born straight in America, any more than I can help being born gay in America.

The truth is that America is a country that operates on systems of homophobia in which we all participate, whether consciously or unconsciously, to our benefit or to our detriment, and that system allows straight people to succeed. This system also creates barriers so that sexual minorities, such as gay people, have a much harder time being able to do things like marry and adopt and not have to deal with homophobes and stuff. You know. Casual.

But while you’re gasping at the heat and the steam of the strong truth tea I just spilled, what’s even worse about all of this, if you thought things could get even crappier, is the fact that all of this is exponentially worse for gay women. A culture of homophobia is bad enough, but pairing it with patriarchal structures that intend to undermine women’s advancement is like double-fisting bleach and acid rain.

At the end of the day, if you are a straight person, male or female, you retain so much privilege. What is extremely unfairly granted you because of your sexuality does help you, if everyone knows that you prefer the romantic and sexual company of the other gender. (You know what I’m talking about. Those “in your face” straight love stories in movies, books and music, show very familiar heterosexual tales to the public.) The point is that the gay people with whom you think you align so well, whose language you use and stereotypical mannerisms you adopt, will not hide their gayness and homosexuality to protect themselves the way that you shouldn’t hide your heterosexuality. We have no desire to hide, or reasons to do it even if we desired them.

In all of the ways that your heterosexuality and history give you so much, in those exact same ways, our homosexuality and history work against our acceptance. To pretend that you’re a homosexual just for the sake of laughs, and to say that the things about them or the things enjoyed by them are done better by you isn’t cute or funny. First of all, it’s aggravating as hell. Second, it’s damaging and perpetuating of yet another set of aggressions against us.

All of this being said, you should not have to stop liking the things you like. This is not an attempt to try to suck the fun out of your life. Appreciating a culture and appropriating one are very, very different things, with a much thicker line than some people think, if you use all of the three seconds it takes to be considerate before you open your mouth. If you love some of the same things that some gay people love, by all means, you and your gay friends go ahead and rock the hell out. Regardless of what our privileges and lack of privileges are, regardless of the laws and rhetoric that have attempted to divide us, we are equal, even though we aren’t the same, and that is okay. Claiming our identity for what’s sweet without ever having to taste its sour is not. Breathing fire behind ugly stereotypes that reduce gay culture to loud caricatures for you to emulate isn’t, either.

So, you aren’t a fierce gay man, or a butch lesbian, or any of that other foolery that not all gay people are. It’s okay. You don’t have to be. No one asked you to be. You weren’t ever meant to be. What you can be, however, is part of the solution.

Check your privilege. Try to strengthen the people around you.

 

Andy Cohen - You Fail

Chris

Chris is a writer, photographer, and producer living in Los Angeles. He thinks he's smart. He thinks he's funny. He thinks he's gay. What do you think?