Tiered Straightness Theory

Going back to old, old stuff…. I’ve gotten to thinking about this more, the implications of this idea… a definition of straightness that suggests, if not requires, an explicit hierarchy of straightness.  All straights are straight, but some straights are straighter than others.

That’s what comes of a working definition of straightness that depends on absences & on what is *not* experienced (re: patterns of desire, attraction, unwilled feelings, etc.), without any dependence on what *is* experienced (re: patterns of desire, attraction, unwilled feelings, etc.), deliberately shaped to include pathologized experiences off of that list, as long as they meet the given absence criteria.

I just wanna say — it might actually be workable, for all I know, but there’s a couple things I haven’t seen addressed.

After the implied “multi-flavor straightness” model occurred to me (as an underlying meaning that I had to infer to make sense of some things people’ve been saying), I got to thinking about what other dominant class types work that kind of way, if any…

And then I figured, hey, could this be a “how the Irish became white” kind of thing?  I guess it could, couldn’t it?  Taking race and Whiteness as a basis of comparison, you could describe a dynamic where periphery-dominant or even subjugated populations trade on their similarities to strengthen relationships to central-dominant populations and expand the definition of the dominant class to include themselves.

But, funny thing about that, if that’s your basis of comparison.  That describes a deliberate move on behalf of the population with more tenuous status.  That’s something they’d have to do on purpose.  Actively, even.

On that note, I’m reminded of what Siggy wrote on pre-2011 conversations among aces about the LGBT question:

Every few weeks on AVEN, someone would ask something along the lines of “Do you think we’re part of the LGBT?” And it would always trigger some passionate back and forth. I immediately became a partisan for asexuality being under the queer umbrella. I saw many of the opposing arguments as strained. For example, “But we’re already mistaken for being gay, so if we say asexuals are queer it would just make it worse.” Or simply, “But I’m not gay.” […]

When asexuals insisted they weren’t queer, I always worried about possible homophobia. Now, when allosexuals insist that asexuals aren’t queer, I worry about possible acephobia. How completely different!

Sometimes I find this new context surreal. To allosexuals who insist asexuals aren’t queer, I fantasize about saying, I’m sorry, do you not realize which side you’re taking? It’s the homo/bi/pan and trans asexuals who have been the fiercest advocates for asexuality being queer, and it’s the hetero asexuals who have most dragged their heels.

Branching off of that… and in light of a tiered model of straightness, where periphery groups jockey for affiliation… I don’t see why you’d see aces-deliberately-grouping-themselves-in-with-straight-people as as an… unambiguously… good thing.

And I’m wondering about another thing, while we’re here.  I’ve seen some people using “woman-aligned” and “man-aligned” to refer to nonbinary people who align themselves more with one binary gender than the other.  I’ve seen people invalidate nonbinary people, and I’ve seen people incorrectly postulate that all nonbinary people have a binary alignment (aka… invalidating nonbinary people…), but I haven’t seen anyone claim that all nonbinary people should be considered man-aligned.  This is significant when the people who use binary-alignment language (both woman-aligned and man-aligned) overlap with the people who figure het-less people like aro aces have straight privilege.  Aro aces are clearly nonbinary in relation to the het/lgb binary as much as people with nonbinary genders are nonbinary in relation to the man/woman gender binary… and yet I’ve never seen anyone talk explicitly of het-aligned and lgb-aligned aro aces.  Not in so many words.

I bring that up not to suggest it as a thing to do but to highlight a difference in how two different kinds of binaries & respective nonbinary identities are dealt with, mostly because I think it’s interesting how that happened, and also because it feels like an opportunity for reconsidering some things.  Functionally, classing aromantic asexuality as a form of straightness is about as coherent as referring to all nonbinary people as categorically male-aligned.

Leaning on breadth of straightness (covering people who ID as straight and people who ID as things besides straight) makes what-we’re-grouping-as-straightness this porous, mixed, layered thing… & it would seem to me that that opens up the possibility of talking about different relationships to straightness, and degrees of loyalty and investment in straightness, and even the idea of “political straights” in the same sense as “political lesbians” whose identification is based on allegiance/alignment rather than the presence of specific feelings… which! would be a new, fresh, exciting angle for criticizing “non-lgbt” aces! and which would also require paying attention to, for instance, the relationship between “cishet aces” and other kinds of cishets, instead of just the relationship between “cishet aces” and lgbt people (which imo is a really disingenuous divide where it fails to address the relationship between cis hetrom aces and cis aro aces and lgbt aces, in particular, but I digress).

See, though — there you have an expanded catalog of options.  Your mission, should you choose to accept it, etc. etc.  Somebody show me what you can do with that.

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13 responses to “Tiered Straightness Theory

  • Siggy

    I worry about cishet aces sometimes. Interaction with queer communities has been immensely important to understanding myself. And while there are many norms in same-sex dating, at least everyone participating has firsthand experience bucking some norms. And while I may have interacted with a lot of hetero ace jerks back in the day, ultimately I only exchanged a few words with them on a forum, and they’re the ones who have to live with themselves.

    Of course, having no personal experience in that area, I can’t really offer any but the most speculative analysis.

    • Coyote

      From context I can’t actually tell which meaning of “worry about” you intended here… but I suspect both apply.

      • Siggy

        I meant that I worry about the wellbeing of cishet aces.

        • Funaria

          I wonder often if it would have been mentally easier in a way to be non cis/het as an ace. Obviously there are many privileges I experience as a straight-passing person, and I’m not trying to say in any way that I have it *harder*.
          The main thing behind this thought when it happens is that for so long I thought I was just failing at being straight, but I knew I wasn’t LGBT, so what else was there? I’m in a mostly happy marriage, but the guilt and self-hate I feel stems mostly from not knowing I was Ace until after I got married. It’s the awkward line between being not q*r enough but not straight enough either.
          I think any other combination apart from possibly aro/ace would have at least alerted me to the fact that something was different before I was 28. And, as I’m fortunate enough to be Canadian, LGBT* rights in my area are not the life-and-death issue or even can-I-get-married issue they are in so many other parts of the world.
          I’m not sure if any of that really made sense, or if my cis/het privileges are blinding me to something obvious, but I hope it outlines a little of what cis/het ace problems are like for me.

          • Coyote

            “I wonder often if it would have been mentally easier in a way to be non cis/het as an ace.”

            mmmm…. doubtful. Believe me, being non-cishet isn’t always enough to bring more certainty or save you from the “am I just a failed straight” thing.

          • Funaria

            “Being non-cishet isn’t always enough to bring more certainty or save you from the “am I just a failed straight” thing.”
            Damn, wishful thinking I guess.

    • Siggy

      killerbee13’s comment reminds me that there’s probably an analogy to bisexuals here. We know that bisexuals are worse off than L & G people by most measures of quality of life. I’ve often wondered which bisexuals are most impacted. Is it the bisexuals who interact a lot with lgb spaces, or is it the bisexuals who only interact with straight spaces? Wouldn’t it be ironic if it turns out that the bisexuals who are perceived to be “straight-aligned” are in fact the ones who are worse off?

      • ettinacat

        Well, I read a study once that found that bi women are more likely than straight or lesbian women to have been a victim of spousal abuse, and the majority of the bi victims in that study had male perpetrators, which would fit with your theory. I can’t recall if they controlled for the increased availability of men attracted to women (which means bi women, all else being equal, will tend to have more male partners).

  • killerbee13

    This is a very interesting discussion, and I’d like to hear more refinements and interpretations of the theories presented herein.

    But, as someone who IDs as both bisexual and asexual, I would like to question your unequivocal inclusion of bi people on the non-straight side of the (political) “binary”. While the majority of vocal bi people would definitely agree, the truth is that, from the outside perspective, bisexuality is clearly nonbinary as well. (This raises the question of non-vocal m-spec people, and it’s definitely the case that many of them do quietly (or not) align themselves with straight people; I have two sisters like that, even.) (I’m certain you’ve heard this rhetoric before, since comparisons between asexuality and bisexuality are a dime a dozen.) So basically I’m suggesting that “lgb-aligned aces” should be amended to reflect that the b in that is nowhere near certain in comparison with the lg (unfortunately).

    Perhaps I’m reading too much into a single letter, though.

    • Coyote

      “While the majority of vocal bi people would definitely agree, the truth is that, from the outside perspective, bisexuality is clearly nonbinary as well.”

      Oh certainly! The reason a lot of things in this post here are phrased the way they are is because it was my attempt at extracting something from the SGAT model (where “lgb” and “same-gender attracted” are figured as interchangeable) as to where it concerns cishet people, so… yeah, I’m making a case nominally directed toward people already invested in that particular binary. I’d already agree with you that the coalition isn’t that simple.

  • code16

    I think the second to last paragraph beginning that basically comes to ‘it’s more complex’ is well – important-and-true-things and also like, applicable all over the place.

    {Also everything I’m saying feels like it has boatloads of other complexity attached where I can’t explicitly bring it all in. But, trying}

    Where like – when it comes to the two examples you mentioned of gender things and orientation, the dimensions that I seem to see coming up most commonly (if often implicitly) (which isn’t to say they’re the only ones that exist, are themselves simple, or anything like that) are ‘how you get read’ and ‘your internal experience of yourself etc’ (for gender) (neither of which are themselves a monolith!) and ‘your partner’ and ‘your internal experience of yourself etc’ (for orientation).

    Which then crosses with the stuff you bring up in its own various ways. Like –

    and yet I’ve never seen anyone talk explicitly of het-aligned and lgb-aligned aro aces. Not in so many words.

    Given the existence of the ‘partner’ thing, this one I actually get kind of *confused* that I don’t see people talking about it. Like, If aro ace person A wants to marry their (nonromantic nonsexual parter) same gender partner B – they’re depending on exactly the same court cases, laws, etc to be able to do that. It’s not like ‘oh, but we’re not romantic or having sex’ would have gotten anyone an exception there. Which to me ends up feeling like people are thinking an implicit ‘single or solo’ onto ‘aro ace’, which then brings up its own… all sorts of thing.

    Functionally, classing aromantic asexuality as a form of straightness is about as coherent as referring to all nonbinary people as categorically male-aligned.

    Meanwhile this ends up, like, …dissecting? another ‘area line’. Because if you change around how the ‘A’ and ‘not A’ groups get drawn around, you can end up raising like ‘referring to all nonbinary people as not women’. Which definitely *can* come up in questions like ‘who can come to Womens’ Space X’ or ‘misogyny vs internalized misogyny’, etc.

  • code16

    Meanwhile the race example for me brings up the (similarly ‘controversial’ so to speak) thing re ‘are Jews [who aren’t also PoC for a different reason] white’.

    Where like, for me this also very strongly comes back to complexity. Because like – well, as far as I’m concerned, I am indeed white. I’ve checked that on every form I’ve filled out since the first one in like third grade, I identify with white privilege checklists, I feel like I very much experience white privilege, the shit in my head to me is ‘racism’ and not ‘internalized racism’, etc.

    But like, the fact that that’s a thing for me isn’t ‘a fact’ or whatever – it’s, well, an experience. And it’s *very different* from the experience say my parents had being subject to antisemitism and having Jewish as an ethnicity in their passports in the Soviet Union. And it’s *very different* from the experience my bf’s friend who’s an actress and gets denied roles for looking Jewish has, or other people who live other places than me and again *have different experiences*. And I’m not going to ever come into a discussion and say ‘my experience = the answer to this question’. And I very much don’t want my experience to be taken in some kind of ‘some Jews’ way and used against other people.

    And meanwhile it’s *also* the case that ‘my experience’ isn’t, like, some kind of Set Platonic thing, because well, stuff like ‘being warned of concerns of racist attacks if my family visited Russia’ or ‘ok so what happens if I go to some of these other places/the place I live in goes through some changes/etc’ are *also* part of my experience where they’re not going to be part of other peoples’.

    Anyway. Like you said. Porous and mixed and layered and.

  • Linkspam: January 13th, 2017 | The Asexual Agenda

    […] Coyote wrote about Tiered Straightness Theory. […]

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