By Tammy Plunkett
There is no doubt about it, we live in divisive times. You truly have to brace yourself for negative comebacks when you make any public announcement on social media. The comments I have seen repetitively directed towards pride groups are questions like, “When is the straight parade?” “Why isn’t there an H in LGBTQ for heterosexuals?” and “Why do we need a coin commemorating gay rights, and where’s the straight Loonie?”
There is a part of me that wants to say that the people making those comments are idiots and just end my blog there. But the point is that it’s way too easy to just take a stand on an issue and dig in our heels. It’s too tempting to say I’m right and you’re wrong no matter where you fall on any issue. This is the problem. We have lost our open-mindedness and flexibility. We live in a time where identity is paramount. We find a box into which we fit, with people who say what we believe, and create an echo chamber repeating battle-cries of us against them.
Human beings are hardwired to fit-in and belong to a tribe. When we were cave dwellers, we needed the group to survive, and all of history shows us affiliating with religions, families, and nations. Today, thanks to the internet, we live in a global community. Our families often live farther away than ever before in history, and sadly we identify more strongly with political party affiliations than patriotism for our country itself.
In addition to wanting to fit in, having smartphones at the ready anytime we have something to say is just amplifying our identity. If I haven’t told Facebook that I believe in breastfeeding, then does the belief really exist? Our need to belong, be seen, and be acknowledged is so strong that we can easily get caught in the game of “What about me and my tribe? Don’t we matter too?”
Once we have found the group that we want to identify with, we often fall into the trap of needing to make that group more important than others. We want our fair share of airtime and we want our fair share of glory. We can get blinded by tunnel vision to the point that we make enemies out of the other. “Why should there be a group for parents of children with Cancer when we want one for parents with kids with Cystic Fibrosis?” The question sounds ridiculous when you’re not in the fray. Of course both groups should exist!
We have started to measure the world in “with me” or “against me” and that puts a higher value on me than it does on the others. When we value “me and my tribe” more than we value others we start getting upset if the others are getting something we think we should have. “What about me? When is my straight parade?” is all about, why is your group more important than mine that you get a parade and I don’t. A pride parade, or a solidarity walk, has nothing to do with being against straight people.
My daughter once had a classmate on an exchange from Venezuela and the look of utter awe and joy on this girl’s face the first time she saw snow was priceless. She said it was completely different to experience the snow melting as it landed on her face compared to seeing it in movies. For us who had grown-up north of the 49th parallel, there was nothing new about white stuff falling from the sky. In fact, we can easily gripe about having to shovel it. The problem with privilege is that we don’t know we have it until someone shows us what else exists in the world.
As a straight person, you can go through life never knowing the experience of worrying about getting arrested for who you love, losing your job over who you love, or not being able to marry the person you love. This is privilege. You can participate in any parade you want to march in, from Santa Clause to St-Patrick’s to Canada Day and not have to hide part of who you are or conform to the norm of the group because you are the norm.
The reason a pride festival is a big deal is because it was not always possible. Straight people can throw a parade any time they want and have done so forever. The reason there is no H in the LGBTQQIP2SAA acronym is because our society, still today, assumes from birth that we are heterosexual and the gender we are assigned at birth. No one has to come out to their parents as straight.
The Hard No
While I started this blog by saying the problem is that we have lost our open-mindedness and flexibility, and the pride community is well-known for advocating living within spectrums instead of binaries, there are times when we need the hard no. The right and the wrong. Human rights are not debatable. One group of humans are not more important than others. There is no superior race. And, there is no seniority for the settler who has been here longer. You can debate whether churches should pay taxes, but you can’t blow up a church because you don’t like its religious views. We must start seeing the people—the everyday people who eat, sleep, work hard, and love deeply—that exist behind these arguments.
When we host the Airdrie Pride Festival on June 22nd, 2019, we hope that many straight people feel welcome to be our allies and neighbours and join us as we celebrate our inaugural Solidarity Walk and Pride in the Park. Our event is about inclusion, equality, and acceptance, not us against them. And if there is one generality I can throw out there, it’s that the queer community knows how to put on a party!