Friday, June 25, 2010

Thinking Twice - Thoughts on Straight Privilege

I lean closer, brush the hair from her eyes, trace the line of her face down to her neck, then gently pull us together for a deep, long kiss. As we separate, we press our foreheads together, smiling, my hands resting on the back of her neck, hers resting lightly on my chest. Another couple on the bus, impressed by our passion, asks "Are you two newlyweds?" 

We look up, blushing, and answer "No." The couple smiles and says that we look like we're newly married, that we have a great "positive energy" about us. We grin and look shyly at each other, twining our fingers through the other's hands.

I can't imagine this scene, something that really happened (and more than once) when I was seeing women, playing out the same way were I with a man and not a woman. Now, I catch myself thinking twice about things that would never have crossed my mind before. My poem "Touch" explores this issue a little - "is anybody looking?" and "what do they think?" have become refrains in my head, however much I try to stifle them.

This disparity in experience has made me acutely aware of what is called "straight privilege" - the hidden privilege that goes along with being a member of a sexual majority. I didn't have to think twice before, and now I do. This is hard for me - I'm very physically affectionate, and am used to displaying that in public, and I am finding that many of the men I am encountering are not so comfortable with that. 

This is with good reason: even in Massachusetts I've received homophobic comments in bars and on the street, and twice, while out with friends at night, passing drivers have yelled variations of "Fucking Faggots!" (once in the Castro - seems like an unwise location to express that particular sentiment - and once while walking to a friend's house after Providence's Pride Parade).  

I'm determined not to allow this sort of prejudice to stifle my natural affection for those I love, but at the same time I don't want to make them uncomfortable. Mostly, although I enjoy making statements, and I'm comfortable taking I stand, I just want my old privileges back - I want to hold hands and kiss in public without having to think twice...


  1. Yes, it's a bitch. Speaking as someone who was gay-bashed by a drunken pug with a knife -- he did not succeed in killing my friend, only in slashing me -- I have to recommend reasonable caution.

    Though even that is no guarantee: in the incident above, nobody was touching, we were just 6 women friends out without a man, and that was enough of a crime to him. There are those who will kill queers and think it right.

    Sucks, huh?