What Is Heterosexism?

Heterosexism: the assumption that only heterosexual relationships are normal and that they should therefore be privileged.

Heterosexism is about assumptions & building a community/society around them. Specifically, heterosexism is the assumption that everyone is heterosexual…& if they're not, they should be. It is the belief that heterosexuality is natural & universal -- that it's the bedrock of society, the blueprint for all interpersonal social relations, the norm. Heterosexism acts to enforce heterosexuality, thus leaving those who work within its grasp little choice but to assume that heterosexuality is the only sexuality.

Heterosexism makes heterosexuality compulsory. It does this through society's institutions, which, through their practices & attitudes, single out the heterosexual couple as the social norm. By defining the social norm through their practices & attitudes, our society's institutions add support to the belief that heterosexuality is the natural norm. It thus follows that anyone who falls outside of this norm becomes either invisible or relegated to the realm of the deviant. This is how heterosexism maintains the assumption that heterosexuality is the only sexuality.

Tourism literature calls Newfoundland & Labrador Canada's friendliest province. But is it for everyone? Do our government, our health system, our social service agencies, our educational institutions, or our workplaces acknowledge, respect, & treat with dignity all people of this province?

Because of heterosexism, at least 10% of Newfoundland & Labrador's population--its lesbians, gays, bisexuals & transgendered -- would answer no. And, as THE has discovered, LGBT across the country, & internationally, would respond identically!

If, for example, you are a lesbian woman living in our province, or in any other predominantly rural area, what is it like to be invisible in your community or within your own family? For your partner to be unacknowledged & ignored? For your sexual health concerns to be belittled because you're a woman who chooses not to have children? For your health insurance policyholder and pension plan to refuse to accommodate your life partner &/or her children? For your physician, your financial assistance worker, your social worker to assume that there is a significant male other in your life -- leaving you with the choice of ignoring the assumption or correcting t which is not a great choice when you consider the risks of coming out. This is heterosexism.

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