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A little community education

Amy Leibowitz awareness culture education identity LGBTQIA politics queer social justice tips

I thought this might be a good time to do a little bit of LGBTQIA+ education. Even those of us within the community can sometimes be unaware of what affects people with identities other than our own.

It comes up periodically that someone (or usually multiple someones) take issue with the terms different parts of the community use. I’m not going to get into a spitting contest with people over it, so I’d suggest that folks do some reading on the history of different terminology. Many of the words we know now have historic uses beyond how we apply them, and some have reclaimed these definitions or combined them with newer ones. Study up before spewing uninformed hate at someone for identifying in a manner you think they shouldn’t.

What I do want to speak to is an idea I’ve seen among many of my fellow writers, and I agree with it wholeheartedly: Straight is not the opposite of queer/lgbtqia.


Allow me to explain. Unless we want to try to police every single LGBTQIA+ person who also uses “straight” as part of their identity, we need to accept this fact. There are trans/nonbinary and intersex folks who are straight. There are asexual and aromantic people who use split attraction and straight is part of that.

Denying that straight folks can be part of our community is usually a way of policing bisexual people (calling them “straight” based on how their relationship appears); excluding asexual folks (for being asexual, but using an excuse); denying that straight trans/nonbinary folks exist; treating nonbinary people as their birth-assigned gender; and ignoring intersex people entirely.

Exclusionists tend to believe someone is only a valid part of the community if they experience same-gender attraction AND are in a same-gender relationship. Sometimes they will concede that bi, ace/aro and straight trans/nonbinary people (ignoring intersex folks again) exist and are part of the community, but we must prove we belong by constantly detailing any trauma we’ve experienced. This is because it’s also sometimes believed that only “real oppression” (whatever that is) counts for inclusion.

Sometimes the gatekeeping is a misguided belief that we must have our community remain “pure” and free from random cisgender heterosexual people who want to belong for...unkonwn reasons. I guess because we’re a country club and membership has perks? They want their free toaster? I really don’t know.

All of this is silly. Bi, ace, aro, straight trans/nonbinary folks, and intersex people are all welcome should they (we) choose to identify as part of the community. (There are people who don’t want to, and no, it isn’t “internalized homophobia,” and yes, they are allowed to opt out if they don’t feel it fits them. They just aren’t then allowed to decide others should do the same.)

Instead of using “straight” as the opposite of queer/lgbtqia+, we should become accustomed to understanding that someone who truly isn’t part of the community fits all of the following:

endosex: in other words, not intersex. Their chromosomes and anatomy fit what is medically and socially expected for male and female.

allosexual: the opposite of asexual; a person who experiences sexual attraction, usually in socially normative ways.

alloromantic: the opposite of aromantic; a person who experiences romantic attraction, usually in socially normative ways.

heterosexual: primarily or exclusively experiencing sexual attraction to people of a different gender from one’s own.

heteroromantic: primarily or exclusively experiencing romantic attraction to people of a different gender from one’s own, typically the same one they experience sexual attraction to.

cisgender: not transgender; having a gender identity that aligns with one’s birth-assigned gender.

Those are somewhat simplified definitions, and anything can be complex. I think a good case can be made for also including monogamy in the above, however, that’s more complicated than I can address in this post. As a rule, someone who is ALL of the above is not part of the lgbtqia+ community. 

Which, when we think about it, is probably not as large a number as it may seem.

Many people may simply not ever give it much thought, assuming they fall into all those categories or that if they don’t, it’s unimportant for whatever reasons. Other people might experience some fluidity in their gender, sexual, or romantic identity, but they may see it as irrelevant or might have internalized antagonism about it.

Every person would benefit from considering their own identity and what makes sense to them. The reason for having a grouping of gender, sex, sexual, and relationship minorities is not to make a Gated Community that keeps out unwanted pests. It’s so we have support emotionally, socially, and politically. If we start monitoring every single person we think shouldn’t belong, we would very soon be just a handful of people with no support structure.

What I’m asking is that we stop excluding people because they are “straight” and that we shift our thinking to protecting vulnerable people rather than keeping people in or out. If we look at it as taking care of those who need it, we move away from arguing over which members of our community have “more privilege” than others and focus more on what we have in common and what we do with that.

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