Cover image by Ashley Trail
If you’ve been anywhere near social media, especially TikTok, in the past months, you may have heard of the term “super straight.” In a now-deleted video, TikToker Kyle Royce said that “straight men like myself get called transphobic because I wouldn’t date a trans woman.” Royce argues that if he identifies as “super straight,” he can no longer be called transphobic because “that’s just my sexuality.” The term is supposed to apply to someone who identifies as heterosexual but chooses not to date trans and non-binary people. In a trollish attempt to pass off a preference as a sexuality, “super straight” not only undermines the idea of sexual orientation but also actively discriminates against trans people by making their exclusion the defining characteristic of their “identity.”
The biggest problem with the idea of being “super straight” is that it attempts to pass off a preference as a sexuality. Preferences involve a choice. Preferences are case by case. And preferences have exceptions. Sexual orientation (broadly) does not. Super straight takes a limited personal preference and turns it into a movement to discriminate against trans people.
Royce’s argument that he is “creating” this new sexuality to protect his own preferences is disingenuous because he advertises it to others by asking his audience “Who else is super straight?” Thus turning his “preference” into a movement against trans people and encourages people to rally and organize against trans people.
Labels can bring together those who face similar challenges and can be incredibly helpful to build a sense of community for those who need it most. Confusing that bond with a ‘preference’ makes the struggles LGBTQ+ people face seem trivial. Language and labels are political whether we like it or not.
M-A senior Maeson Linnert, who transitioned about two years ago, said, “Maybe they’re not trying to be outwardly transphobic, but it definitely comes across that way. Because they’re saying, ‘Hey, we just don’t like trans people.’ You can just say that you don’t have a preference for that type of genitalia. That’s a conversation, but to actively go out and say, ‘I don’t like trans people. And a straight person who dates a trans person is not a true straight,’ that feels really weird and offensive.”
Linnert explained that when saying, “‘I’m not transphobic it’s just my sexuality,’ you’re cutting out the trans women are women, and trans men are men scenario… You are putting trans people into a separate box just because you’re uncomfortable with them.”
According to a Trevor Project survey of LGBTQ youth mental health, over half of trans or non-binary youth have considered suicide at some point in the last year. This in part stems from the alienation and discrimination that the trans community has experienced from all directions for years. In early April, legislators in Arkansas overruled the governor’s veto and passed a law prohibiting gender-affirming treatment for transgender youth. The American Civil Liberties Union says that this year alone, 19 other states have considered similar bills.
This problem is not absent locally either. Linnert said that he heard from a friend that “this one guy actively referred to me as an “it” jokingly, behind my back.” He added, “I know people are sometimes uncomfortable with me, especially all-girl groups, and sometimes all guy groups, generally don’t seem to be as comfortable around me. But I haven’t been directly confronted about it. I’ve never been verbally or physically assaulted for it. So in that case, I’m a bit lucky.”
Labels like “super straight” are part of a larger online trolling community of mostly teenage boys. In 2015 the “Apache Attack Helicopter” joke, which started on Reddit, saw people “coming out” as Apache Attack Helicopters to make fun of those sharing their gender identities. Gender Studies and history teacher Anne Olson said, “I think that societal expectations of masculinity are also contributing to this. When society has such a rigid and unforgiving definition of masculinity that is so hard to attain, we have to acknowledge that influences and impacts the decisions that people make and how they see themselves.”
Olson explained adolescent boys spearheading these kinds of movements is not new. “It is an old phenomenon that we’re seeing, represented in a new way. When I was in college, it was the phrase ‘feminazis,’ that a lot of adolescent boys and young men would use to describe anybody who connected to the feminist movement.” The use of “super straight” is just the newest variation of these reactionary trends.
The majority of people identifying as super straight, making apache attack helicopter jokes, or identifying with any reactionary anti-LGBTQ+ movement shouldn’t be marked as a bigot for all eternity. But they should be aware of the cruelty behind their words and how demeaning they are to people. You don’t need to be an expert in gender theory who can delve into the complexities of gender and sexuality, but you should treat others with respect, compassion, and realize that “super straight” makes a joke out of people’s very real struggles.