What is heterosexism? Heterosexism is the assumption that all people are heterosexual and that heterosexuality is superior and more desirable than homosexuality or bisexuality. It is the stigmatization, denial and/or denigration of anything non-heterosexual.
What is the difference between heterosexism and homophobia? Heterosexism is the assumption that everyone and everything is heterosexual. Homophobia is the fear of homosexuality or homosexuals.
… in the family Only heterosexual couples can legally marry the person they love in most states. Custodial and adoption rights for children are denied to same-sex partners. Unless same-sex couples have wills, durable power of attorney and other legal protections they must pay for, their legal status as a couple may not be honored by family members who don’t approve of their relationship.
…in education Gay, bisexual and lesbian issues are not included in school curricula. School social events are organized around assumptions of heterosexuality. Same-sex displays of affection in school are not tolerated.
…in the workplace Though it is an accepted norm for heterosexuals to openly talk about their partner and children with colleagues or have pictures of spouse and children in the workplace, this norm does not extend to lesbian, gay or bisexual employees.
…in the media Lesbian, gay, bisexual people are portrayed in movies, TV as child molesters, sad, sick, immature, sex obsessed, and sexual predators. Bisexual people are portrayed in the media as “fence-sitters” who can’t be trusted or sex-obsessed people who need multiple sex partners.
Manifestations of heterosexism
Over-sexualization Assuming that every same sex interaction is sexual, or potentially sexual. Avoiding touching or becoming close to GLBT people in fear they will take it the “wrong” way. Interpreting everything that GLBT people do in terms of their sexuality.
Denying Significance-Personally The opposite of Over-sexualization by assuming that sexual orientation is not significant. Remarking, “It doesn’t matter to me that you’re gay.” Sexual identity is significant and should matter.
Denying Significance- Politically Criticizing GLBT people for making an issue of their sexuality. Remarking things such as, “I don’t care what they do in bed, but don’t tell me about it.” Not understanding that heterosexuality is politically enforced by giving legal rights for marriage, finance and other such things, while legally denying homosexuals the right to marriage, housing, jobs, child custody, etc.
Labeling Homosexuality, Bisexuality, or Transgender a problem Being in the mind that GLBT people want or need special treatment. Or believe they all need special treatment because of their sexual orientation. Believing that homosexuality, bisexuality or transgender can and should be cured.
Making it Invisible Assuming that everyone is heterosexual until told else wise. Always asking women about boyfriend and men about girlfriends.
Expecting to be Taught Putting the burden of responsibility for education and for working for change on the GLBT person. Forcing GLBT people to take all of the initiative in coming out. Not making openings to come out by acknowledging in conversations the possibility of non-heterosexual relations.
Miss-Defining Homosexuality or Bisexuality Confusing bisexuality with non-monogomy; assuming that bisexuality means being involved simultaneously with both men and women. Mussing that lesbians hate men. Trying to help someone go “straight.” Thinking non-heterosexual orientation is a phase. Assuming lesbians and gay men’s sexual orientation is in reaction to a bad heterosexual experience.