Heterosexuality Privilege

Being heterosexual contains a constant social privilege called the Heterosexuality 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. 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, and it is that ‘group’ which proclaims itself as the majority and therefore is considered the standard of normalcy.

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, however 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’. I must decide in the aisles of Woolworths 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, or 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, or 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. And so, 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. The 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, rather, it is a fear of other men and specifically a fear of being shamed as being inadequately masculine. The 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.

Man Hygiene Routine
Photo: Heterosexuality Privilege – Man Using Toner

Which brings me to the second pressure faced by individuals with a myriad of different types of sexual labels and identities; internalized homophobia with flow on effects from race, gender performance, and sexual roles. 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

This argument is also common with individuals who identify as both being of a diverse sexuality and religious. Yet, 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, yet 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. And 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, and 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

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