I apologise in advance that this will come across as a rant but it is inspired by a tweet I read by someone who stated…
There is nothing more offensive than someone describing themselves as ‘straight acting’
I don’t think the person in question has taken the time to think about the history behind the term and those of us who lived that history and I am concerned that he has the ability to influence others.
You see for many of us, who lived as LGBTQ through anything prior to this century, being ‘straight acting’ wasn’t just an aspirational lifestyle choice, it was about survival. Much in the same way that trans people today strive to ‘pass’ in order to gain acceptance we needed to act straight in order to have a career, go out with friends, mix with our families, and in the case of life before 1967 avoid arrest.
Yes I know that sounds dramatic but you have to understand some of the things we experienced during this time. So I will give you some examples…
In 1988 at the height of AIDS panic I was told by my employer, a major supermarket chain, that as an out gay man I was to avoid handling food. I was a cashier at the time and they wouldn’t let me handle food. They made me wear gloves.
In 1990, before the law changed my 22 year old friend, who was in a committed 2 year relationship with his boyfriend who was 19 , were both shopped to the police, by their own parents. He went through the indignity of arrest, a night in the cells and a criminal record all for being in a committed long term relationship. They had never told their parents about being gay.
In 2000 the company I had worked for happily for several years and had attained a good position was taken over by a multinational energy provider. I was advised ‘off the record’ by my director that I needed to play down who I was in order to get on. When I asked what he meant he told me I was too open about being in a relationship with a man. I refused and as a result was gradually demoted till I left.
And as late as 2005 I was unable to come out at work as my new boss, who was a nice guy but had no idea about me, had told me about the ‘poof’ they had had working for them who hadn’t worked out. It took another 3 years and my boss leaving for me to be able to come out in this all male environment.
In all instances had we just acted straight, kept our heads down and ‘passed’ then we could have avoided all the hassles we went through. And before you say that things have moved on, think about Hollywood actors, Footballers (in fact most organised sports), those who work in the armed forces and so many more occupations where being straight acting is the easiest way people can be who they want to be. It doesn’t make it right, and it is changing, but it’s not just history .
This is not to say I’m not a loud proud gay man! I have never spent time in the closet to those who count, but I’m also proud to call myself ‘straight acting’ even if these days that is more about being me, with my hubby, living in our 2 bed semi and working 9-5 than it is about ‘passing’
So excuse me for choosing my own label and choosing not to ditch it, but I’ve worked hard to be who I am and I’m proud of all aspects of it.