QuISP Like Me: the Queer-Identified Straight Person

hats A few years ago, I was at a party at a friend’s house and was introduced to somebody. It turned out that this guy knew someone I worked with at PlanetOut, an online media company that serves the gay and lesbian market. We proceeded to spend several minutes talking about gay dating patterns, gay celebrities and gay civil rights issues, during the course of which it emerged that neither of us was, in fact, gay. “I’m not surprised,” he said. “I’ve observed that in the Bay Area there seem to be a lot of queer-identified straight people.” What struck me about his statement was that it wasn’t striking. I knew immediately what he meant. I’m not Metrosexual, that buzz term of a few years ago that has since died a well-deserved death. In fact, I can barely dress myself, my hairstyle is stuck somewhere between Allman Brothers and grunge, and my reaction to dance music is rather like the reaction that vampires have to being on hallowed ground. Nevertheless, roughly 50% of my social circle is gay. As often as not, if I’m attending an artistic event around town, it’s queer-related. The political causes I’ve associated with have involved gay rights. Looking back, I realized that most of my former roommates had been gay, with the exception of my ex-wife (and look how that turned out!). And, as mentioned, I spent three and a half years working for PlanetOut. That’s me on the far left above, circa 2003, at a company party whose theme was “women’s hats”. Great Scott, I realized, I’m a Queer-Identified Straight Person! And I’m not the only one. The guy at the party was right, I meet them all over the place. An ex-girlfriend, to give one example, described herself as being straight only by virtue of being 50% militant dyke and 50% fabulous gay boy, which somehow averaged out to straight woman. The last eight years have sharpened our identity. The drive of so depressingly many of our fellow Americans to strip Queer Americans of their rights while dragging the whole country in the wrong direction brought the alienation of those of us not going along for the ride and gay culture’s general alienation from straight society closer together. To quote Billie Joe Armstrong in “American Idiot”: Well maybe I'm the faggot America/ I'm not a part of a redneck agenda I think there are a lot of us. In fact, in the wake of the mass opposition to Prop 8 and the success of Milk, it seems like there may be millions of us. We even have a celebrity patron saint, surely the ultimate sign of legitimacy. Margaret Cho, when asked how she could consider herself queer given that she married a –gasp!- man, replied, “Yes, but I still identify as gay. That's where my politics are and that's where my friends are. That's where everything is for me.” QuISPs naturally find our way to the Bay Area, but I’m sure this isn’t the only place we congregate. Are you one of us? Wherever you are out there, say it loud: I’m QuISP and I’m proud!

About the Author

Chris West is an independent lifestyle advocate!