July 5, 2019 10:53 am
Updated: July 5, 2019 11:01 am

Straight Pride is an ‘attack’ on the LGBTQ2 community, experts say

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June is celebrated as LGBTQ2 Pride month, but a group in the U.S. wants to recognize heterosexuals in August.

Super Happy Fun America, a Massachusetts-based group, whose slogan is “it’s great to be straight,” is organizing a Straight Pride Parade in Boston on Aug. 31.

City officials approved the controversial group’s application for an event permit despite widespread outrage, including from politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and actor Whoopi Goldberg.

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The Straight Pride Parade route will begin at Boston’s Copley Square and end at city hall, following the same route as the Boston Pride Parade that took place on June 8.

Who are the members of Super Happy Fun America, and why are they organizing a Straight Pride Parade? Here’s what you need to know.

How did Straight Pride start, and what does it stand for?

According to Super Happy Fun America’s website, their parade “is a festive occasion that will be used as a platform to educate the public on the unique problems facing our community and to fight against heterophobia.”

The group was founded by John Hugo, who says he started Super Happy Fun America “in order to advocate on behalf of the straight community,” according to the group’s website.

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ThinkProgress reported that the parade’s organizers have “close ties to far-right groups,” including white nationalists.

In an email to Vox, Hugo said he is organizing a Straight Pride Parade because straight folks are not represented at Pride parades.

“Perhaps, one day, straights will be honoured with inclusion and the acronym will be LGBTQS. Until that time, we have no other choice but to host our own events,” he wrote to the outlet.

Milo Yiannopoulos, a controversial alt-right figure who was banned from Facebook in May for violating its rules against hate and violence, is the parade’s grand marshal.

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Yiannopoulos is openly gay but said in a statement to Vox that he is partaking in the parade because he has “spent [his] entire career advocating for the rights of America’s most brutally repressed identity: straight people.”

While Super Happy Fun America received a permit for its parade, Boston officials turned down the group’s request to raise a Straight Pride flag at city hall. The group says all are welcome to attend the event.

Why people feel Straight Pride is so problematic

According to Olivia Nuamah, executive director of Pride Toronto, Straight Pride is just another example of a majority group trying to argue they’re oppressed in similar ways as minority groups. This is not true, as members of the LGBTQ2 community are much more likely to be victims of harassment, discrimination and violence than straight people are.

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Recent government data found that “the odds of being a victim of violent victimization were two times higher among lesbian, gay or bisexual Canadians than among their heterosexual counterparts.”

People who identify as bisexual were almost nine times more likely to be sexually assaulted, the data showed.

“As soon as a group that experiences institutional oppression decides that they’re going to make their voices heard, the counter-narrative says somehow, the majority of the population in any given community suffer themselves [and] needs to celebrate their own identities,” Nuamah told Global News.

“[It’s] as though, somehow, they are equally oppressed for not being able to take up space around their own sense of oppression.”

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Straight Pride also dismisses the fact that members of the LGBTQ2 community do not have the same lived experiences as straight people. This includes romantic relationships, professional experiences, access to health services and human rights. (Same-sex marriages were only legalized in Canada in 2005.)

The Canadian Mental Health Association highlights data that shows members of the LGBTQ2 community face higher rates of mental health issues as well as discrimination when trying to access health services.

Other U.S. research has found that LGBTQ2 youth are at a higher risk for substance use, sexually transmitted infections, cancers and cardiovascular diseases.

Helen Kennedy, executive director at Egale, says the idea of Straight Pride is an “attack on the LGBTI community” and highlights the need for more education around the issues marginalized groups face.

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“We need to look at the broader issues around the LGBTI [community] like homelessness, our suicide rates, our hate crimes and really understand the lived experience of LGBTI people in Canada and around the world,” Kennedy told Global News.

“It’s not a healthy situation for many of us.”

Nuamah adds that Straight Pride helps “legitimize” the idea that heterosexual people should celebrate their sexuality, too, while missing the point that Pride is about more than sexuality. Nuamah says Pride is also about advocating for equal rights and fighting against systemic oppression.

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“[Straight Pride] is actually saying that queer people are the same as everybody else and somehow aren’t entitled to seek to find solutions for the issues that oppress their community,” she said.

The Straight Pride Parade in Boston

In Boston, Nuamah says the fact the city agreed to grant Straight Pride a permit for its parade is an issue in and of itself.

The city said it approves event permits on “operational feasibility, not based on values or endorsements of belief,” the Washington Post reported.

But by letting a Straight Pride event even happen, Nuamah says Boston is ignoring the fact that Pride exists because LGBTQ2 groups have been discriminated against for so long. She says the city is making Straight Pride an issue of free speech, even though the rhetoric of Super Happy Fun America is harmful to the LGBTQ2 community.

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“The most problematic aspect of Straight Pride is the fact that the City of Boston decided that if queer people are going to be able to say, ‘We are struggling,’ then straight people can say, ‘We are struggling, too’ — even though there is absolutely no evidence to corroborate that,” she said.

“To give them a permit because they are a group and they are allowed to be able to express themselves however they like is… ignoring the fact that [Straight Pride] exists to be counter to the LGBTQ2+ community.”

How to steer the conversation in a meaningful way

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh will not attend the parade, the city told the Washington Post, and celebrities including Chris Evans have publicly denounced the event.

While Kennedy says it’s important to not give groups like Super Happy Fun America an elevated platform, she also believes it’s important to talk about their beliefs to understand how they’ve formed. Kennedy says it’s crucial that people don’t shy away from these tough conversations.

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“We don’t have a broad enough education base that is really inclusive and intersectional,” she explained.

“We’re not bringing that critical analysis into the classroom, where our young people need to be having these conversations, and we’re shying away from discussions around gender identity, sexual orientation because people align these conversations with sex, and that’s not where they should be aligned at all.

“It’s a much broader conversation.”

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Allies of the LGBTQ2 community also have a responsibility to help advocate for equal rights, foster inclusive societies and stand up against homophobia and transphobia. Kennedy says that while Pride parades are only one day a year, the issues the LGBTQ2 community faces are year-round.

“Allies to the community on a day-to-day basis can be our greatest champions [as they] can participate in events and conversations, push for a broader curriculum in our education system and can make sure that our youth are getting the type of education that reflects our broader society,” she said.

Laura.Hensley@globalnews.ca

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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