What is Heterosexual Privilege?

Being heterosexual contains a constant social privilege called the heterosexual privilege.

As you traverse through life, it is assumed that you are straight, for the most part everything is set up with that assumption in mind.  When in a social or work situation, you do not need to announce your heterosexuality because it has already been assumed for you.

For those that identify as heterosexual it is often difficult for them to understand the constant pressures that others face.  Simply because they exist within a privileged bubble.

What is a Social Privilege

Social privilege exists within a social context of what is considered to be normal.  More often than not, privilege is extended to the dominant group of that section of society.  It is that ‘group’ which proclaims itself as the majority and therefore is considered the standard of normalcy.

Pressures of Coming Out

Deciding to come out of the closet as bisexual, asexual, homosexual, pansexual.  Or any form of sexuality is not a one off event.

Consider the last time you spoke to someone about your partner, or consider the last time you spoke to someone about your relationship or whom you were dating.  Within a heterosexual context that is not an issue.  But for someone of a diverse sexuality they must decide whether or not to announce the gender of their partner.

They must, essentially, ‘come out’ on a daily basis.

I must therefore decide on a constant basis whether or not to ‘come out’.

In the aisles of Woolworths I must decide to ask my partner whether or not we need juice at OUR home.  I must decide when walking on the street in the Sydney CBD whether.

Or not to offer my jacket to my clearly cold partner.  Whether or not to hold his hand when crossing the street.  Or whether or not to gently guide him out of harms way with a hand on his back when we are in JB HI FI with their impossibly thin aisles.

I decide this on a daily basis based on fear.

Based on the idea that someone will notice and someone will comment.  In extreme situations whether or not the group of straight boys slightly intoxicated on their way home on the train whom didn’t manage to score a girl will become violent.

The truth being that they might not be, they might be supportive.  They might not even care but the fact is – they might. We have experienced that ‘violence’ at school, during our teenage years.

Heterosexual Privilege – No Need to Be Invisible

For a few minutes, I make my sexuality invisible.

A process which very few straight identifying people can relate to.

Homophobia does not exist to counter homosexuality.  The point of homophobia is not necessarily to stamp out homosexuality at all.  Rather that its purpose is to make it invisible.

For when it is invisible it therefore does not exist.  A visible presence of homosexuality is the very reason homophobia exists.  We can understand this point when we examine the causes of homophobia in regards to males which isn’t necessarily a precise fear of homosexuality.

It is a fear of other men and specifically a fear of being shamed as being inadequately masculine.

 heterosexual privilege
Photo: Heterosexuality Privilege – Man Using Toner

Rise of metrosexuality has slightly eased this pressure Especially in the western world, however it is still an issue in more conservative parts of the world.

Internalized homophobia with flow on effects from race, gender performance, and sexual roles

This is the second pressure faced by individuals with a myriad of different types of sexuality labels and identities.

In the book ‘Why are Faggots so afraid of faggots: Flaming Challenges to masculinity, objectification, and the desire to conform’ one of the contributors mentions the difficulties that were faced because he identified as having a Muslim heritage as well as identifying as a queer advocate.

He quotes that he felt pressured to either identify as Muslim or as an LGTBQ advocate, but he could not be both:

‘I was asked how I could be proud of my heritage and simultaneously ‘identify with the politics of the LGBTQ community.’

A Common Argument

This argument is also common  with individuals who identify as both being of a diverse sexuality and religious. Curiously, this argument almost never applies to heterosexual support of the queer community.

We are happy to argue among ourselves despite overwhelmingly having similar issues and concerns.

But we rarely present the argument that a heterosexual member could not holistically be supportive of Queer Rights because they simply do not understand as they have not experienced the disadvantages of privilege.

An argument we often see in the equality between genders and against male privilege.

This is just a snippet of the complexities of the internalised homophobia we see from our own community without commenting on the prevalence of racism.  And of the performance of gender in terms of femmes and queens.

Being gay has a daily struggle.

Whilst we who experience it don’t often pause to self reflect, it is still a daily occurrence on what we experience not just on the day we come out, but every day before and every day after that point.

Author: Stephen Smith – BA Of Social Sciences, M.Ed

heterosexual privilege
Gay Nightclub Shooting World Reacts

Orlando Mass Shooting

Yesterday, was a sad day.

We are mourning from one of the worst mass shootings in the United States which saw at least 49 people killed with 53 people injured; the Orlando Mass Shooting.

We could make this a political argument which argues for gun control and for public safety.  Or we could argue to tighten the laws in respect to weapon control.  We could argue about the Islamic State and terrorism.  Or we could argue about the inadequacies of the FBI and Police Force.

We could even examine the speeches made by various people, politicians and religious leaders today.  But what some speeches are ignoring is the absolute tragedy that has occurred against the queer community.

Our own Australian Prime Minister did not even initially acknowledge the target of the attacks.  The target was a gay nightclub in Orlando, The Pulse, a place meant for solidarity and empowerment for queer people.

Gay Nightclubs are Safe Havens

So, gay nightclubs in the history of LGBTIQ have always been seen as havens and safe places.

A place where we can forget about society pressures, be among our own and simply enjoy the night away without having to worry about anything or anyone else.

Instead, we see the queer community affected by one of the worst mass shootings the United States has ever seen.

Highlighting Adversity Faced by LGBTIQ+

Regardless of the political agenda here, it serves to highlight the adversity faced by Queer People that is still continuing in society.

News reports indicate the outrage that the shooter felt when he witnessed two men kissing in Miami.  The shooters ex-wife states that she doesn’t believe his religion played a part in the motivation of this attack, it is clear that the Gay Nightclub was specifically targeted for the Orlando Mass Shooting.

Small consolation that the attacks were condemned by various religious groups including the Vatican, Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Gay Nightclub Shooting World Reacts
Photo: Orlando Mass Shooting – Rainbow Landmark, the Eiffel Tower in Paris

We will all sit differently on Orlando Mass Shooting.

Some will argue for greater gun control, others will reference the queer community and others will make this an issue about religion, race, and other social issues.

Whilst this has been touted as a terrorist attack, despite the shooters links to ISIS and other groups, there has so far been no direct link that the attack was directed by Terrorist groups.  And that it was merely a Pro-Isis supporter working on his own.

Over the coming days we will most likely see attacks on the Queer community.

We will most likely see religious based attacks.  In all probability we will most likely forget the strength and unity that we need in order to move forward again.

All the arguing may take away from the fact it was a Gay Mass Shooting and the pain it has brought the gay community.

During times of such tragedy, the names of heroes emerge forth from Orlando.

Some who had a callous disregard for their own personal safety as they tried to save others in the nightclub.  We might forget or barely mention heroes such as Edward Sotomayor who tragically passed away from sustaining a bullet wound in his back whilst desperately trying to save his boyfriend.

Most will not pause to think if their partner would do the same for them.

Or of Stanley Almodovar who was reported to be pushing people out of harms way and whom never made it home that night.

Most will not consider the anguish that Edwards partner would be feeling at this point in time.  Not only having to deal with such an event, but also that his partner is no longer with him and isn’t there to help him through this tough time.

A Needless Waste of Life

The Orlando Mass Shooting is a tragedy, a needless waste of life for a reason that should not exist.  These people affected by this all had lives, had histories and boyfriends, girlfriends, family, partners with them or waiting at home.

Lives tragically cut short.

I ask that you consider a moments reflection on the tragedy that we face in the aftermath of this event.  Consider the lives lost and in particular the faces and friends of the LGBTIQ community that are no longer with us today.

We have seen the whole world come together in mourning by lighting up their famous monuments in rainbows in memory of the people who have been loss.




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