I have more than a few beefs with Tim Wise, so they don’t start and/or stop with this. I will openly admit that I was once a member of the uncritical fuck-yeah-TW crowd, but I have been re-thinking this position for a number of months for a number of reasons. I’ve come to the conclusion that white anti-racists (such as myself) have a responsibility to be critically engaged with one another rather than unyieldingly supportive. It’s my personal stance that white privilege inevitably dictates that we will be wrong, misguided, confused, mistaken, or all of the above more than once when we attempt to educate and inform. There is never any guarantee (or possibility) that we will know everything, and the above screen shot of a recent Tim Wise tweet happens to be a particularly good example of this reality.
From one queer whitey to one straight whitey, here’s a five-point list of why this kind of story is not and should never be “inspiring”:
- First and foremost, someone who has a temporary adventure in fake queerness comfortably resumes their straight privileged life once they unpack their I-learned-so-much-from-this baggage. If you want to know what “straight supremacy” is like, then you need a lifetime of enduring it—not a one year trip to its main attractions. Actual queers do not have the luxury to return to safety and comfort because at no point are we done with being queer. We don’t go home from being queer, we are home. Queers know all about straight supremacy, so why would a straight white male ever need to teach anyone about it?
- For someone who does as much scholarly and professional work in critical race theory and anti-racism, you would have to know that a privileged person inhabiting or “pretending” to be an oppressed identity is an act of violence. Non-Muslim white women shouldn’t be wearing hijabs so they can learn about Islamophobia and pretend to experience oppression for a minute. How quickly would you tweet “racist dumbass” if some white guy pretended to be Black for a year to learn about white supremacy? You should have been quick to tweet “homophobic dumbass,” which is what this story is about—not an inspirational figure.
- Oppressed identities do not need to be invented by non-oppressed identities just so they or the uninformed can have an epiphany and gain knowledge. Oppressed folks tell their own stories and produce their own knowledge, and any prevention, derailing, or intervention of this process is in line with white supremacy. Once again, I don’t understand how you could have missed this very explicit example of appropriating a struggle and an identity that is not one’s own in order to learn about the “other.” I question why you would even give attention to something like this when queer voices rarely, if ever, speak for themselves in mainstream media.
- Being inspired by this homophobic farce exposes straight privilege without skipping a beat. Since I am not straight, this story triggers the fuck out of me. I can’t decide whether I’m more disgusted by the story, or more disgusted by the fact that someone/anyone would be inspired by it. How can you celebrate a straight white male for pulling offensive shit like this? Sexuality is not an experiment or an intellectual exercise; it’s not a road trip. Something as deeply personal and complex as sexuality can’t be packaged into a quick learning guide. And no one needs to learn about homophobia from a straight person in a gay costume.
- The experience of homophobia is not just an external one: it has social and public manifestations as much as it has deeply personal and private consequences. Being queer isn’t limited to how people treat you when your sexuality becomes known to them. Regardless of this highly offensive exercise, I will never be convinced that a straight person pretending to be queer will even remotely experience the shame, guilt, and fear that is equally involved with this identity on an internal level for many queers. The obvious fact is this: queer people don’t pretend to be queer, you don’t momentarily become queer when you’re straight, and straight people who pretend to be queer can fuck off.