8 September 2002

What Is Heterosexism?

Équipe -Pose ta question!-

The term ‘'racist'' refers to someone who considers his or her ethnicity to be superior to others.  In the same way, heterosexists believe heterosexuality to be superior to any other form of sexual expression, to the point where some believe all others should be eliminated.  Like racists, these people often express their beliefs by systematically excluding people who are different from themselves.


This is not an uncommon experience.  Violent expressions of homophobia, be they physical, verbal, or emotional, are not uncommon.  Most stem from an ignorant and flawed belief that by doing so, these ‘'gay bashers'' can somehow reaffirm their heterosexuality.


Homophobic violence isn't always propagated by strangers.  Studies show that it can also occur between family members.


Perhaps the most frequent intra-family homophobia is between parents and a gay child.  It is not uncommon for parents to stop supporting  or even disown a son or daughter who is revealed to be a homosexual.


But discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is much more wide-spread.  There are entire organizations and institutions that will openly refuse to hire of offer their services to homosexuals, while others outright condemn them as ‘'shameless degenerates,'' citing religious or spiritual beliefs as justification for their hatred.


Even though churches and other religious organizations are known for their homophobia, even schools take part in this form of discriminations, with some educational facilities in Quebec prohibiting the teachings of sexual diversity for fear of ‘'promoting'' homosexuality. 


Most of these views are based on a fearful ignorance of the unknown, and treat homosexuality as a choice, as a ‘'lifestyle'' that appeals only to deviants who corrupt younger, impressionable minds.


Other forms of homophobia can be more subtle.  Verbal insults, in the form of gossip, can be damaging to a person's self esteem, especially when sexuality comes up.  Frequently gossip carries palpable overtones of pity and contempt when discussing gay men, even about those only suspected of being gay, or people who don't follow accepted patterns of masculinity.


The idea that sexuality is a choice is a very common view, and can be picked up by confused young people, anxious to change and grasping at any possibility to be ‘'normal,'' and accepted.


Homophobia is a mindset we have all been conditioned to participate in.  since it is taken for granted that every child is heterosexual, the social messages shown typically include condescending, disparaging opinions of homosexuals.


The effects of this socialization can cause depression, self-loathing and internalized homophobia.  Yet in spite of this, we may automatically display homophobic behaviour to fit in, to give off the appearance of being normal so that no one will suspect we're different.


Even heterosexuals feel this pressure, insulting homosexuals in misguided attempts to re-affirm their allegiance to heterosexuality.  Yet so ingrained are these concepts that it becomes a part of our greater social culture, and the problems that arise continue, unabated.

Adapted from ‘I Am Of Many Colors.  Have Pride in Them All’  published by Séro Zéro.