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dxs's avatar

Is the term "straight" derogatory?

Asked by dxs (11721 points ) September 24th, 2012

In reference to a person who is not homosexual, is saying that one is “straight” a derogatory or offensive means of (not) classifying homosexual people? A professional used the term today, making me wonder where the word’s origin is. I’m not meaning to offend, just wondering.

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19 Answers

janbb's avatar

It probably derives from being the opposite of “bent” which was a derogatory term at one point for gays. I don’t find it offensive but I suppose some could.

Kayak8's avatar

I find “homosexual” a bit clinical, but am cool with “straight.”

Kayak8's avatar

I think the term “breeder” for the same population (straights) may be considered offensive by some, but I’m not sure what with the GLBT baby boom—it may no longer be relevant!

zenvelo's avatar

It’s as offensive as “white”.

why do people go around making up pretend offenses?

Symbeline's avatar

I don’t think it’s derogatory, and it also brought this thought to my head…there are plenty of derogatory terms for a homosexual or a lesbian, but none that I can think of for a straight person. What a world.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Derogatory against whom? Straight people? It’s a label. Some like it, some don’t. It’s rather dumb, if you ask me. Oh, and incidentally, I am grading responses from my LGBTQ Fundamentals class and I just found this phrase in a student’s work – “Why should anyone be labeled as straight, bisexual, gay, lesbian and transgender? I’m straight, but when I think of straight, I think of a line. I don’t look like a line so why should I be labeled that?” I found it interesting.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Without the context of how the word was used, it is difficult to answer the question. Here are two ways to consider whether a statement using ‘straight’ might be construed as being derogatory or not:

1.) Was the descriptive ‘straight’ necessary? Sometimes, a descriptive is needed in order to paint a verbal picture. Other times, it isn’t.
2.) In the world of being PC (politically correct), the descriptive comes after the noun, e.g., a person who is blind, a man who is straight, a woman in a wheelchair. It puts the precedence on the person in the story as a human and then goes on to describe them, if it is important.

wundayatta's avatar

So if you don’t say “straight,” what do you say? “Heterosexual?” Is “het” an acceptable shortening of the term?

When used to work in an organization that was primarily lesbian, we used some amusing terms of political correctness. It was all done tongue-in-cheek. No one, in those days, saw pc as anything more than a joke. Alas.

So when driving along, the navigator would give directions. But we could never tell the driver to go “straight.” We had to say, “Gayly forward!”

Anyway who thinks this is an example of political correctness gone bad can’t possibly have a humorous bone in their body. And yet, I’m sure there are conservatives who will take this as gospel and believe, until their dying day, that lesbians can’t tell anyone else to go straight.

Nullo's avatar

Not really. ‘Straight’ is normal and so neutral; ‘bent’ in this context is derogatory.

JLeslie's avatar

I don’t like the term straight, but I use it sometimes. It doesn’t offend me, but I find it odd. I just prefer to say I am attracted to men, I don’t like the labels.

seekingwolf's avatar

I don’t find it particularly offensive. I find the term “breeder” for straight people to be very offensive. I am with a man but I do NOT want children and nor does he, thank you very much!

I guess overall I would prefer the term heterosexual but some find that too clinical.

Nullo's avatar

@seekingwolf It’s language that a civilized person would reserve for talking about animals.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Being called straight does not offend me, however that is referring that gays are “crooked.” But again, there isn’t very many terms for gays that aren’t offensive. I guess “gay” is better than most.

Kayak8's avatar

Gay and lesbian folks, when gathered together, do tend to refer to gender-discordant couples as straight (or we presume them to be straight). We typically use straight in the same way we use gay and lesbian and don’t typically (at least in my experience) use the terms heterosexual and homosexual, probably for the clinical reasons described above by @seekingwolf. As I don’t tend to discuss sexual orientation with members of gender-discordant couples, I don’t often use the word straight when talking to straight people, but mean no disrespect when I do use the term in mixed groups.

Words used by any minority, between themselves, to describe the majority may, in fact, be offensive when no offense is intended. It is a quick sorting of “my tribe” or “not my tribe” or “hmm, I am not really sure.” Often such words have been used to describe who is “safe” and who is “unsafe” to the group. Terms like “breeder” are more typically used in the pejorative sense when referring to the “not my tribe” person who is perceived as offensive to the group.

Similarly, members of minorities are able to use words to describe our own that when used by non-members of the tribe are perceived as offensive (e.g., lesbians referring to each other as “dyke” as in dykes on bikes). In part, this is an effort to reclaim the word and to remove much of its sting when used by non-tribe members.

Personally, I am delighted that more and more “straight” folks are beginning to better understand my tribe and to allow us equal rights and participation in socially-normative behaviors (e.g., marriage) and such change may allow for a different vocabulary altogether—one that is affirming to members of the many different orientations that exist. I love the “straight but not narrow” slogan that has emerged as I know many who represent THAT group.

dxs's avatar

Thank you for your responses. To clarify, I am not talking about offending heterosexual people, I am talking about offending homosexual people. Sorry if I worded it wrong/ambiguously. I figured that “straight” in this case may have meant something along the lines of “right” or “correct” (i.e.: the phrase “get it straight”), which is why I thought it may be considered offensive in the first place. Even if it derives from the antonym “bent”, as @janbb said, that would seem pretty bad to me.

Kayak8's avatar

@dxs No offense taken here.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

@dxs I understand. When I hear “straight” I think of “straight as an arrow” as opposed to crooked as “crooked as a dog’s hind leg.” But luckily, we do not refer to homosexuals as “bend” or “crooked” so that is good.

JLeslie's avatar

Deleted by me.

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