The term heteronormative is heard more and more in modern society, but what does it actually mean? Is it a ridiculous concept thought up by the youth of today or could it actually be a genuine affliction thatour society suffers from? In a nutshell, heteronormativity is the implication that it is correct and normal to be cisgender or heterosexual.
1991 was the year that this term was first popularised and since then more and more people have come to realise that our society and culture is constructed on this idea. It is the root of discrimination for anyone who is not cisgender (their self-identity conforms to their biological sex) or heterosexual. Heteronormative attitudes have often been criticised in the past for being marginalising, stigmatising and oppressive. It has been known to interfere with such things as marriage, adoption and even education.
According to four recent surveys carried out in America, LGBTQ+ citizens account for about 4% of the population. Yet there is still a very apparent assumption that people are straight. Some people even believe that the ultimate life goal in society is heterosexual marriage in which the man earns a living and women stay at home. They feel that anything else is considered out of the ordinary. This fact would also account for a certain prejudice around single parents, childless couples and long-term unmarried couples that continues to affect our society.
Heteronormativity can be heard in everyday conversation with most individuals. How often have you heard an adult talk about how a young boy will be breaking girl’s hearts when he grows up? Or warning parents about when a teenage girl starts bringing boys home? Why do we do this when there is a very plausible possibility of that child being attracted to members of the same sex.
In this day and age should it really be necessary for an individual to come out as a member of the LGBTQ+ community? Why shouldn’t a boy be allowed bring another boy home to meet his parents without any prior conversation about it? Why can’t a woman break up with a boyfriend only to begin a relationship with another woman without answering endless questions? Why make people feel they need to explain or justify traits that are an undeniable part of them? Why continue to assume that people are heterosexual in this modern world?
Perhaps we should start by broadening the sexual education curriculum. When I was in school, we were only informed about gay or straight people, or men and women. Gay people and transgender people were briefly mentioned on occasion. I don’t ever remember bisexual people being discussed and I had certainly never heard of people who were gender fluid or non-binary until I read some internet articles. It is disgraceful to mainly focus on heterosexual sex when educating the youth.
But things are slowly changing. The above points certainly do not account for every person. Aspects like gender-neutral parenting and celebrities who defy heteronormative attitudes in the public eye (Jayden Smith, Jeremy Scott and many more) are changing things at a remarkable pace.
How can we fight against heteronormative attitudes? Like everything, the first step is to educate yourself. Unfortunately, there is not as much reading material on heteronormativity as I feel there should be, but it is out there. Ask yourself what else you can do? Do you assume everyone to be straight unless it’s stated? Perhaps you own a business with a separate male and female bathroom and no other option. Maybe your company has forms to fill out that only have options for male and female citizens.
This attitude can change. We can make life easier for members of the LGBTQ+ community. Through recognising when this occurs around us, we can then take steps to prevent it. With a little effort from everyone, society can embrace diversity and finally release its heteronormative attitude.