This is an excerpt from QUEERS READ THIS: I HATE STRAIGHTS, a leaflet published anonymously by queers and distributed at the June 1990 Pride March in New York City.
I have friends. Some of them are straight.
Year after year, I see my straight friends. I want to see them, to see how they are doing, to add newness to our long and complicated histories, to experience some continuity. Year after year I continue to realize that the facts of my life are irrelevant to them and that I am only half listened to, that I am an appendage to the doings of a greater world, a world of power and privilege, of the laws of installation, a world of exclusion. “That’s not true,” argue my straight friends. There is the one certainty in the politics of power: those left out of it beg for inclusion, while the insiders claim that they already are. Men do it to women, whites do it to blacks, and everyone does it to queers. The main dividing line, both conscious and unconscious, is procreation … and that magic word — Family. Frequently, the ones we are born into disown us when they find out who we really are, and to make matters worse, we are prevented from having our own. We are punished, insulted, cut off, and treated like seditionaries in terms of child rearing, both damned if we try and damned if we abstain. It’s as if the propagation of the species is such a fragile directive that without enforcing it as if it were an agenda, humankind would melt back into the primeval ooze.
I hate having to convice straight people that lesbians and gays live in a war zone, that we’re surrounded by bomb blasts only we seem to hear, that our bodies and souls are heaped high, dead from fright or bashed or raped, dying of grief or disease, stripped of our personhood.
I hate straight people who can’t listen to queer anger without saying “hey, all straight people aren’t like that. I’m straight too, you know,” as if their egos don’t get enough stroking or protection in this arrogant, heterosexist world. Why must we take care of them, in the midst of our just anger brought on by their fucked up society?! Why add the reassurance of “Of course, I don’t mean you. You don’t act that way.” Let them figure out for themselves whether they deserve to be included in our anger.
But of course that would mean listening to our anger, which they almost never do. They deflect it, by saying “I’m not like that” or “Now look who’s generalizing” or “You’ll catch more flies with honey … ” or “If you focus on the negative you just give out more power” or “you’re not the only one in the world who’s suffering.” They say “Don’t yell at me, I’m on your side” or “I think you’re overreacting” or “BOY, YOU’RE BITTER.”
They’ve taught us that good queers don’t get mad. They’ve taught us so well that we not only hide our anger from them, we hide it from each other. WE EVEN HIDE IT FROM OURSELVES. We hide it with substance abuse and suicide and overachieving in the hope of proving our worth. They bash us and stab us and shoot us and bomb us in ever increasing numbers and still we freak out when angry queers carry banners or signs that say BASH BACK. For the last decade they let us die in droves and still we thank President Bush for planting a fucking tree, applaud him for likening PWAs to car accident victims who refuse to wear seatbelts. LET YOURSELF BE ANGRY. Let yourself be angry that the price of our visibility is the constant threat of violence, anti-queer violence to which practically every segment of this society contributes. Let yourself feel angry that THERE IS NO PLACE IN THIS COUNTRY WHERE WE ARE SAFE, no place where we are not targeted for hatred and attack, the self-hatred, the suicide — of the closet. The next time some straight person comes down on you for being angry, tell them that until things change, you don’t need any more evidence that the world turns at your expense. You don’t need to see only hetero couple grocery shopping on your TV … You don’t want any more baby pictures shoved in your face until you can have or keep your own. No more weddings, showers, anniversaries, please, unless they are our own brothers and sisters celebrating. And tell them not to dismiss you by saying “You have rights,” “You have privileges,” “You’re overreacting,” or “You have a victim’s mentality.” Tell them “GO AWAY FROM ME, until YOU can change.” Go away and try on a world without the brave, strong queers that are its backbone, that are its guts and brains and souls. Go tell them go away until they have spent a month walking hand in hand in public with someone of the same sex. After they survive that, then you’ll hear what they have to say about queer anger.
Otherwise, tell them to shut up and listen.