The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

This Pride Month, Don’t Assume Your Friends Are Straight

A person smiles at the 2019 DC Pride Parade. (Courtesy of Clara Mello)

Disclaimer: here the word “gay” describes anyone attracted to the same gender, regardless of whether they are attracted to other genders as well.

Everyone’s conditioned to believe that being straight is what’s normal — that being gay sets people apart. At WIS, much of this heteronormativity exists in the form of homophobic comments that do immesurable damage to closeted students. June, Pride Month, is a great time for WIS’s student body to change. Because it has to. 

When a girl and a guy are best friends, we wonder when they’ll start dating. We don’t think twice about two girls. When we watch movies, we expect the opposite-sex stars to end up together, and we’re usually right on target — think Ron and Hermione. Katniss and Peeta. Han and Leia. Peter and MJ. Bella and Edward. James Bond and his various love interests. Pretty much every rom-com to hit the mainstream. Even the cars in “Cars” and the toys in “Toy Story” are straight. When celebrities come out, it’s a big deal, and there are suddenly news stories dedicated entirely to their queerness. Ultimately, we’re supposed to assume people are straight, which makes non-straightness stand out wherever it exists. 

Of course, gay people are heteronormative too. The assumption of straightness is so entrenched in our society that nobody can single-handedly destroy it. But the problem worsens when heteronormativity slips into blatant homophobia. If everybody’s straight, then homophobia is harmless, right? Even in our liberal bubble, people assume their friends are straight and won’t be hurt by homophobic comments.

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1 in 6 Gen Z identify as LGBTQ, according to a Gallup poll from this year. Only two-thirds of Gen Z participants reported being exclusively heterosexual in a 2017 Ipsos Mori study. If you assume your friends are all straight, you very well may be wrong. 

A homophobic joke isn’t worth that risk. If someone is closeted, homophobia actively hurts them. When you’re closeted, any homophobia, however subtle, fills you with anxiety. When your friends are homophobic, your self-esteem plummets. They seem to hate who you are. It doesn’t matter if they say they support gay people, because their actions consistently show otherwise. Homophobic jokes stop being ‘just jokes.’ You’re always afraid of outing yourself, because you’re worried your friends will abandon or hurt you if they find out. 

You feel trapped. And at every turn, a heteronormative society reinforces that feeling. Books. Movies. TV shows. News articles. Music. Social media. You are surrounded by reminders that you stand out, so you try your hardest not to. You laugh at all your friends’ jokes. The cycle continues. 

No one deserves to feel that way; plenty of people do. But WIS students can help break that cycle. This Pride Month, I’m calling upon WIS students to recognize their own heteronormativity. Students: consider whether you make comments at the expense of gay people, and fight the assumptions that make those comments seem acceptable. Make it clear in your treatment of gay people that you support your friends no matter how they identify. Closeted students need to know there is a place for them at WIS.

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