Shot by Dayne Topkin

In the interests of radical openness, I don't get it. I don't understand how a man can be romantically attracted to another man. I have affection for my guys, and I don't mind expressing it, but for me, that's never graduated to a level of wanting physical intimacy with another handsome fella.

That said, I am fortunate for my experiences because they led me not to have to understand the specifics ins and outs of LGBTQI+ culture to support the space they are trying to carve out for themselves. Because what I do understand is the deep and fundamental desire to make a place where you belong and feel safe. In this context, which one wants to share their body with is irrelevant.

I waited until Pride was over to express this because I didn't want to take up what little spaces they had to focus on my thoughts. I also don't want to be viewed as unique, brave, etc., because I don't believe it takes any of that to connect with another human being. But I want to share why I think we as cishet folks should be supporting Pride because our fight is the same whether you identify as queer or not.

I see a lot of mainstream narratives around the visibility of queer causes and advocacy gaining momentum to the point certain people are worried about the hilariously dubbed Gay Agenda, as if it is a covert ecumenical plot to displace straight people from the completely made-up hierarchy of gender. A hierarchy that has been brutally and grossly enforced in several ways gives credence to the idea it is more a social construct than a biological one.

There have been many, let's call them 'theories' as to why LGBTQI+ initiatives have been getting so much attention. Generally, I find the ones coming from people who identify as straight to be utterly ridiculous, most notably the recent idea that queer folks are 'grooming' young people to exploit them as if old straight men haven't been doing that since... well forever. I believe there is an effort to objectify youth in Western cultures sexually. Still, that conversation has to start with straight men, who have been celebrating grooming young women as a necessary part of building a relationship that they will value. I think it's fair to say a lot of straight people's distaste for engaging in the convo around rights for gay, bi, and trans folks revolve around their projections rather than the fundamental point of people fighting for the right to exist as they are. And the word for that is bigotry.

Fortunately, people belonging to those communities are speaking for themselves, and that's where I find far more insightful commentary on their motivations to continue pushing despite consequences of being openly at odds with the status quo. It is here in their words and expressed experience where I find an easy point of connection. This particular thought by Alok Menon is a beautiful summation of my feeling about why I think we, as straight folks, should not only be respectful of queer spaces but fight for their expansion.

As I stated previously, I don't understand all of the specific complexities of being attracted to the same sex, but I do understand the desire to be free and whole. As a Black guy that has grown up in a country that doesn't like Black people, I wholeheartedly understand the desire to create a space where I feel cared for, safe, loved, and at peace. I've been fighting my fight for this kind of space for a long time. And the more I take the time to be quiet and listen, the more I realize that I have far more in common with the LGBTQI+ community than not. While not wholly identical, our struggles overlap significantly because we both want the same thing.

And that's to have the freedom to define ourselves and our spaces as we see fit. And that's a struggle I want to be a part of, no matter how one identifies. I don't want my relationships to be dictated by my biases and prejudices out of the abstract fear that I am losing something by supporting someone else who isn't like me. I want my perspectives and views to be expansive enough to include everyone without forcing them to reduce what they are for comfort. My progress to become a whole person will not come at someone else's expense. It doesn't need to, especially when other people try to attain the same for themselves.

Honestly, you probably won't see me at any parades wearing anything provocative. Ha, I'm a lowkey who doesn't like a lot of attention. But I will ardently support and advocate for anyone who wants to create better spaces for themselves and their people, free of violence and full of love and acceptance. That struggle is my own.

And that desire to be accepted and embraced as a complete and complex person is a beautiful goal to aspire to.