Born this binary, or am I an act of violence too?

Craig Hanlon-Smith September 2, 2021

“We’re all non-binary and pansexual beings at our core, identifying as ‘straight’ is an act of violence in itself.” I read and re-read the social media post several times, trying as best as I know how to understand it from a host of different psychological perspectives. Having walked a mile in an array of second-hand footwear I remained troubled. The full quotation began: “Being a ‘queer person’ is just being an honest person and acknowledging the spectrum of gender and sexuality without defining ourselves by a binary with a history of violence against open-minded beings on this planet.”

“My truth is to be a gay man. These are binary statements of my gender and sexual identity, and they are true”

The auteur of this social and sexual enlightenment is NEO 10Y, a self-defined spiritual revolutionary, artist and musician. Having perused the respective social media accounts and Youtube videos I really like what I see and will absolutely seek this artist out for the full live experience. NEO 10Y’s performance work looks genuinely exciting. These references above were spoken a year ago but have come to light today through the recent re-reposting across a range of accounts, many of which have thousands of followers and claim to be representative groups and organisations of all LGBTQ+ people. Reposts along with statements such as “AMEN to every word of this”.

First, to say, I respectfully acknowledge and support the right of all humans to self-identify and express themselves as they see fit. This, of course, extends to NEO 10Y and people of all gender and binary or not definitions… I also acknowledge there are parts of the world where we are not free to speak with such openness. Whichever way it is, we are all born like it and have should have the right to say so. The thing is that includes ‘straight’ people. I was struck here by the idea that only a ‘queer person’ is honest. The origins of the adjective ‘straight’ from the 1500s is one who is true, direct and honest. To ‘play it straight’ in a vaudeville sense was to avoid the immediate comedy and ‘be the straight (man)’ to the comedic fool of a theatrical pairing. To ‘straighten up’ or ‘go straight’ is reference from the criminal underworld, first used post-World War I, to leave a life of crime and become honest. ‘Straight’ as we now know it first emerged in the 1950s as the opposite of a person who is bent in the sexual sense.

“Self-definition is not the preserve of a small minority of queer people, it is either the right for all or the right for none”

Agreed, it is a blunt adjective and, like many queer, gay, LGBTQ+ people, I have been subject to violence at the hands of a small number of ‘straight’ people emboldened by a cultural norm. I have also been subjected to some pretty unpleasant verbal assaults from people who claim to live under the LGBTQ+ umbrella. There are individuals living in same-sex pairings who are subjected to domestic violence. Aggression and violence are not the preserve of straight people in the same way that sexual promiscuity does not belong to gay men.

On that note, I am a gay man and proud to be so. Proud of the journey that has brought me to this point of pride and truth. My truth is to be a gay man. These are binary statements of my gender and sexual identity, and they are true.

I appreciate we live in changing times and, according to a recent survey published in Gay Times, 25% of young LGBTQ+ people identify as non-binary. I celebrate that we live in this open and developing climate and respect the individuals who self-define as they see fit. Self-definition is not the preserve of a small minority of queer people, it is either the right for all or the right for none. Of course, we can have our cake and eat it, otherwise what is the point of the cake? There is also enough cake to share.

Human rights activist Peter Tatchell campaigned hard for Civil Partnerships to be made available to ‘straight’ people as well as same-sex couples. He argued, rightly, that if same-sex pairings could have either a civil- partnership or get married, yet our heterosexual equivalents could only do the latter, this was discrimination. We cannot justify discriminating laws or comments aimed at the majority because we were oppressed by them for centuries. We move forward together or we don’t move at all.

I cannot speak for straight people, nor can I speak for the non-binary population as I am neither, and yet I do believe sexuality to be on a spectrum or matrix and most individuals floating around it somewhere. I appreciate for some this is the same with gender. For diversity to exist in a community there are also starting points and polar opposites. To float around the middle claiming righteousness and point at another describing their identity as an act of violence is not only inflammatory it is the beginning of the end. If to be straight is violent, what is gay? What is lesbian? I fundamentally challenge the idea that we are all non-binary pansexual beings at our core and can think of many lesbians who would not want to get all pansexual with me on account of our respectful identities. Some people are gay, some people are lesbian, get over it.

I embrace, respect and celebrate change, I know what it takes to find and then to live a truth at one time thought impossible. I fought to speak my truth and have been wounded along the way. I will also fight to keep it. If the LGBTQ+ community starts to eat itself, no one will come to our aid. Never forget, progress is fragile.