Heterosexism and Heterosexual Privilege

All you men out there, have your parents ever asked you if there is a special woman in your life? If you have a girlfriend? For women, have your friends ever asked you if you’ve been out with any interesting men lately? If you have a boyfriend? Have you ever considered why they automatically ask you about someone of the opposite sex? The basis for this assumption is heterosexism, the assumption that everyone is or should be heterosexual and, in some cases, the belief that heterosexuality is superior to other forms of sexual orientation and expression.

Heterosexism pervades all aspects of society, from your parent’s inquiries to magazine ads, to public policy, most social constructions are based on the assumption that everyone’s primary romantic, emotional, physical and sexual attractions are to someone of the opposite sex. Where does this leave LGBT folks? How does this influence their sense of self, their self-esteem? This lack of the presence of LGBT people and issues in the news, pop culture and everyday life stigmatizes LGBT people and makes them feel invisible. Being LGBT becomes “weird” or “abnormal” because it is not seen openly in different facets of society.

Heterosexual Privilege is a big part of heterosexism and the two are inextricably linked. What can you do about heterosexism and heterosexual privilege? The answer is simple: BE AWARE. Be aware of your own assumptions and those of the people around you. Do not assume that your friends are romantically interested in or attracted to people of the opposite sex. Watch television and know that a large segment of the population is not being adequately represented on the news or in sitcoms. Question your own assumptions and those of others. Don’t assume that everyone is straight!

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