“Straight privilege”

A friend said, after Tom Daley’s coming out video, that it was unnecessary, ridicule and even indecent for him to do that. It was too much, she said. “The whole drama and everything! What’s point? Another PR move…” This friend is everything but homophobic, she is okay with me being gay, we like to gossip about hot actors, and her best-friend is gay.

What she is, however, is basking in what an American friend of mine would call “straight privilege” like there is “white privilege”. I don’t really like that, just to say. It seems like gay people are trying to compete with Black people to see who is the most persecuted, which I guess a lot of minorities do in today’s society’s Olympics of Misery. Soon there will be the “man privilege”, the “married people privilege”, the “thin people privilege”…

The fact is that in our society, anyone who is not a man between 30 and 50, married, Christian, brown-haired, tall, thin, handsome, light-skinned but tanned, workaholic but a family man, driving a car, drinking beer, slightly sexist, watching football and openly right-wing…Anyone else will suffer from a form of intolerance. However racism and homophobia are today the most violent and extreme forms of discrimination so I personally want to keep that notion of privilege solely to “white-” and “straight-“.

Anyway, for her, to talk openly about your sexuality is indecent because sexuality is a private matter and “no one cares about it”. She says that him publicly coming out as gay – although he just said he was dating a man, which does not make him gay – is nothing but a call for his sexuality to become a public matter. He therefore can’t complain that people talk about it now because he’s bringing this on himself.

There is indeed “straight privilege” in there of someone who, because she is a woman sleeping with men, the issue of her sexual orientation – not her sexuality – is non-existent. Whom she is friend with, how much she wants to share about her love life at work, where she goes to have a bite or a drink, where she moves house, whom she votes for, even what she wears or what background she will put on her desktop… At no point will she make decisions based on her sexual orientation because it’s irrelevant to the society so it doesn’t affect her. Society will judge the person and how many of them she dates but not the fact that she dates men. She never hesitates wearing trousers for fear of looking like a lesbian or lending her phone to someone for them to make a quick phone call because she doesn’t care if they see the topless pictures of an actor.

Whereas gay people would love to be able to keep their sexual orientation private but we are constantly bombarded with the fact that it defines who we are, how we think, what we do, and especially it dictates how much we are allowed to be normal citizens in democratic countries. Being straight doesn’t strip you from basic rights, so basic that you take them for granted. Whereas for LGBT people, who we fuck defines every aspect of our lives in the eyes of the society and it will not let us forget it. We have to constantly think about it because it is always lurking and creeping on our social interactions. And we have to constantly fight to make people understand that we are not different and we deserve to be the same – through the pride marches to begin with.

What Tom Daley did, like all famous people coming out, is to make different sexual orientation part of the norm so one day no one has to “come out” or be accused of being a shameful coward for not doing so.

Inspired by Peggy McIntosh’s questionnaire on race, look at the following questions and if you say no to most of them, you have “straight privilege” and you cannot possibly fathom why someone like Tom Daley making a video where he says to millions of teenagers, the future, that dating a man doesn’t make him any different is a priceless beacon of hope:

  1. Have you ever questioned how your family and friends would react to your sexual orientation?
    Have you ever feared your family and friends might hit you, ban you, abandon you because of it?
    Have you lost any of them because of it?
    Have you ever pretended to be of a different sexual orientation with your family, friends, roommates, landlords for fear of being kicked out and having no place to go?
  2. Has your sexual orientation been called a disease by the World Health Organisation?
    Has your sexual orientation ever been called “contagious”?
    Has people died under torture aka “healing treatments” for having the same sexual orientation as you?
  3. Is your sexual orientation used an insult everyday from school playgrounds to high-ranked politicians offices, and everywhere on mainstream media?
    Have schools in the UK ban the mention of your sexual orientation because it has become an insult?
  4. Can your sexual orientation get you the death penalty or imprisoned in most countries?
    Do you hear people of your sexual orientation being murdered everyday because of it?
    Is your sexual orientation automatically and lawfully forbidding you from giving your blood or donate your organs in order to save lives in almost every single country?
    Has your sexual orientation ever prevented you from having the same rights as others?
  5. Have you ever felt like you’ve had to admit to your sexual orientation, to “come out” to people like it’s something you are doing wrong?
    Have you ever been accused of having your sexual orientation? Not an observation but an accusation, like a criminal.
  6. Have politicians, in “First World democracies fighting for freedom and liberty”, ever publicly said other people were “not ready” to accept you and your sexual orientation to justify official discrimination?
    Have people been openly praised for fighting your sexual orientation?
  7. Are people publicly associating your sexual orientation with paedophilia, zoophilia and necrophilia?
    Are people afraid to be with you, touch you, talk to you because of your sexual orientation?
  8. Have you ever feared losing your job or your home because of your sexual orientation?
    Have you ever feared for your physical integrity because of your sexual orientation?
    Do you avoid or decline going to some places, even with friends, because you know your sexual orientation will get you in trouble?
    Have people ever stared, pointed or laughed at you, abused or physically threatened you in a public place because of your sexual orientation?
  9. When you make plans for the future, do you ever worry about what the neighbourhood might think of a same-sex couple?
    Do you know you will have to avoid the countryside even though you love nature and hate the city because you know people will not accept you and your sexual orientation?
  10. Are people telling you will never be a good parent because of your sexual orientation?
    Do you seriously think of not having children at all because you know others will abuse them because of your sexual orientation?
  11. The most important: is your sexual orientation the name solely used to define who you are in the society?

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