Editors' Note: Guest blogger Matt Smith owns Detour Travel, providing LGBT-oriented small group tours to destinations in Latin America. In a previous life, he ran Out Youth (Austin, TX) and taught social justice at the UT-Austin School of Social Work.
As a teacher, I've always wanted my students of social justice to understand how much one form of oppression resembles another. And I've always loved the blog post "Sixteen maneuvers to avoid really dealing with racism" by Holly at Feministe. Recently I read through it and thought about all the parallels for heterosexism. And before I knew it, I'd translated the whole thing into queer terms.
See if you recognize any of these classic defenses:
The Bootstrap Myth
"We're in a post-gay society. Don't Ask, Don't Tell is repealed, bisexuality is trendy among teenagers, and did you see where the president appointed a gay ambassador? We don't have to worry about anti-gay prejudice anymore. Anyone who works hard can make it in America. And if you struggle it's your own damn fault."
The Shining Example
"Look at me, I'm gay and I'm doing just fine. Look at Ellen, one of the most popular talk show hosts around. If we can do it, anybody can do it... because my/her experience is just like everybody else's."
"Hey, wait a second, that's not what I meant... I mean... you took my words out of context, don't make it try to sound like I'm anti-trans!" also: "I'm not really a hater. I only called her a 'he-she' to make sure I got her attention/because she pissed me off/because I was joking!"
The Remove the Right To Be Angry
"You're too sensitive... if you weren't so aggressive, vocal, hostile, angry, or upset, people would listen to you and you wouldn't get in trouble!"
The Utopian Eye-Gouger
"I'm accepting of all genders and sexuality, personally... why can't we all just ignore gender and sexuality, it's all just constructed anyways... it's not like I tangibly benefit from being a cisgender heterosexual person every day or anything! Can't we all just get along?"
Turning the Tables
"How dare you exclude me, a well-meaning straight ally, from your lesbian support group?! You're being just as bigoted against hetero people, you realize. You're being bigoted against me right now, you straight-phobic hypocrites!"
The Done My Time
"I'll have you know I worked on Barney Frank's campaign staff in 1986! So I don't wanna hear any complaints about what just came out of my mouth. Nobody's gonna tell me I'm not utterly 100% enlightened about gender and sexuality!"
The Unblemished Family History
"Hey, my dad is gay, so it's not like I, as an individual, get any benefit from heterosexism!"
The Bending Over Backwards
(makes you look flexible, but accomplishes little else)
"You queer people are so damn enlightened. I agree with everything you say. Because you're right, of course - not just because I'm straight, and guilty, and afraid that if I say the wrong thing, you'll call me a well-intended but ignorant ally wannabe!"
The Personal Justification
"But I know a gay guy who came on to me/has an open relationship/has wonderful taste in clothing and home decor! And what about my lesbian neighbor who totally loves power tools, was sexually abused as a child, and thinks all men are scum? So as far as I'm concerned, that proves all of my prejudices! Oh yeah, and once my bisexual girlfriend left me for another woman, so that proves bisexuals can't be monogamous. Am I right or am I right?"
The Loophole of Escape
"I can't possibly be a transphobe... I'm part of the oppressed due to the fact that I'm a woman!" (or a person of color, poor, young, living with a disability, etc.)
and closely related, but slightly more specific:
The Card-Carrying Member
"What? I can't possibly be homophobic. I am gay. How can I be prejudiced against myself, huh? No, I haven't heard of internalized homophobia, and I still think gay guys should act like Real Men™!"
The Lean On You When I'm Not Strong
"Teach me, help me. I'm just a straight person, so I need your wisdom as a queer person to show me how not to be a phobe. Wait, is what I said earlier transphobic? Is it wrong for me to wear my wedding ring? Can you come with me to this party, so they'll all know how open-minded I am?"
Throwing Up Your Hands
"What do you mean I'm part of a heterosexist system no matter how I try to distance myself from it or prove that I think differently?! That's ridiculous... I guess I might as well give up and join Fred Phelps' church!"
And a combination of the two:
The What Do You Mean I Can't Lean On You When I'm Not Strong
"I totally stand with you. I just need you to teach me everything I'm doing wrong and how to do it right. What do you mean you're tired/busy/not obligated to help me? What do you mean I'm not your #1 priority/best friend/favorite person? How the hell am I supposed to figure it out if you won't be my special gay guru? You can't just give me a heads up about my heterosexism without also being the tour guide of my journey to enlightenment! Well, I tried to be your ally, but you just f-cked it up, buddy. Too bad for you, and all the other gay people who just lost the best ally they ever almost had!"
Stay tuned for part two tomorrow, where we'll look at more delicious defenses... including a couple super-maneuvers that cover an entire group of people at one fell swoop!