Click to go back to the homepage
Search This Site

Click to Visit our Sister Site LGBT History Month UK
In Association With
Supported By: Click to View Our Supporters

Click for training offered by Schools Out
Click to vist The Classroom
Contact Us: Click for ways to get in contact with us now!
Click Here for the Student Tool Kit

WHAT DO THEY MEAN WHEN THEY TALK ABOUT HETEROSEXISM?

Heterosexism/heteronormativity is the system of beliefs and behaviour based on the assumption that heterosexuality is superior to homosexuality. 

Heteronormativity assumes the default position is white, male, heterosexual, non disabled, middleaged and Christian 

It finds its most basic expression in statements like 'It's not normal' or 'It's not natural' to love or be attracted to someone of the same sex. 

It finds its most extreme manifestations:

  • when gay men are given jail sentences for behaviour which would be entirely acceptable between heterosexuals;
  • when lesbians lose their children because judges decree that their sexuality makes them 'unfit parents';
  • when LGBT people are beaten up, and in many tragic cases which are seldom reported, murdered, simply because they are LGBT people.  

But heterosexism can take many much milder forms, which are nevertheless painful to experience and are often cumulatively damaging.  Here are a few examples, which should be of particular concern to educationists: 

  • when pupils can go through a whole school career without any recognition in the formal curriculum that lesbian and gay relationships are even possible or that trans people exist;
  • when some of these pupils use terms like 'lezzie' and 'bender' ‘gay’ as common insults, and when others have to listen in silence or risk being jeered or worse;
  • when teachers fail to intervene in cases of anti-gay name-calling, or the bullying of pupils known or suspected to be LGBT by their peers; 
  • when teachers themselves indulge in jokes or remarks which belittle, misrepresent or are even downright hostile to, LGBT people, whether in the classroom or the staffroom; and when other teachers listen silently to such remarks, and fail to challenge them; 
  • when teachers who are LGBT feel so unsure about colleagues' likely reactions that they conceal their relationships and social lives completely from their colleagues; or when LGBT teachers who know that colleagues are aware of their sexuality, or gender identity nevertheless feel inhibited from talking naturally about their partners or their lives; 
  • when pupils who have some problem relating to their sexuality  or gender identity- whether personal doubts and confusions, peer group bullying or family disapproval - and who want to talk to an understanding adult receive only a dismissive or embarrassed reaction from teachers; when teachers take pupils on one side and say that they are worried that their behaviour is too effeminate (in the case of boys) or too assertive (in the case of girls), and that if they aren't careful they may grow up to be LGBT
  • when LGBT teachers who are open about their sexuality or gender identity are warned 'in their own interests' to be less visible . . .

There are many more examples of heterosexism/heteronormativity which could be mentioned, both in and outside schools. 

The reality is that all LGBT people have to function in a world which almost everywhere shows itself deeply hostile to their deepest feelings, their most cherished relationships, their most personal aspirations.

This is particularly hard upon young people, who are often confused about their feelings, scared of public exposure and mistreatment, and unsure of where to turn for sympathetic understanding. 

In a society in which selected moral issues are being put insistently on the agenda by senior politicians, it is time that more thought was given to the morality of allowing young people to grow up in ignorance, loneliness and alienation.

It may be the case, perhaps, that you yourself have behaved in the past in ways that you are now coming to recognise as heterosexist/ heternormative whether by omission or commission.

Going off on a guilt trip –is not helpful.  Guilt is an unproductive emotion at best. 

Resolve, instead, that the time has come for change. 

STAND UP STRAIGHT AND BE COUNTED! . . . .

Lesbian and Gay Rights Working Party, City of Leicester Teachers' Association, (NUT).