This article is based on Peggy McIntosh’s article on white privilege and was written by a number of straight-identified students at Earlham College who got together to look at some examples of straight privilege. These dynamics are but a few examples of the privilege which straight people have. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer-identified folk have a range of different experiences, but cannot count on most of these conditions in their lives.
On a daily basis as a straight person…
I can be pretty sure that my roomate, hallmates and classmates will be comfortable with my sexual orientation.
If I pick up a magazine, watch TV, or play music, I can be certain my sexual orientation will be represented.
When I talk about my heterosexuality (such as in a joke or talking about my relationships), I will not be accused of pushing my sexual orientation onto others.
I do not have to fear that if my family or friends find out about my sexual orientation there will be economic, emotional, physical or psychological consequences.
I did not grow up with games that attack my sexual orientation (IE fag tag or smear the queer).
I am not accused of being abused, warped or psychologically confused because of my sexual orientation.
I can go home from most meetings, classes, and conversations without feeling excluded, fearful, attacked, isolated, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance, stereotyped or feared because of my sexual orientation.
I am never asked to speak for everyone who is heterosexual.
I can be sure that my classes will require curricular materials that testify to the existence of people with my sexual orientation.
People don’t ask why I made my choice of sexual orientation.
People don’t ask why I made my choice to be public about my sexual orientation.
I do not have to fear revealing my sexual orientation to friends or family. It’s assumed.
My sexual orientation was never associated with a closet.
People of my gender do not try to convince me to change my sexual orientation.
I don’t have to defend my heterosexuality.
I can easily find a religious community that will not exclude me for being heterosexual.
I can count on finding a therapist or doctor willing and able to talk about my sexuality.
I am guaranteed to find sex education literature for couples with my sexual orientation.
Because of my sexual orientation, I do not need to worry that people will harass me.
I have no need to qualify my straight identity.
My masculinity/femininity is not challenged because of my sexual orientation.
I am not identified by my sexual orientation.
I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help my sexual orientation will not work against me.
If my day, week, or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it has sexual orientation overtones.
Whether I rent or I go to a theater, Blockbuster, an EFS or TOFS movie, I can be sure I will not have trouble finding my sexual orientation represented.
I am guaranteed to find people of my sexual orientation represented in the Earlham curriculum, faculty, and administration.
I can walk in public with my significant other and not have people double-take or stare.
I can choose to not think politically about my sexual orientation.
I do not have to worry about telling my roommate about my sexuality. It is assumed I am a heterosexual.
I can remain oblivious of the language and culture of LGBTQ folk without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.
I can go for months without being called straight.
I’m not grouped because of my sexual orientation.
My individual behavior does not reflect on people who identity as heterosexual.
In everyday conversation, the language my friends and I use generally assumes my sexual orientation. For example, sex inappropriately referring to only heterosexual sex or family meaning heterosexual relationships with kids.
People do not assume I am experienced in sex (or that I even have it!) merely because of my sexual orientation.
I can kiss a person of the opposite gender on the heart or in the cafeteria without being watched and stared at.
Nobody calls me straight with maliciousness.
People can use terms that describe my sexual orientation and mean positive things (IE “straight as an arrow”, “standing up straight” or “straightened out”) instead of demeaning terms (IE “ewww, that’s gay” or being “queer”).
I am not asked to think about why I am straight.
I can be open about my sexual orientation without worrying about my job.
“Yes. Yes I am. I am a feminist. I reject wholeheartedly the way we are taught to perceive women. The beauty of women, how a woman should act or behave. Women are strong and fragile. Women are beautiful and ugly. We are soft spoken and loud, all at once. There is something mind-controlling about the way we’re taught to view women. My work, both visually and musically, is a rejection of all those things. And most importantly a quest. It’s exciting because all avant-garde clothing and music and lyrics that at one time were considered shocking or unacceptable are now trendy. Perhaps we can make women’s rights trendy. Strength, feminism, security, the wisdom of the woman. Let’s make that trendy.”— Lady Gaga
I read your post about having someone reach out to you. I don't mean to be yet another thing for you to deal with, but I suffer from severe depression and anxiety, and I'm wondering... what did/do you have? I struggle with it every single day, and lately I've been in an even worse place thanks to being suddenly thrown into isolation (I don't have a family I can go to, and my one support - my boyfriend of two and a half years - is now gone). How did/do you deal with things? I feel entirely overwhelmed and I'm starting to frighten myself. I'm already on medication and have sought therapy, but it doesn't seem to do much; I'm looking for something that I could maybe do for myself.
What do I have
I have major depressive disorder, or your “garden variety” depression. I was diagnosed when I was 14 and have been dealing with it for the last eight years. I think I also dealt with social anxiety as well when I was younger and that has improved as well over time.
How do I deal with it
I’ve been going to counseling for the majority of the last four years and will probably continue to do so once I go to graduate school. Counseling has probably been the most effective way for me get better, learn boundaries with people, and overall feel able to express my emotions honestly and not feel ashamed for feeling them. I used antidepressants from ages 14 to 16, but stopped because I really hated how I felt on them.
I think for anyone it is really essential to find a good support system. For me, I was lucky my mom had depression and was really understanding. There is a lot of stigma and stereotypes about depression so it can be hard to find people who really understand or are willing to just listen and not give advice. I’ve had to learn a lot about boundaries with people and that it’s okay to not be in relationships with people who are insensitive to my disorder or who trigger unhealthy thoughts/behaviors for me.
Some things I’ve found that helped are volunteering and getting involved with something bigger than yourself. It helps with the feelings of isolation and helplessness. Definitely check out NAMI.org to see if there are resources/meetings in your area that you could go to and get more support from. I also journaled extensively when my depression was the worst just to get those feeling out of my mind which helped a lot too. Traveling also has always made me feel better, but I can’t always afford to go somewhere when I’m feeling depressed.
Let me know if I can expand on anything or if you have any other questions :)
So last night I was in a pretty bad mood, I had to pay for car repairs and was just tired so I decided I needed to vent a bit on tumblr. Nothing out of the ordinary for someone who has had a bad day.
However, at 3:55 am I got a text message. Normally, I have my phone on bedside mode but I had forgotten to do this before going to sleep. I was pretty annoyed at first, expecting it to be someone drunkenly pranking me or a wrong number. However, within seconds I realized this wasn’t a mistake or a joke.
I looked down at the screen and I saw that the person at the other end was having suicidal thoughts and turned to me for help. I was shocked, for one I don’t know this person terribly well and also hadn’t talked to this person in months. Nonetheless, they reached out to me.
We talked for an hour about what was going on. Things seem better now and the person is looking for treatment.
It has been a lot to process, I’m glad I was able to handle it and give this person some help. At the same time though, I wonder how many other people across this country were having similar feelings at 4 am and didn’t know who to talk to or didn’t take the risk of disclosing to someone who they don’t know well.
However, I know one of the reasons why I got this message at 4 am is because I’ve taken steps forward to disclose my experiences with mental illness to others. What happened last night showed me that the more I am able to be open the more other people can be open as well.