Outside Looking In

I hope to write more on a particular aspect of his piece at some point soon, but to jump ahead of myself I wanted to say that I really enjoyed North’s piece on heteronormity and Russell’s on Sally Ride. I am inclined towards agreement on both.

It’s a source of uncertainty when I am exposed to some of these issues. On the one hand, I am heterosexual. It feels a bit presumptuous and in some cases disingenuous of me to even chime in. I support gay rights pretty thoroughly, but my interests are not particularly aligned with them in the way that they are aligned, to some degree, with gender equality (though I am male, my household income depends on fairness to women) or male family-legal rights (though even this is hypothetical until I am confronted on the courts on some issue). It’s always different from the inside than it is from the outside looking in, and when it comes to gay rights, or racial civil rights, I am pretty thoroughly on the outside.

The most my contribution can make is “as a heterosexual male, I can say that I find this argument off-putting and this one convincing, and so if you want to convince heterosexual males, consider me a data point I guess.” I may extend beyond that to other heterosexual males I know, in some cases saying “I don’t find this convincing, but others do, so maybe you should run with it?”

Doing so runs the risk of straightsplaining, of course. The notion that it does – or it might – is one of the things I do find off-putting about it. Even as I agree, to some extent, that there is a sense of privilege that runs through offering counsel and perspective on things you are at best tangentially involved with to people that are inescapably involved in them. Of course, talking about this can come across as being all “ooooh, look at me, poor white heterosexual male claiming the victim!”

This is, of course, a rather natural conflict. Not too bad a one to have, in the grander scheme things. I hesitate, at least a little, to cheer Russell and North on for saying what I am in less of a position to. Yet I am, of course, glad that they are saying things and opening up these avenues of conversation where I am invited (despite whatever discomfort I might feel) to participate. The line between that, and the unseemly enthusiasm that (for instance) some conservatives have when an African-American speaks out on the problems of the African-American community, is one that’s hard to pin down.

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.


  1. Will, I’m not sure what I think of this as advice (not sure you need advice, or that I’m in a position to give it, or that it would even *be* good advice), but I can tell you what a friend said to me once. “I used to think I had no horse in the race because I’m a happy, comfortable, white straight guy. Then my wife got pregnant.” He wanted a world for his kid where if that kid ending up falling in love with someone of the same sex or if the kid realized he was really a she or the other way around, or … WHATEVER, that it would be as uneventful an event as possible.

    He said he had no idea which of those might happen, and he would feel guilty if life turned out that way for them and he hadn’t done everything he could to make the world a good place where they could make a good life. At which point he realized he had some stake in the conversation. Not the same kinda stake as people who live with discrimination on a daily basis, but bigger than the one he had when he was thinking about his friends.

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