Heteronormativity has become a common word in debates and talks around gender and sexuality. It refers to the heterosexual experience being positioned as the only “normal” way to be or live.
Which means that it renders any other experience that doesn’t fits the definition as the “other”, deeming that the other isn’t a default. The “normal” and “other” can take the form of social and economic exclusion, violence, imprisonment and even death.
It enforces the gender binary and its accompanying gender stereotypes. It is pervasive and persistent, carrying negative consequences. Because it is embedded in societal institutions and propagated through socialization and other widely held ideologies, it is prevalent among both cis-hetero and LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and/or Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual) individuals.
A far-too-common manifestation of the prescriptive nature of heteronormativity is prejudice, based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In other words, when heteronormative beliefs are moralized (i.e., when they are prescriptive), they can lead to the denial, denigration and stigmatization of queer and non-binary forms of behavior, identity, relationship, or community, which can range in form, from more blatant and explicit to more subtle and implicit.
One should not forget that social psychological mechanisms contribute to the maintenance of a heteronormative status quo. Socialization in this regard refers to the identities, behavior and ideologies that parents and caretakers present to their children.
More specifically, developmental research has demonstrated that children’s gender attitudes are influenced by the sexual orientation of their parents and their parents’ gender ideologies, and even more so by the extent to which their parents’ division of labor conforms to normative gender roles.
Parents with more traditional gender role attitudes were also found to more frequently engaged in attempts to change the gender-nonconforming behaviors of their children to fit in with societal expectations for gender.
In a society where you don’t identify as the “normal” it becomes very taxing mentally. The coming out process however natural isn’t celebrated widely. It is a difficult process for most.
There is the huge boulder called social acceptance- and a risk of becoming the peer ridicule and career rejections at large. The family disappointment and disapproval being one of the firsts. Sexual orientation is an intensely personal matter which must be resolved by the individual.
It is not for anyone of us to steer the decision in either direction. One might say acceptance is key but acceptance is the basic bench level.
“It is absolutely imperative that every human being’s freedom and human rights are respected, all over the world.”– Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir.