This post is going to talk about something that is often misunderstood; the concept of heterosexism. People often consider it the same as homophobia, but they are two different things.

Homophobia usually involves something outwardly against queer people. A street preacher shouting the f word, beating up a gay person, ignoring them, making policies against gay people, this is homophobia. Its a strong fear that causes them to act with anger. Hetereosexism is more… passive aggressive, I suppose. The best definition I could give is that heterosexism is acting upon the assumption that everyone is straight. I think the best way to explain this is by giving some examples.

I often end up having conversations with customers at work. I love making conversation and meeting people from diverse backgrounds. However, I do live in Lancaster county, so people I meet at work tend to be a bit conservative. These people will almost always assume I have a boyfriend. They might ask me if my husband or boyfriend is well. It is always a surprise when I tell them about my girlfriend. While it is fun to watch the various reactions of people to my coming out (shock, acceptance, interest, fear, even very inappropriate reactions), it gets old. No one even considers the possibility I’m not straight until I have to tell them.

I have two female friends who are dating. At college, they took a dance class where every girl was paired with a boy So every week, they had to watch their girlfriends dance with some guy. This is despite the fact there were about 3 times as many girls as guys in this class, so every girl had to sit out for 2/3 of the class while the guys had to dance the entire time.

Heterosexism can be seen in schools, when children are asked to talk about their mother and father. Hetereosexism is when a lesbian has to beg the nursing staff to let her see her ill partner in a hospital. Heterosexism is learning in the classroom about people like Da Vinchi, Emerson, and Walt Witman, but never hearing they were in some way queer (Seriously, google “Famous Gay People in History”)

Heterosexism is mostly formed from ignorance. People just dont think of the possibility that there are gay people out there. It’s not something to get too angry over – it is a product of our culture mostly. When I encounter heterosexism, I find that just suggesting the possibility there is more than straight usually is enough to make a person realize they are doing something wrong. When I answer “Do you have a boyfriend?” with “No, but I love my girlfriend” most people seem surprised, a little embarrassed, but not angry. So long as I am patient with them and understand it is ignorance, not hate that makes them act that way, many people seem to want to learn and improve, rather than sticking fiercely to their preconceptions about gay people. The people who respond to me coming out with anger are usually homophobic, and that is an entirely different issue that I will address some other time! šŸ˜€

Please feel free to post some of your heterosexist experiences in a comment; I’d love to show more experiences to the many readers who do not get to hear these things often šŸ™‚

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