Lately, I have been more aware than ever of the countless benefits and privileges unfairly given those of us who identify as heterosexual. When I read or hear about privilege, it usually concerns race or sex/gender and because I am neither white nor male, it can be easy to overlook the fact that I am still privileged AF.
I would bet that all the progress with gay marriage and public endorsement of same-sex couples creates an illusion that things are better than they really are. In the same way that people like to believe that sexism and racism don’t exist today, we are on a fast track to doing the same with sexual orientation.
I want to acknowledge that privilege is far more difficult to see when it’s working with you rather than against you. Still, that’s not an excuse to avoid putting in the effort it takes to own up to your privilege and to do something about it. I feel responsible for learning about the challenges of living as a LGBTQ individual in a heteronormative society and doing by best to mitigate those challenges.
Here are some of the ways I recognized my heterosexual privilege (I am aware that these are still from my perspective and are probably biased):
1. My sexual preferences are not seen by others as a core part of my identity – unless I want them too.
2. I don’t have to worry that the people closest to me will become distant after learning of my sexual preferences.
3. When looking for a partner, I can assume most of my target gender will have the same sexual orientation as me – also making the pool of potentials much larger.
4. I do not have to question how “gay-friendly” a space is to feel comfortable being there with my significant other.
5. I haven’t grown up in a culture that sees my preferences as sinful, immoral, unnatural or just a phase.
6. Clothing made for my body also signifies the gender I wish I express.
7. I don’t have to question if my same-sex friends think I have a crush on them.
8. Basically every movie I watch, song I hear, or ad I see validates my sexual preference as the unquestioned norm.
9. I am not lumped together with the entirety of the “gay community” whose members often have no more in common than non-members.
10. I am not subjected to the “be just like us” ideal American family model whilst being unable to fully participate.
Of course, this is not even scratching the surface. I chose these 10 points because they are less publicized, and in my opinion, more abstract. Discrimination in the media concerning LGBTQ folk typically consists of legal matters and acts of violence s – aka two of the most concrete topics. Subtle or normalized topics, on the other hand, often go overlooked.
I would argue that straight privilege is taking us longer to recognize because overall sexuality is more abstract to us than either race or sex/gender. For one, it’s invisible (well technically.) Two, even heterosexual sexuality is a taboo subject. Regardless, privilege and discrimination around sexuality can only be understood in the context of all other forms of identity – I still have a lot to learn about this!
If anyone has comments or criticism I would be happy to hear it. I don’t claim to understand how it feels to live as an LGBTQ member of society or to be an expert on privilege. I purposely didn’t research before writing because I wanted use my own ideas and my current, honest knowledge of this topic. I hope to be able to identify with others who are in this stage and hopefully get people thinking about how this applies to their daily lives and to start seeing straight privilege!