How do I Combat Heterosexism?


Heterosexism is a system of attitudes, bias, and discrimination in favor of opposite-sex sexuality and relationships. It can include the presumption that other people are heterosexual or that opposite-sex attractions and relationships are the only norm and therefore superior.

I happen to have been born heterosexual. Statistically most of us are. As a result, my experience in the world is very different from a lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, or queer (LGBTQ) identified person. My sexual orientation is well represented in magazines, movies, television shows, plays, and music. This is not true for the LGBTQ community. There are now more and better representations of these communities. I recommend shows like Orange is the New Black, Shameless, and especially Transparent, TV shows that bring the stories, struggles, and humanity of the LGBTQ community to life.

Growing up, I didn’t think twice about the infatuations I had with boys and thought my romantic feelings towards the opposite sex were normal and healthy. I currently make an effort not to ask my own kids about boyfriends or girlfriends and try instead to keep the talk of crushes gender neutral asking instead, “Do you like anyone?” Although I’m not sure they’d tell me anyway…

Since I’m straight, I have never had to hide in the closet (except for playing hide and go seek), and there has never been any worry that I will lose friends, family, or a job because of whom I choose to partner with. I have not ever feared emotional or physical violence because of my sexual orientation. At no time in my life have I been asked why I chose to be straight and no one has tried to convert me. Heterosexuality has never been considered a crime or a psychiatric diagnosis. I also did not have to worry about who it is safe to come out to.

I have not been accused of being sexually abused to explain my sexual orientation. I have not been told that I am confused because of my gender identity. I have not been suspected of wanting to recruit others to heterosexuality. I have not been deemed an unfit parent or mistrusted with other people’s children. I have never needed to worry about which washroom or change room to use. I have not needed to hide a part of myself or pretend to be someone I’m not. I have not felt ostracized for being straight and I have never, to my knowledge, been excluded because of my sexual orientation or gender identity.

My driver’s license, passport, and other identification accurately reflect who I am. Finding a doctor or therapist who will not discriminate against me is not an issue. Buying clothes, although not always fun, is not a traumatic experience (unless I am purchasing bathing suits or bras and I can only imagine this is magnified when you are trans). If I want to walk down the street holding hands, or kiss my husband goodbye at the subway, no one looks twice. I can travel just about anywhere in the world without worrying about whether or not the place I’m visiting is homophobic.

How do I combat heterosexism?

I attempt to:

  • use inclusive language
  • treat people as individuals
  • try to combat homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia
  • avoid stereotyping
  • monitor my language and values
  • be a safe, nonjudgmental person to talk to
  • advocate for equal rights
  • encourage and promote education about sexual orientation and gender identity

What do you do?

Image: Heteronormativity Sticker by RadicalGirls


About Author

Rae Dolman, full-time mom and part-time sex therapist, is a registered psychotherapist with the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario (CRPO), a clinical member with the Ontario chapter of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (OAMFT), and is a registered sex therapist with the Board of Examiners in Sex Therapy and Counseling in Ontario (BESTCO). Rae currently works at The Mindfulness Clinic.

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