Instead of my usual column this week, I have decided to share with you an insightful essay — a declaration, really — I came across on the Internet some time ago. I’m not sharing this essay in place of my column out of laziness, but rather because it expresses more poignantly than I ever could the reality gay people face — a reality of which most straight Americans seem blissfully ignorant.
The essay I encountered a few years ago was attributed to “Anonymous,” but after some digging I found it was actually written by a group of straight students at Earlham College (a small liberal arts college in Indiana) and is based on a book by Peggy McIntosh called White Privilege. What follows is the list — with a few omissions, revisions and additions of my own — of privileges straight people enjoy on a daily basis (the original can be read online at www.cs.earlham.edu/~hyrax/personal/files/student_res/straightprivilege.htm).
1. I am not identified — politically, socially, economically or otherwise — by my sexual orientation.
2. I do not have to fear that my family’s, friends’ or coworkers’ finding out about my sexual orientation will have emotional, physical, psychological, spiritual or economic consequences.
3. My sexual orientation is not used to exclude me from any profession or organization (e.g., teaching, the military, the Boy Scouts).
4. I am not accused of being deviant, warped, perverted or psychologically confused because of my sexual orientation.
5. I can go home from most meetings, classes and conversations without feeling excluded, attacked, ostracized, outnumbered, intimidated, stereotyped, dehumanized or feared because of my sexual orientation.
6. People don’t assume I know other heterosexuals just because they’re heterosexual.
7. People don’t ask me why I chose my sexual orientation, and they certainly don’t ask me why I chose to be open about it.
8. I can easily find a religious community that will not exclude me for being heterosexual.
9. I am guaranteed to find sex education material for couples of my sexual orientation.
10. My masculinity or femininity is not challenged because of my sexual orientation.
11. When I talk about my heterosexuality in casual conversation, I will not be accused of pushing my sexual orientation onto others.
12. Whether I rent a movie or go to a theater, I can be sure I will have no trouble finding my sexual orientation represented accurately.
13. I am guaranteed to find people of my sexual orientation represented in the UW curriculum, faculty, administration and alumni.
14. I can walk in public holding my significant other’s hand and not have people stare, snicker — or worse.
15. My individual behavior does not reflect on people who identify as heterosexual.
16. In everyday conversation, the language used assumes my sexual orientation. That is, “sex” refers only to heterosexual sex; “family” refers only to one man, one woman and their children.
17. People do not assume I am sexually experienced because of my sexual orientation.
18. I did not grow up with games that ridiculed my sexual orientation (e.g., “fag tag,” or “smear the queer”).
19. My sexual orientation is not used as a synonym for “bad” or “stupid.”
20. People don’t assume I possess any mysterious means of identifying other heterosexuals (e.g., “straightdar”).
21. I don’t have to defend my sexual orientation.
If you think this is just more fag whining (I’m accused of this each and every time I write about gay issues), then reread the last point and ask yourself what an opinion column pointing out the privileges heterosexuals enjoy by virtue of being heterosexual represents. Give up? It represents one more gay person being denied one of the many privileges straight people take for granted by having to justify his existence.
Chris McCall ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in German and political science.