This makes me uncomfortable.

Straight Pride SignA graphic comparable to this landed on my Facebook page in the wake of the US Supreme Court decision. My reaction was to wish there was a scrub brush to eradicate what seemed to be such a nasty message. But really, what is wrong with this?

Here is what I commented back on Facebook at the time: You know, when I heard Apple’s Tim Cook come out of the closet last Fall, saying he was “proud to be gay,” I wondered about the opposite: ”proud to be straight,” and why that just sounded wrong. And here’s my answer. To be gay (LBGTQ) has been a fight; … and I went on from there.

In prep for this post, I dug up Tim Cook’s op-ed piece in Bloomberg Business Week, and what he says is so charitable and generous, I won’t debase his sentiments with the drivel that I wrote. Here is Tim Cook:

 ” … I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.

Being gay has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be in the minority and provided a window into the challenges that people in other minority groups deal with every day. It’s made me more empathetic, which has led to a richer life. It’s been tough and uncomfortable at times, but it has given me the confidence to be myself, to follow my own path, and to rise above adversity and bigotry. …”

So, being in a minority probably could mean you are in some kind of fight – for recognition, dignity, equality, or maybe just plain survival. Possibly the smaller the minority involved, the more likely it is that you are combating a prejudice, a whisper and a look, a special procedure, an insensitivity, or some other kind of threat.

I am white, male and straight, and I speak English. I cannot be and am not proud of being any of those, because all of those attributes, in this sexist and racist world we live in, have given me an extra boost from birth. So, when white men say that affirmative action programmes are reverse discrimination, I just want to reach for my … pen.

A small example of the way this works: I have a privileged friend whose new partner, a pillar of our society, is decidedly not white. Only this week my friend was talking about what it’s like to go through airports now. “The racism is there,” he said, “I have seen the ‘special’ attention he gets, even though the security people will always hide behind their ‘procedure.'”

Here is what I am wondering: Maybe when you are fortunate because of birth and upbringing, you don’t get to be proud of it. When a gift falls in your lap, pride in that gift is a misplaced and hollow concept. But minorities – of colour, female gender, sexual orientation, religion, socio-economic status – they get to be proud, because they are fighting some kind of adversary build into the “system.” So I will celebrate their victories with them.

While preparing for this post, I needed to hunt down a photo-worthy graphic. Along the way, I found this headline: “Russia has come up with a ‘straight pride’ flag.”

family.si_Yup, that’s right. The on-going intolerance for the LBGTQ community in Russia has now reached the level of party/state sponsorship of a flag (complete with a hashtag for Twitter, I wonder). But really, why should we be surprised at that: the flag is only the icing on the cake for an on-going and widening programme of persecution in Uncle Putin’s Russia (But I am getting ahead of myself).

I personally will willingly cede to gay pride and embrace it. And the opposite, “proud to be straight” comes off to me as being insensitive at a minimum, and hateful in the extreme*. What do you think?

* But I would defend people’s right to say such nasty things assuming they were within the bounds of Canada’s Hate laws. [This footnote added as an update three hour after initial post]

 

Update April 2016: Title changed from “Does this make you feel uncomfortable?” This article has the lowest readership of any page. I have long considered that the old title appeared to suggest that I was advocating straight pride.


Graphic sources: Both the man-woman washroom-style symbol and the Russian flag are public domain. I created the banner at the top so that the aspect ratio matched the window that WordPress provides for the lead picture. Except for the omission of a single phase, it is identical in nature and content to the original post to my Facebook page.

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