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May 21, 2010

Five Awesome Things Straight People Can Do

It’s interesting, and perhaps fitting, that while my recent 8 Things I Don’t Need to Hear From Straight People article was making its way around my friend network and the internet in general, one particular straight guy was reacting really poorly to being called out on his straight privilege and hurtful words. His behavior stood in stark contrast to my good friend Carson, who IMed me to say “I really liked your post re unintended counter-productive things that straight people say.” That can be every straight person’s reaction if you’ll choose it.

With Carson, and my countless other fierce straight, cisgender friends in mind, I made a list of awesome things straight folks can do.

Watch queer movies & tv shows, go to queer clubs, do queer things
One of my roommates in college (who is a straight frat guy) saw me watching an episode of Queer As Folk in our living room one day and joined me. It was a really small gesture and it’s stuck with me to today. It’s also great when straight folks have watched queer movies on their own. My straight friends also make it a point to come to parties, even those with mostly queer folks; go with me to queer bars (how often do queers go to straight bars?!), and attend other events such as Pride or even gay running group.

Get upset over injustice directed toward LGBT people (without having to ask)
On multiple occasions I’ve heard my roommates start yelling at their computers from their bedrooms only to realize they’ve just read news about some anti-gay or anti-trans initiative. They speak up at the schools where they teach and in the offices where they work. They educate their friends and they leave comments on blogs and news articles.

Get educated
Read books, magazines, blogs, articles, and scholarly research. Watch TV shows and movies and interviews on YouTube. Participate in discussions and attend conferences. There are all sorts of ways for straight folks to get educated. Talking with queer folks (who make themselves available for that) can be part of the process and also make sure to do some heavy lifting yourself.

Take a stand
Many of my friends participated in Seven Straight Nights for Equal Rights in New York City to literally take a stand for equality. Other friends find their own ways to take a stand. One of my favorite memories is Sean Fish calling me, out of breath, from campus, “There is a guy here with an awful anti-gay sign. Don’t worry, we are making our own signs to block his out!” They take stands always and immediately when I ask them and find opportunities to take a stand on their own.

Apologize & Adjust
You’re going to do something wrong. Even my fiercest straight friends do or say things that hurt sometimes. They continue to be fierce in their reactions to their own mistakes. They apologize, but not profusely. They don’t require that I comfort them and make them feel OK despite their error. They don’t use their previous history of awesomeness to excuse it. They apologize quickly and sincerely and correct the behavior for the future. It might feel difficult in the moment, but it’s actually quite simple.

Micah & I are preparing a training for the board of a non-profit on gender and trans issues. We open with

  1. This is simple but it is hard. We (and others) can be your guides but we can’t do the work for you.
  2. Listen to others. Really listen.
  3. Educate yourself. There is a wealth of writing, research, art, and speech by trans folks (and queer folks, and women, and people of color, etc) that is easily accessible. Make use of that.
  4. Don’t make it all about you because it’s not.

If you can do that, you’ll be golden. And you’ll do something that one day will end up on someone’s blog post of favorite memories from straight people.

If you’re digging this article, you want to check out the Tough Questions on the Road to Affirmation series (in progress right now). Subscribe to catch ‘em all.

Comments

  1. Karen Oliver-Paull

    Thanks. This is very helpful and I feel good that I already did some of these things. I get so angry when anyone who is different in any way is persecuted especially people who have done nothing to harm anyone else. I understand that a lot of persecution comes from fear of the unknown, but that doesn’t excuse it. If you don’t understand something, educate yourself so that you don’t wind up looking like an idiot don’t take it out on the things you don’t understand. So far as art goes, I always thought if it weren’t for people who were different, there would be no art because everyone would be the same and wouldn’t need to express themselves.

  2. Karen Oliver-Paull

    Thanks. This is very helpful and I feel good that I already did some of these things. I get so angry when anyone who is different in any way is persecuted especially people who have done nothing to harm anyone else. I understand that a lot of persecution comes from fear of the unknown, but that doesn’t excuse it. If you don’t understand something, educate yourself so that you don’t wind up looking like an idiot don’t take it out on the things you don’t understand. So far as art goes, I always thought if it weren’t for people who were different, there would be no art because everyone would be the same and wouldn’t need to express themselves.

  3. BandanaNinja

    I really like this. I like this because it is positive and it will elicit a much more positive response from its intended audience. I completely empathize with the frustration in the “Eight Things I Don't Need To Hear From Straight People” article but it's presented in a way that will most likely elicit a defensive response from it's intended audience. Now I am a bisexual female but that's irrelevant. Why? Because I'm still a human and so are straight people. If we keep making this “difference” obvious and placing premiums on labels then the divide will only increase. Again, “don't make it all about you because it's not” It's about everyone.

  4. I'm glad to hear you like it. It's interesting to see how straight folks (and privileged folks in general) react when called out. Sometimes they (we) get defensive, as you point out. Sometimes they own up and adjust. I think there's value in speaking truth even if it might make some folks uncomfortable.

    Of course, I also really enjoyed writing this article: positive reinforcement is generally the most effective! And it's great to have supportive folks in my life who not only “get it” but also act on it. I'm happy to give them props.

  5. BandanaNinja

    I really like this. I like this because it is positive and it will elicit a much more positive response from its intended audience. I completely empathize with the frustration in the “Eight Things I Don't Need To Hear From Straight People” article but it's presented in a way that will most likely elicit a defensive response from it's intended audience. Now I am a bisexual female but that's irrelevant. Why? Because I'm still a human and so are straight people. If we keep making this “difference” obvious and placing premiums on labels then the divide will only increase. Again, “don't make it all about you because it's not” It's about everyone.

  6. I'm glad to hear you like it. It's interesting to see how straight folks (and privileged folks in general) react when called out. Sometimes they (we) get defensive, as you point out. Sometimes they own up and adjust. I think there's value in speaking truth even if it might make some folks uncomfortable.

    Of course, I also really enjoyed writing this article: positive reinforcement is generally the most effective! And it's great to have supportive folks in my life who not only “get it” but also act on it. I'm happy to give them props.

  7. We’ll have people step up and take Kendl’s spot next year. We’re still a very young team. Next year, we will have six seniors and a lot of experience.” “Hopefully, we’ll get two more rings,” said Braun. “I think we have five or six juniors coming back …

  8. Gabrielle

    Straight couple staying with me and gf from Sweden, good friends of ours. We came home one day to find them tucked up together in sofa bed in spare room watching Series 1 of The L Word and loving it. That’s the sort of straight friends I love, very heartwarming and never forgotten experience.

  9. Lily

    I am 16 and straight, but this was a very informational article for me. I always yell at people when they used anti-gay slurs and I’m going to try and get more involved in the lgbt rights movement.

  10. In the first tip about watching movies, everyone should definitely check out “Shelter.” It was an incredible movie, a coming-of-age story. No matter who you are, all can appreciate the topics of love, family and the difficulties of major life decisions. Trailer on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKsCvcvoZcE

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