LGBTQ Pride Month: Don’t you dare say we need ‘straight pride’

If anyone even mentions “straight pride” in my vicinity, I will scream.

And I don’t mean get into a shouting match. Or yell about LGBTQ+ rights (hard-fought, fleeting, at risk). 

I mean a loud, guttural, sustained scream. 

It seems any time a minority group desperately – though deftly, miraculously – manages to make enough noise to have their concerns heard, the majority quickly see it as a threat to their very comfortable status quo. 

“Black Lives Matter” must mean white ones don’t; women’s empowerment must weaken men; and so, every June, Pride revelers must dodge blaring refrains of “what do they want now?” or “what if we had a straight pride?” – on top of the usual social, legal, professional and personal hurdles they already face year-round. 

The ugly facts

Twenty-two percent of LGBTQ+ people in the U.S. live in poverty, compared to 16% of straight, cisgender people, according to a 2019 report from UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute, research institute on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy.

Picture of a crowd of people holding and raising rainbow flags, symbol of the homosexual struggle, during a gay demonstration. The rainbow flag, commonly known as the gay pride flag or LGBT pride flag, is a symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) pride and LGBT social movements. Other older uses of rainbow flags include a symbol of peace. (Photo: BalkansCat, Getty Images/iStockphoto)

According to the another survey by the Williams Institute, more than two-thirds of teens surveyed experience family rejection after coming out and 1-in-4 are forced to leave their homes. 

A 2019 survey from a United Kingdom advocacy group found LGBTQ+ youth are twice as likely to contemplate suicide and Black LGBTQ+ youth are three times as likely.

In Canada, between 25 and 40% of youth experiencing homelessness identify as LGBTQ+, according to The 519, a City of Toronto agency. In the United States, LGBTQ+ youth are 120% more likely to experience homelessness than non-LGBTQ youth, according to Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago.

I first broached the ludicrous concept of “straight pride” in USA TODAY in 2018, and I’ve only grown angrier that so little has changed. In fact, things have worsened considerably, in particular for transgender people. 

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Hate crimes motivated by hate of gender identity, especially against trans people, rose 20% from 2018 to 2019 – almost definitely an underestimate as not all crimes are reported and not all reported crimes are properly identified. The American Medical Association in 2019 called this an “epidemic,” a term then-candidate Joe Biden would repeat in October 2020 just before the election. 

“Dehumanizing government actions and rhetoric, as well as a failure to address risk factors like domestic and intimate partner violence, underemployment and unemployment and poverty, housing insecurity and health disparities, put this community at risk,” Biden said in a statement at the time.

The Human Rights Campaign has identified at least 117 bills targeting transgender people introduced in state legislatures in our current legislative session alone, the most – by far – of any year since the LGBTQ+ advocacy group started tracking them.  

Some have been defeated, but even so, the damage is done and long-lasting. 

As ACLU lawyer and trans rights activist Chase Strangio recently told Elle Magazine: “The conversations themselves are causing serious harm to trans youth who are watching their governments debate their existence in deeply disturbing ways.” 

Progress comes slowly

Only in 2020 in the U.S. were sexual orientation and gender identity finally protected in the workplace after a landmark Supreme Court case extended the interpretation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to also include transgender Americans (before this, laws differed by state and whether the employer was public or private). This was thanks in no part to corporations, by the way, who are so quick to plaster logos and facades with rainbows, but so quiet when it comes to actually advocating for the same LGBTQ+ people whose dollars they so covet. Some even have the audacity to donate millions to “anti-gay politicians,” according to a Forbes contributor. 

Chris Hanna in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, in June 2019. (Photo: Family handout)

The mission of Pride has always been political; to shed light on issues affecting our communities, to organize and even to celebrate each other. This must continue. 

After COVID-19 forced the shuttering of so many safe gathering spaces for us, the community needs Pride and to breathe a sigh of relief this year.  

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In 2021, it is still incredibly brave to come out knowing what waits on the other side. Maybe one day that can change and we won’t feel like our entire existence and safety hinge on the whims of mostly-hetero legislatures. Even then: We can’t legislate our way out of hatred, out of people’s disdain for those who don’t conform. 

So, no, you do not get “straight pride.” Straight apathy, maybe? Straight disillusionment may even be more apt.

But to claim non-ally straight people are deserving of their own celebration when they are the cause of the pain of so many they willingly hurt? Well, that is straight-up lunacy.

Chris Hanna is an editor and writer based in Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter: @Chris_Hanna. 

You can read diverse opinions from our Board of Contributors and other writers on the Opinion front page, on Twitter @usatodayopinion and in our daily Opinion newsletter. To respond to a column, submit a comment to [email protected].

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