AI: On Proving Oneself Straight and Teaching Kids How to Do It


A good friend of mine just joined the cheerleading squad of her university, and she’s been complaining to about the fact that they can’t get dudes to join (even some who seem to find it cool) because they’re afraid of all the people who might think they’re gay. Which sent me back in time and got me thinking of all the times I’ve seen that happen.

Boys who won’t join ballet, even if they’re good at it. Girls who won’t play certain sports, because it would make their bodies “manly”. It comes with them from their child life and then they’re those grownups who won’t hang out (or won’t be too close to) people who they know are gay. Up to this day I have “friends” who can’t hug me in public for what “people might think”.

I can’t quite grasp where it starts, but it ends up as a vicious cycle in which people said to be straight won’t do things because society says it’s gay (because people said to be straight won’t do it). Which, to me, seems to be hurting everybody involved.

It’s the fear of being mistaken for, labeled as and, especially, turned into a gay person. A kind of fear that comes from many internal and external levels, and that is reinforced every time something is stereotyped into something only gay people do. A fear that makes people deprive themselves of stuff they love, just to prove they are what they should be (whatever it is they actually are).

What would it take to break that cycle? How do you deal with that kind of situation? How do you deal with the people who perpetuate it (and the people who teach their kids to perpetuate it)? What mechanism do you think is most responsible for that kind of thinking and what would be most effective to disarm it?

The Afternoon Inqueery (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Queereka community. Look for it to appear on every Tuesdays, Thurdays and Sundays, at 3pm ET.

Image is a cartoon by Daryl Cagle from here.

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  1. well, the process needs to start with the grownups. we can’t expect kids to resist both their peers and adults who pressure them to act in certain ways. i know current adults have been receiving heterosexist messages from a young age, but honestly, they’re adults. they need to get the fuck over it already.

    those of us already on the right side of the issue can take little steps on several fronts. we can start being less apologetic about our own queerness, and directly encourage our kids or any young people in our lives to be comfortable with who they are and to try new things. i believe every conversation we can have with people we know both to the effect that 1) gender presentation and gendered behavior/activities don’t necessarily have anything to do with sexual orientation and 2) who the fuck cares what sexual orientation you are anyway? call your friends out when they distance themselves from you or say something offensive. you can be as gentle (explaining how their behavior is hurtful) or as confrontational (they really need to grow up already) as you like: just do something!

    • It’s a bit hard to call out on the grownups, though. Most of the times I felt the need to call out on someone’s offensive behaviour/language or even to explain why not wanting to be associated with LGBT people makes you LGBT-phobic, I’ve received snotty answers. People start trying to convince me that I’m being oversensitive and that I should stop seeing so much in such tiny things. So, when they do stuff like not wanting to touch me in public, I pretty much know there’s not much I can change there. There’s only so many levels I can reach before wanting to keep distance myself.

      Some people are capable of changing, of course. I know a lot who have, one friend specially that often jokefully thanks me for being openly gay around him and making him change a lot of his concepts. (Which is also something that could help it: a lot of good people who express small prejudiced behaviours have never knowingly met gay people.)

      I do agree with you, though. Change starts with the grownups, and their efforts to affect as many kids as they can.

  2. true, it’s difficult when people are just adamantly dismissive like that; you don’t always have the time, energy, or opportunity to talk to them, especially when they don’t have the first idea how oppression works. btw, i’m sorry if that post came off as directed at you, and i realize in retrospect that was kinda ranty (hence the not finishing my sentence!). it’s a difficult cycle for sure.

  3. I agree that it definitely isn't anyone's business what anyone else's prefereces are. However, people do make a big deal out of it. It needs to start with kids, I think. Older people's minds are harder to change. I'd love to see the day when "that's so gay" is never again used as an insult. I see hope for our society because more people are living openly, and kids are seeing friends and classmates with two moms or two dads, and those friends will call them out on the garbage. When I was a kid (right after the wheel was invented) I got called a "lezzy" when I shot down guys. It was stupid. I didn't get too angsty over it. Now there are open gays in show business and LGBT people aren't so much of a "scary other."

    • But there's really no way to start with the kids, unless the growups they're around and take for examples actually give them examples. Given, most kids I know have a sharper sense of fairness and social justice, but they will bury that right up if their role models give them something different to follow. Sure it's harder for a prejudiced parent to pass that prejudice on when his kid sees other kids with two dads/moms, but then he can just turn to the nonsensical "it's unnatural" and create a little bully. Not that ALL kids will buy into their parents worldviews, of course (I haven't, since I can remember), but… 
      It could be good to start with younger generations, or teenagers, though, because they're in that age when it's okay to question the world and to be critical and stuff. But still, I feel there's the need to be good grownups out there, 'spreading the word'.

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