Dear Princess ‘Ishka,
Pride season is not only set on fire by the summery sun, but also by the heated debates about the significance of pride. The excesses are criticized, but also the capitalist exploitation of the event, the culture of showing off perfectly sculpted bodies or the hypersexualized atmosphere, till the monopoly of the event exerted by gay white men, overshadowing the opposition to racism, lesbophobia and transphobia within the lgbt community.
Overall, I am still strongly in favor of pride as a political/social/cultural event of affirmation of the lgbt community in the wider society, inclusive of all the identities that still suffer from lack of visibility. But I can’t be a supporter of a pride that doesn’t evolve over the years: we need to cope with the criticisms, distinguish between the cheap and the constructive ones, and strive for a better pride for the years to come.
This is why I hardly tolerate pride supporters showing very little critical thinking in making their point when asked for. It seems that many pride supporters believe in some sort of “mantra of inclusion” of all non-heteronormative gender identities, which arbitrarily excludes straight people from the “pride spectrum”. Why arbitrarily? Because most of these pride supporters, anchor their conception of pride on a private understanding of their own sexuality: if they find out that they are not heterosexual, they already have a reason to be “proud”. But why? Why straight people shouldn’t be proud of their sexuality as well? Why is sexuality anything to be proud of in the first place?
There must be better reasons than a private understanding of one’s own sexuality. In a previous letter of mine, I pointed out the difference between two dimensions of gender: one is intimate, hardly definable and private; the other one is political and subject to public assessment.
The first dimension can be the basis for a positive self-identification, which has not yet political meaning and can’t be criticized in the first place. If I come to believe that I am sexually attracted to people I only feel a deep emotional bonding to, independently of their gender, then I might very well be a demisexual and identify as such. But this identification can’t be the basis for pride yet! There is nothing to be proud of about being of a certain sexual orientation/gender identity per se.
At this point, the political dimension of gender comes into play. For political affirmation, we need much better defined labels: labels and categories that potentially everyone can find intelligible, and not only our inner self. How do we find these categories? Well, they are already there, because the heteronormative society has done a wonderful job in discriminating and creating them in our place: gayphobia giving us gays, lesbophobia giving us lesbians, transphobia giving transsexuals/transgenders, to the more general misogyny giving us women, and racism Blacks, Asians, and so on and so forth.
The public/political dimension of gender is grounded mostly on negative phenomena of systematic discrimination and oppression of behaviors, allusive to non-heteronormative sexualities. In short, when asked why isn’t there any straight pride, one shouldn’t answer by appeal to private reasons, but rather keep in mind an entire history of discrimination and political fights, which contributes to give meaning to categories like “gay” and “lesbian”.
This doesn’t yet mean that if you are pansexual, demisexual, asexual, etc. or simply “privately gay” or “privately lesbian” you don’t belong in pride. In that case, rather than direct opposition to homophobia or transphobia, the motivation for pride can very well be public visibility and representation.
You might now protest: there is more to being lesbian or trans than mere resistance to homophobia and transphobia! There is more to being a woman than mere fighting misogyny and patriarchy! After all, no one ever chose to be non-heteronormative, we ended up being such, who-knows-how. Furthermore, there is beauty and positive value in enjoying one’s “spontaneous” non-heterosexuality without necessarily thinking about political visibility! We have a right to “thoughtlessness”!
I agree. But I also think that this spontaneity of behavior can’t be arbitrarily held as evidence for a public category or a public vindication: one needs good arguments in support of her positions and be open to the possibility of being shown wrong. As I’ve been arguing elsewhere, I think that the correct route to follow is anchoring basic forms of non-heteronormative behavior in our biological makeup.
Demisexuals pose a challenge to my view: they neither are direct objects of homophobia insofar as they identify as demisexuals, nor can they credibly ground their identification in their biological makeup, for it is based for the most on culturally shaped emotions. What right do they have to vindicate their “public dimension of gender”?
I don’t know but, most probably, human beings are much more complicated than what we will ever be able to find out, and a little theoretical charity with respect to demisexuals sounds very much in conformity with pride values.