I’ve recently been fascinated by the idea of the “heterosexual queer,” the idea that a straight person can be queer by rebelling against their straightness while still being straight.
Confused as to what this means? Take James Franco: his shifting of sexuality, toying between straightness and gayness but still assuming the privilege of normality and non-faggotry, is a perfect example of the heterosexual queer. It’s someone who can live between the lines without the penalties from society of actually being queer. It’s that artsy person who wishes deep down that they could have it both ways.
Another example: the recent American Apparel LGBTQ Pride collection with Human Rights Campaign. Seems sweet, right? Well, outside of HRC’s diversity issues, this collection is tricky because it’s brought to you by straight people Rachel and Jack Antonoff, AKA Lena Dunham’s boyfriend. While well intentioned and “good,” putting straight people in a position that could easily be filled by queer people is obviously troubling and provides a “pass,” that allies can be queer too just by supporting us. Cool…?
Here’s the thing: because you support queers or want to be queer or have tried queer things and selectively adopt the notion, standing up as a queer daily, you are not queer. I’ve long toyed with this notion of “heterosexual queerness” being a good thing but, after drinks recently with my very smart and gay friend Liam, things were painted quite clearly as he reminded that, no, straight people cannot have their cake and eat it too. They cannot take our title as their own, reframing the words and concepts they used years ago to hurt us. This is an effort to rewrite history and it’s wrong: it’s a way of Dolezaling the LGBT community.
As Vice’s Dora Mortimer very wonderfully discussed earlier this year, it’s a complicated subject. What happens when straight men cross gender boundaries, doing drag or wearing dresses like Jaden Smith? What about women who like to penetrate men? What about those who did theatre or queer activism and are just overly sensitive to our needs? It’s not the same.
The danger of disregarding structural hierarchies and putting the word queer up for sale is that a cultural whitewashing, or pinkwashing, is likely to take place. If we fail to log difference, we also fail to see how much tougher it is for some people than others. It is the difference between sympathy and empathy.
And that is exactly it: you can’t have it both ways. You can help us and fuel the fire of change but that doesn’t meant you have to become us, take out titles, and try to absorb our struggle. Pat us on the back—don’t remove our backs and place your own in there.
Maybe we do need a name for the oversensitive straight person? No, that is not bisexuality because bisexuality is a very real sexuality—and people who are bisexual will always let you know that they are, as to not be washed over by straightness. But people who “dabbled,” sexually or with their gender? That’s just that: you dabbled. You might be more attuned—but queer? You are not. Do not bring your straight privilege into this arena, please. James Franco is troubling enough: we do not need an entire community of him.