When Did Straight Become Weaponized? ~ Outside the Margins with Sue Brown

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One of the things I’ve realised recently is how easy it is to take an ordinary word and weaponize it. By this I mean adapt it to use as a highly-charged weapon for whatever agenda the user might have. It’s nothing new. Think of how the Nazis used language to demonise Jews, how religions use language to exalt themselves and demonise others.

In the long rocky path to marriage equality, ‘traditional’ and ‘equal’ became words with meanings far beyond those in the dictionary. Depending on what side you were on, traditional was the way God intended, limited to one man, one woman, despite the fact that marriage in the Bible bore little relation to one man, one woman. On the other side, traditional was the stumbling block to true equality. Of course ‘traditional’ has stood in the path of women, people of colour, and the LGBT community. It’s no wonder the meaning has soured in many eyes.

Queer is another weaponized word and all the words used to demean gay people. In a recent discussion about HuffPost Gay Voices changing to HuffPost Queer Voices to become more inclusive, it was extremely obvious that gay people (as opposed to LBT) were understandably outraged at a word that had been used for years to demean them, was now being used as an inclusive term. It was also obvious that some of the same people didn’t see how ‘gay’ was exclusive.

Which leads me to my title. When did Straight become weaponized?

I was scrolling through social media and I saw someone in our genre talking about the opinion of a ‘straight woman’.

Again. Really? Do you have to?

Do you know she’s straight or is it just easy to throw that out because you know your mates will all start attacking her – which they did. It’s a very small leap from stupid opinion to stupid straight woman to stupid woman to all women are stupid. She had an opinion you disagreed with. Awesome. Discuss the opinion, not the sexuality of the woman. I’d have disagreed with her too because criticising gay authors for their lived experience is plain idiotic, and it happens far too much. But if I started talking about gay guys in that tone you’d rightly shut me down immediately.

A couple of year ago at a panel, I asked if the guys on the panel could stop using ‘straight women’ and they did. Then it was because there was a heck of a lot of women in the audience who weren’t straight. But now I get pissed off because it’s used to demean women – again. In our genre we should know better than to use sexuality as a weapon.

Okay, have at me. Do you agree/disagree?


~Sue Brown

About Sue Brown

Sue Brown is owned by her dog and two children. When she isn’t following their orders, she can be found plotting at her laptop. In fact she hides so she can plot and has got expert at ignoring the orders.

Sue discovered M/M erotica at the time she woke up to find two men kissing on her favourite television series. The kissing was hot and tender and Sue wanted to write about this men. She may be late to the party, but she’s made up for it since, writing fan fiction until she was brave enough to venture out into the world of original fiction.

Sue’s internet links


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23 thoughts on “When Did Straight Become Weaponized? ~ Outside the Margins with Sue Brown

  1. Thanks for the post, Sue. I think in all discussions the focus should be the topic, issue etc. and not the persons participating in the discussion. Changing the focus to labeling or denigrating the person/individual (instead of focusing on the discussion points) takes us down the slippery slope you described.

  2. I could easily go on a long (and fully supportive of your post) rant here but will limit myself to answering your question: I agree.

  3. An added irony to situations like the one you described is that all too frequently the individual(s) who use the gender and/or sexuality of another person to charge a debate do so as a way to set themselves apart from others in that category. They self-identify with the same gender/sexuality of the person they are criticizing, but they make a point of expressing an opposite point of view for themselves.

  4. I agree. I also really dislike “straight” as a label because it implies that anything else is not normal or right. If I have to identify or label my sexuality, I prefer to identify as heterosexual. Thanks.

  5. When privilege is pointed out in a discussion about marginalization, that is not weaponizing a word, it is pointing out privilege.

    There have been several recent episodes in this queer romance community in which heterosexual writers have contributed to the further hurt and marginalization of queer people. Pointing out their privilege is not weaponizing the word “straight,” it is calling out their privilege and the damage they continue to do by speaking over and silencing queer voices.

  6. This reminds me of something one of my uni professors told me about. She’d attended a conference about feminism, and at one point during a Q&A session, someone had stated they were gay as a preface to their question. It was relevant to the question, so no-one questioned her on it.

    After that, as sometimes happens during such events, *everyone* announced their orientation before asking their question.

    Those who said they were straight were booed. Loudly. To the point that some of them just sat down again without asking their question. Or stopped asking questions entirely.

    My take is if you don’t know the difference between calling out privilege and using a previously safe space to be a bully, especially if it’s in some attempt to get back at those nasty privileged people who had the bad luck not to be born the same as you… please think twice.

  7. I have to agree. I am not going to argue that straight women (or men) need special protections to keep them from discrimination, but it’s beyond hypocritical for a group of people fed up with having their sexuality attacked and demeaned, turn around and demean other’s sexuality.

    Just because a lot of straight people have used their relative privilege to attack people different than them does not mean it’s okay to attack all straight people for being different than LGBT people or treat them as part of a sexuality-wide conspiracy of oppression.

    If someone’s a dick, it’s because they’re a dick, not because of their sexuality. Using gendered or orientation based words as an insult is shitty regardless of who does it to whom.

  8. I am Jewish and queer and am uncomfortable with my identities being used to make an argument I vehemently disagree with.

    Yes, I self-identify as queer as do many many LGBTQIA+ people. Some people in the community have actively reclaimed the word. Others are neutral on it. Others are offended by it. Please do not make a blanket statement about it without researching its complexity.

    Meanwhile… “Straight” is not weaponized. A word that points out someone’s membership in a dominant culture is not an insult. Straight people do not face systemic legal discrimination or violence because they are straight.

    I do agree that we should absolutely make fewer assumptions about people’s identities because they can be complex and private and that authors should write that they want (but in doing so, also realize they will garner response from the types of people they write about and that response may not always be favorable).

    And if you’e not Jewish (I have no idea if you are or not) please think twice before using analogies about our history to make your point.

    Thank you.

  9. Pointing out that snidley saying “That stupid straight white woman” is rude and unnecessary is in no way claiming that straight people are systematically oppressed.

    There’s a middle ground between “this is something we shouldn’t do” and “this is a huge problem that’s oppressing people”.

    Bringing people’s sexuality into a conversation where it’s not relevant and using it to imply that said sexuality makes someone lesser is wrong no matter which direction it’s going in. Just because LGBT+ people have been wronged in the past doesn’t mean it’s okay to turn the tables and do exactly the same thing with language that the people who were cruel to you did.

  10. This right here is why I feel unsafe as a queer person (or gay man, since apparently I have to be OUTRAGED by the use of the word queer or I’m not a proper gay man) in m/m. What a horror show of a post, and a horror show of privileged people pretending to suffer. Good LORD.

  11. Straight is not a weaponised word! Comparing Jewish history and the nazis as similar to referring to someone as straight – is offensive. Being straight is to be a member of a privileged and dominant group. It is also nothing to do with any discussion about who writes queer romance.

    • Thank you. As a queer person, I am VERY uncomfortable by being compared to a NAZI for acknowledging the privilege of the people telling me that because I’m bisexual, the romance genre is not for me.

      I’m a NAZI for acknowledging the privilege of the people who say I should call romances about people like me (who are do not identify as gay) “Gay Romance” because M/M is for straight men learning they are actually gay only for one other person but NEVER for men who actually liked other men the whole time and also, incidentally, liked girls.

      I am a NAZI for acknowledging the existence of heterosexual privilege in a genre about people like me but not for people like me.

      No. I don’t accept this.

      • This. To use it as a direct comparison is wrong, and much more. If I start, I won’t stop.

        I’m sorry, I wasn’t going to comment, but screw that.

        • Yeah, I’m obviously late to this post, but if I start, I won’t stop, so let’s just say Lirtle…I feel you.

  12. The term “straight” is not weaponized. It’s a descriptor that allows us to know what position that the person holds in the kyriarchy.

    For example, if I were to engage in a discussion about issues for people of color, my perspective would be from that of a white woman. It has different meaning and speaks to the level from which my experience and empathy come.

    The same can be said about straight/heterosexual people in regards to an issue in the queer community. The experiences and empathy a straight person brings to the discussion is very different from that of a queer person. This apply to the case of cisgender people as well in issues the trans community faces. Or even able bodied people in issues of disability.

    When you exist as a member of the dominant team in the kyriarchy, it is your responsibility to own your privilege and understand what that means for you and your interactions with others.

    Some become allies, which can show a united front. But there is always the risk that people in positions of ally-ship forget that the voices of those in the oppressed community need to be heard by both oppressors and allies. And their duty isn’t to shout above those they are supporting, but to help clear the platform for the persecuted to be heard.

    And others are so deeply in denial that they lash out and feel personally “picked on.” These white/straight/cis/male/ablebodied/etc. people experience a fragility. They don’t want their world view to be tilted on its axis. It may be the first time they can emphasize with other groups that have historically been oppressed, but instead of finding empathy with reflection, they find anger. It *should* feel uncomfortable when your views are challenged and you realize you may not be in the right.

    The fact that you try to make this post a powerful ‘activist’ opinion piece by starting with a reference to Nazism, when it in no way relates is in poor taste. This post draws examples that relate to each other and your main point as loosely as over cooked spaghetti. And your anecdotes don’t really make any relevant sense.

    I suspect that this post is more an expression of your own personal fragility. Perhaps it is time for some reflection and a sociology course.


    • This: “When you exist as a member of the dominant team in the kyriarchy, it is your responsibility to own your privilege and understand what that means for you and your interactions with others.”

      And it’s not easy, but it’s necessary.

  13. I have a lot of feelings about this that’ll probably end up in my own blog post (I don’t want to dominate your space and brevity has never been my friend when I feel passionate about something) but I did want to leave a comment here.

    The core of what I’m feeling is this: As a group, people who identify as straight are afforded a level of power, privilege and protection that LGBTQIA+ people simply don’t have. When your identity makes you part of the dominant culture and grants you power, privilege and protection, it’s not a weapon being used against you. When conversations about marginalization are taking place and you speak from that place of privilege and people call it out, that’s not weaponizing your identity. Part of being an effective ally is understanding that sometimes your voice isn’t the one that needs to be amplified and that sometimes having that privilege means that you might say/do something hurtful without meaning to and that when that happens, you will be corrected. That correction may not be gentle. It may leave you raw and feeling picked on or “bullied” but marginalized people are under no obligation to kindly and gently “educate” someone who is (intentionally or not) being harmful to them.

  14. The thing is, the writer’s sexuality *is* relevant if she’s a member of a socially dominant group (heterosexuals) writing about an oppressed group (Gay/bi men) and presumably making money off it. That she’s so uncomfortable with that dynamic being named both in reference to her work and within this piece – where she lectures us on what terms are and aren’t “inclusive” of members of our community, and compares a population who were murdered by the Nazis *to the Nazis – speaks volumes. It goes to show how much “m/m” hasn’t erased homophobia in romance, but only changed its manifestation. Disgusting.

  15. “Straight” is only a descriptor, and if you feel it’s being used in a derogatory way, maybe you should think more about why that’s happening. Why would i feel the need to point out that an author who represents people like me for profit doesn’t share my experiences? Seriously, please think about it.

    I hope, especially if you continue writing about male romance & sex, that you change your mind about whether it ever matters if you’re straight, or whether you identify or are perceived as male.

    If those things didn’t matter, you wouldn’t be drawn to write about them so specifically. 🙂

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