Hi friends in black-and-
yellow [Ed Note: GOLD] land. My name's John, and I write for another SB Nation hockey blog, Jewels from the Crown. I've also been out as pansexual for quite a long time, both on Twitter and in my personal life, and I very recently came out as genderqueer. This is why I'm here to tell you that the "new study" linked to on this blog earlier today is actually kind of garbage.
First of all though, I need to send a thank you to this community's gracious editor, who saw me (and others) react negatively to this study and asked if any of us were interested in writing a response to go up on the blog. That's exactly the correct mindset to take- if the topic in hand directly affects queer people, find someone who is queer to respond to it. The same of course should go for any other minority or oppressed group. If every website had that kind of attitude, we would all be in a much better place. So again, thank you to him.
There's a lot of issues with that study, so let's unpack them one-by-one. First of all, it's much easier for straight people to answer a poll question in support of LGBTQ athletes than it is for them to actually support LGBTQ people in their daily lives. Going back to my own experience, many people who probably think of themselves as "progressive" or maybe even "pro-gay rights" stood silently by (or even tacitly endorsed) as their friends made insults and jokes about my genderqueer identity and pansexuality. There's a huge, huge gulf between "I'm willing to tell a pollster that I'd be happy if my team came out as pro-gay rights" and "I'm willing to do literally anything at all outside of my comfort zone to actually support LGBTQ people in my daily life." The former is nice, I guess, but has very little impact on anyone's life except making the straight person feel good about themselves. The latter is what we all really need, and what we're so often not given.
Even on a more macro level, sports fans are willing to support gay rights only up to a certain point. For some, that point is "when my team's player launches a homophobic rant against a gay referee", because many fans defended Rondo. For others, it could be something as silly as "when my team is supported by a billboard from a gaybashing company". Last year, a certain fast food company with strong ties to the religious right put up a billboard in support of the Atlanta Hawks' playoff run. The level of pushback from straight people defending not just the Hawks, but the company that has a well-documented (and traceable) history of supporting gay bashing with money, actually shocked me at the time. It shouldn't have, but it did.
Here's what I forgot: to straight people, LGBTQ rights are a difference of opinion. To the straight & cis, whether or not we are allowed to live our lives as fully equal members of society is considered to be something up for debate. Sure, they might think that Chick-fil-a is wrong for having their opinions. But it's still just their opinion and we have to respect that!
What I just described is privilege. You have the privilege to view a documented history of queerbashing as a difference of opinion. You have the privilege to view financial support given to organizations that advocated for gay people to be stoned to death as something we can sit around a table and argue about. For queer people on the ground, living in a society built for and maintained by the straight & cis every day, it isn't just something we can agree to disagree about. It's our mental and physical health on the line. It's wondering if the person looking at us a certain way means us actual, bodily harm. It's feeling like we're being excluded, told every minute of every day that we don't have a place in your world, and all the emotional and psychological trauma that comes with that. It's watching as you coddle and continue to befriend people who don't view us as human, and then wonder why we come to the conclusion that you don't either. Straight people have the privilege not to see things this way. We don't.
But even beyond the simple fact that straight people often say one thing and do another, we have another issue: your idea of "gay rights" or "supporting LGBTQ people" is often a lot more narrow than ours. There are a lot of people out there that like to make fun of the acronym, or otherwise imply it's silly and/or an excess of modern liberalism. Some of these people may even see themselves as pro-gay rights, which seems ridiculous even to type. But it isn't to them, and there's a very simple reason why: they only care about the "G" in "LGBTQ". And on some level, it's understandable; when you look at the media and who gets reported on, it is overwhelmingly (white) gay cis men. That is the face of the movement, and in many ways the only part of the movement the mass media cares about. Even cis white lesbians often have a hard time getting focus on their problems, problems that are often unique from what cis gay men are dealing with (people of color who are gay get no attention or representation no matter which gender they are, which is why intersectionality is so important).
But asking straight people to acknowledge the T or Q in LGBTQ is basically impossible, and this is doubly true when it comes to athletics. This article in the Victory Press, written by a trans person, explains the issues involved better than I ever could. To athletics, trans people and people outside the gender binary (enbys, including genderqueer, agender, genderfluid, demi-gender, etc.) are mostly invisible. When we are visible, it is as a nuisance, a breakdown in the gender binary machine that it is made clear would be preferable not to exist. That's the atmosphere we're all dealing with, whether we're reporting on, playing, or just trying to be a fan of a sport. Universally, we are told that our existence makes you uncomfortable, and you'd rather like us to just go away.
The fact of the matter is that even some of the people in the "G" of LGBTQ would like to be separated from the rest of us. They can see that the public is, as a general rule, more receptive to their cause (at least on a purely surface level) than they are to that of everyone else in the queer spectrum. Thus you get things like a petition started by a cis gay man to remove the T from LGBTQ, which got enough support that several prominent gay rights organizations felt compelled to answer it. Here we see many straight "allies" and cis white gay men come together in support of a common cause: codifying the gains of one minority group at the expenses of another, more vulnerable minority. It's a very similar dynamic as we've seen play out in all sorts of minority groups, as the majority grants a minority some favorable rights and treatment in exchange for pressing their boot to the heel of another minority group together. Here is an actual quote from the organizer of that petition, published on a right-wing blog (CW: transphobia):
Yes, that's a cis gay men using a variation on the "save the children" argument, against trans people. You may recognize this argument as almost exactly the same as what straight people used against gays for basically an entire generation. For decades we were told that gay men either wanted to prey on straight children and/or "turn them gay", and we had to protect the children. That was used to justify all sorts of prejudice and discrimination. And here's a cis gay man happily turning it around and trying to use a variation of it ("they're forcing some cis children to transition against their will!" which is utter nonsense; every study ever done on this says the number of people who actually regret transitioning is minuscule, and obviously the opposite would be the case if this man's arguments were true) to justify prejudice and discrimination against those who are trans.
This has obviously been a lot of words, so I appreciate it if you've stuck around till the end. Here's my bottom line on this: studies like the one this blog linked to earlier today are meaningless fluff designed to make straight people feel better about themselves. Straight folks want to believe that things are getting better and that they are more progressive than they actually are, because obviously that's a comforting narrative. The fact of the matter is that things are significantly better for only a narrow slice of the larger LGBTQ community. For the rest of us, conditions on the ground remain the same as they've ever been: surround yourself with a good support group and friends who will accept you and care about you for who you are, and you might be okay. But the general public will make it very clear that it not only views you as an outsider, but it actually views you as an active detriment to society; it views you as an aberration that it would prefer not to exist, unless you are exceedingly quiet about it.
You haven't really changed, straight people. You're still just as rigid, condescending, and ultimately harmful as you ever were. So stop patting yourselves on the back for literally a single second and do something about it.
Thanks for reading.