Why Heteronormativity is Sucky

So a lot of straight people don't understand why heteronormativity is a bad thing. And my head feels like a mess right now so bear with me if this isn't particularly well-structured.

First of all, what is heteronormativity? I use it to mean the idea that heterosexuality is, effectively, the "default setting" for humans, and that by extension MOGAI people are special and different. On the surface, you can see why this would be adopted: somewhere between 95-98% of the population are heterosexual, which is an overwhelming majority.

Secondly, why am I moaning about this in the first place? Well, because I think it's harmful. And why do I think it's harmful?

Let's start with the definition I just gave: in heteronormativity, heterosexuality is the default, the norm. Boring. You are presumed to be straight. Now, if heterosexuality is the norm, being anything else must be different and weird - and because you're presumed to be straight, you have to make a public declaration of your not-straightness. That is, you have to come out.

For those who've never had to come out, coming out is not a one-time event where you get really anxious, screw up all the courage you can muster, gather up all your friends and family and blurt it out to acceptance and relief. Because of the presumption of heterosexuality, coming out is a continuous thing and it sometimes feels almost like an obligation; I don't like people assuming I'm straight, because I'm not and I really don't like living a lie, but at the same time I know that a lot of people are still homophobic and biphobic and I'm never sure whether people will react favourably or beat me off with a stick. It's actually pretty exhausting to do.

The presumption of heterosexuality also hurts MOGAI people in other ways: we're expected to prove that we're "really" who we say we are, otherwise we're just straight people faking it for attention. Now, faking it makes sense if you take the viewpoint that being straight is boring (due to being the default), but if you take the viewpoint that MOGAI people are oppressed and discriminated against not only does the "straight people faking it for attention" idea start falling apart, you actually find a lot of MOGAI people pretending to be straight (staying in the closet) to avoid coming under fire for being the "wrong" orientation - which still happens around the world today. Not only is being told that we're faking it really stupid and hypocritical - I shouldn't have to present proof that I'm actually bisexual while people believe you without question if you say that you're straight - but it's upsetting, too, especially if it comes from people you trust. I once witnessed a discussion between two straight people I trusted about how bisexual girls who hadn't slept with girls were just straight girls who wanted attention. I felt utterly betrayed and also very helpless, because I knew that if I told them the truth they'd dismiss me as just another attention-seeker. My only crime was not fitting their model of what a bisexual should look like. Being very mentally fragile at the time, I had an anxiety attack, crawled into a corner and shook, and avoided the two of them for a couple of weeks after that.

So in brief, that's why heteronormativity sucks: it means MOGAI people have to constantly tell other people about our sexual orientations or live a lie, and it means that we have to "prove" it (particularly to straight people).

Who upholds heteronormativity? Most straight people and some MOGAI people too. It's an idea. You don't have to be one specific identity to hold it. However, because it's an idea it can also be rejected - and I find that the best way to reject heteronormativity is not to assume things. Recognise that being MOGAI is not an aberration or a deviation from the heterosexual norm, because if you're born with it, it's normal. Try to use gender-neutral language, particularly when referring to people's spouses and such; if they get offended, they get offended. Better than heteronormativity anyway. And for the love of whatever deity you believe in, don't assume that MOGAI people have to "prove" their sexuality. It's untrue, annoying and harmful.