It occurred to me the other day that we will never be able to get rid of homophobia fully until we invent a new word for “straight”. What is “straight”? Dictionary.com describes it as something that does not bend; that is exactly horizontal or vertical; to be evenly or uprightly formed. Thesaurus.com aligns its synonyms with the likes of “continuous”, “erect”, “invariable”.
So basically, if one is not “straight”, by the demands of the English language one must be “indirect”, “broken”, “untrustworthy”, “unconventional”, “twisted” (to name a few of the antonyms Thesaurus.com had to offer). Where do we get off? Who are we to decide someone else is vague or untrustworthy because of a label (or autonomic label) which doesn’t make any sense? Who are we to decide whether someone is vague or untrustworthy without knowing them anyway?
If we are to argue – as I often do with those tied up in the multi-lettered LGBTQ+ acronym – that sexuality is a sliding scale, where on earth does “straight” fit? Is our sliding scale supposed to be a “straight” line, because surely it would actually be a little wiggly, prone to a bend or two as we schmooze our way into whatever relationship makes us most happy. And if we are to argue that “straight” is to be continuous, does that only make me straight if I “continually” fall for the same type of person? Why should my “invariable” attractions be limited simply to gender? Why are they not limited to a specific archetype? What if I change my mind?
“Straight” simply does not exist in our world. “Straight” is forced if you think about it: we built our walls to be straight; we iron our hair to be straight; we try to convince ourselves the truth is straight, when we know damn well it’s merely a construction of someone’s perspective.
If I sit here trying to make my arm straight, it kinks a little backwards at my elbow. My shins may claim to be straight, but the pudge on the back of them would convince you otherwise. Not even the trees in the back garden are straight. Not perfectly. Not continuously. Some even twist unconventionally.
My point is this: language dictates our life. Language dictates our standards, and whilst I might colloquially be known as “straight”, I wouldn’t like to think I lived so uprightly. Yes, I am a girl who likes boys and I’ve never had to question that, but I have liked all types of boys; in fact my own attractions have been described as “twisted” and “unconventional”. So what the hell does that make me?
Whilst I am “lucky” in the sense that my sexuality fits within the supposed societal accepted norm, I am not lucky to live in a world where my sexuality matters, or where I am expected to squeak “I’m straight!” triumphantly should the question ever be asked, or deny others equal rights simply because they do not feel the same way. Especially when that “straight” does not even exist.
We need to change our language and it’s up to us to do so.