Coming Out In A Heteronormative Society
In this blog, I am going to discuss Queerness and Compulsory Heterosexuality (CH). Firstly, let’s define the term. Compulsory Heterosexuality, hmm…I think the meaning is written all over the words (Yes, I do believe I’m funny… Occasionally).
CH in my opinion can be defined in many ways; you can use the term when you speak of someone just assuming that another individual is heterosexual because of society, religion, normality etc. or the act of being forced by the heteronormativity belief to erase one’s queer identity. Adrienne Rich made the phrase known in her essay “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence.” I won’t talk about her essay in this blog but you should definitely do your own research and read her take on the matter. What I want to discuss is how CH affects our lives, my life in particular as a queer person.
A few days ago, I was conversing with my mom about my coming out experience. I was expressing my discomfort with the reaction of one of my loved ones or rather the no reaction of them. My mom said that surely the person did not purposely want to hurt me. “That’s how we grew up,” she told me.
I have never accepted that as a good justification of someone’s actions, I never will, but I can understand it on some level. My mom further explained that her parents always said to her “when your husband,” “married with your husband,” “your man” etc. I realized that what she meant was that there wasn’t even the idea of things being different. Husband and wife, no questions asked. It was just not something common, not something…normal.
The first question I often get asked when I inform someone of my sexuality, is “How do you know?”
I always try to be understanding and do my best to clear any misconceptions -that however, does not mean a queer person owes you their coming out story or any explanation- then I quietly think about it and ask them “How do you know? How do you know you are straight?”
“I just know.” They’ll answer incredulously.
“So do I.” I’ll reply. It never ends there though.
“Are you sure?” They continue, I will nod. You guessed it! It doesn’t end here either. “How can you be? If you haven’t been in a relationship with the same gender?”
I’ll frown, “How do you know you are attracted only to the different gender if you’ve never been in a relationship with the same one?”
The answer is always “Because it’s normal,” “You were straight once,” “That’s how things are,” “That’s how I grew up,” “That’s what I’ve been taught.”
That my friends, is the work of patriarchy and CH. The assumption of everyone being straight before we correct you. The assumption of your kid being straight before they come out. The lack of questioning! The established heterosexuality. Everything and everyone has to be the “right” gender. People, toys, relationships, colors, you name it!
All these innocent questions invalidate queer people. Our coming out never ends because everyone simply believes we’re straight and every time we have to correct them, to come out to them. That makes us feel different, makes us feel like outcasts, a bad exception to the rule. At times, seeds of doubt are planted in my head that lead me to the conclusion that I’m an impostor. I’m proud of telling you who I am; I’m just tired of explaining it.
Parting from conversations like these, that start to feel more and more like debate, I understood that CH is not just an outdated traditional belief! It’s a hurtful stereotype, a dangerous society. Now imagine CH combined with patriarchy, it impacts EVERYONE queer or not. What gives me hope is that finally more people have started talking about it and we’re being heard. This is a blog I want to dedicate to my queer people, especially the youth. You are amazing, one of a kind. You exist and I see you. Thank you to every reader and especially to the ones that afterwards will search for ways to educate themselves on the topic and do better.
My name is Anastasia Antonopoulou, I am a Parting Stories writer and a singer/songwriter in my free time. I aspire to be an author, someone that will make a great change with their stories. I believe that if you don’t write what’s in your soul, you are not living. You simply exist. I enjoy everything bookish and adventurous.