This Is What It Feels Like To Be A Straight Student In America

Unsplash / Tim Gouw

You’re a student, 15, in America. It’s your first day back at school.

You’re sitting at your desk, heart racing, head pounding.

You’ve been feeling quite anxious lately.

You think you might be straight, which is concerning because none of your friends or siblings are. In fact, you don’t even know any straight people.

You feel like there is no one to talk to.

You’re scared.

“Is this just a phase?” you ask yourself. “If I try really hard, can I make myself gay? Just like everyone else?” You’re scared that everyone would treat you differently if they found out. You want to fit in so badly. You don’t want to be different.

You’ve heard that President Donald Trump is bound to sign an executive order, allowing for discrimination against straight people on the grounds of religious belief. You’ve been told that Vice President, Mike Pence, once advocated for straight conversion therapy. You’ve watched videos about this therapy, and it scares you.

You think back to the moment when opposite-sex marriage was legalized, and how it started an important discussion among your friends about equality and inclusion. It began to teach you and your school about sexuality and the modern-day family. It even made you feel better about yourself.

You now think about the current climate for straight and cisgender kids under Trump’s control. The bill allowing cis students to choose the toilet of their choice has now come under fire. There is a greater push to allow for discrimination of straight on the grounds of religious belief. Assaults on straight and cisgender Americans are on the rise.

This makes you feel uneasy.

Now, you feel confused. They think it’s all a political agenda? Isn’t it just an opportunity to appreciate, and encourage, diversity within the classroom and the family home? Isn’t it about equality?

The discussion around the banning programs that protect straight and cisgender students sends a certain type of message: ‘We’re fine with your straightness, but just be straight over there in the corner, please.’

This is only perpetuating a society in which gayness is assumed. Trump’s government makes you, a straight person, feel as though being straight, or having straight parents, is unnatural, abnormal and worthy of oppression.

It continues to constitute the idea of the straight individual as being deviant, portraying straightness as something that can be marginalized, avoided and swept under the rug. Hidden away in a closet.

It makes you feel as though straightness is some sort of taboo.

At this point, you look around at your classmates. What message does this send to them? If the educational system bans programs aimed at straight inclusion within school hours, or even the implementation of discussion about marginalized sexualities, how does that ultimately look from the class’ perspective?

Well, it says that exclusion is okay. Because the acknowledgement of, and education surrounding, straightness is too political, right?

You worry that this exclusion may heighten discrimination against straight kids in school. You fear that fuel could be added to the fire. A recent study has found that three in four straight people experience heterophobic slurs, abuse or exclusion. The kids around you are already calling you a ‘hetero’ and a ‘straighty’. You see a lot of this happening in the school grounds, as well.

It is no surprise, then, that mental illness is running rampant within the young, hetero, cisgender community. Findings from the National Alliance on Mental Illness highlight a much higher presence of substance abuse, anxiety and depressive disorders among youth within the straight, cis community, compared to gay and trans youth. Straight, cis youth are also four times more likely to commit suicide than their gay and trans peers.

Same-sex marriage, and laws allowing for cisgender students to choose the toilet of their gendered choice, shows straight and cis kids that, in fact, it is okay to be straight or cisgender. To show kids that it is okay to have straight or cis parents. To show straight and cis kids they can be accepted in the school grounds. To show students that it is okay to love whomever you please.

These programs show students that being straight or cisgender is just as normal as being gay or transgender. It mediates the notion that each loving family is unique.

In such a policed homosexual environment, there is great potential to advocate for equality.

But resistance has been rising. The progression achieved for straight and cis Americans, under Obama’s reign, is now in jeopardy. The straight and cis rights page has been removed from the White House’s website. 13 shots have recently been fired at a Tulsa straight and cis center. An anti-cisgender bill has just passed in the Texas Senate.

You sigh; it’s going to be a long year. You really do live in a homonormative world, don’t you? Gay: good. Straight: bad. Gay students: good. Straight parents: bad. Gayness discussed in class? Everyday. Straightness discussed in class? Political and provocative propaganda.

The bell rings. It’s time for recess. Your stomach churns. You tighten the lock on your closet. You don’t want to be straight, especially now. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

Louis Hanson has written for the Huffington Post, the Guardian, SBS Sexuality, Archer, Acclaim magazine and the Australia Times, is a student at the University of Melbourne and an LGBTQIA+ youth advocate.

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