I told her, no, I wasn’t gay, but my dad was. Clearly, she hadn’t been reading any of the pieces I’d shared on my personal blog about my gay dad. And, apparently she hadn’t yet heard of The Gay Dad Project.
I asked her if she found it odd that as a straight man I posted so much about LGBTQ issues. She said, no, and thanked me for the clarification. We chatted about high school, music, and a few other things for a bit before we both went offline.
Why do I post so much about LGBTQ issues? Why do I care? Why did I care enough to help start The Gay Dad Project? Why don’t I just go and live my straight life and be happy and free, and not involve myself in any of this stuff? Because we all know that if I wanted to, I easily could do just that, and it would be no big deal.
Being straight is easy. There’s no stigma. I don’t have to ever feel embarrassed about it, or worry that others are going to feel uncomfortable with me around. I never have to call my wife my “partner,” or defend my sexual orientation when we walk down the street holding hands, with our two kids trailing behind. No one will beat me up because I’m straight.
There are a hundred other things I could mention, and they all come down to one thing: I enjoy the benefits of straight privilege. I am “normal.” I am what people expect, what they assume, and what they want. I don’t ever have to talk about it if I don’t want to. I don’t have to “come out.”
Power Over, Power With, Power Within
Every single relationship in the history of humankind has, to some degree, hinged on the idea of power: relationships between two individuals, between and within groups, between nations, and within many other hierarchical relationships. Sometimes power is earned, sometimes it is inherited or given unfairly, sometimes it is used properly, sometimes it is abused.
Power is not inherently a bad thing, and is natural and necessary in a variety of situations. It is what we do with the power we have that makes all the difference. Do we use our power to condescend, subjugate, oppress, injure, kill, or otherwise physically or psychologically harm those who do not have power? In other words, do we wield our power over others so there is no way they can share any of the benefits that our power provides for us?
Or, do we recognize that we have power, and find creative and beneficial ways to share our power with those who do not have as much? Do we use our power for good? Do we use our power to promote equality? Do we use our power to try to right historical wrongs, and to influence opinions and perspectives? Are we comfortable giving up some of our power so that others can have more?
As a straight person, I have privilege, and with my privilege comes power. How I use my power is my choice – as it is everyone’s choice who is in a position of privilege. I have chosen to recognize my privilege, and use my power to make a positive difference in the world.
The more of us who are able to do the same, the bigger difference we will all make. Will you find the power within yourself and join me?