Editorial Note from the Editor-in-Chief:
These submissions are from students and community members who have lived experiences here at Westminster College and beyond. I thank these students for their courage and commitment to sharing their experiences with us and the broader community. Please take time to read these submissions and consider them further. Each piece sheds light on a different topic. If any of these pieces have inspired students, faculty or anyone in the community to write their own Are You Listening submission, we have opened our online collection to include all submissions at any time. Please submit pieces to firstname.lastname@example.org. On an ending note, a more personal note: please be mindful, compassionate and open to learning.
Heterosexuals are uniquely positioned in society. Yet, heterosexuals are never really required to think about being heterosexual in the ways queer folk are required to position our experiences and lives to heterosexuality. When a person is queer their queerness is compared to backdrop of heterosexuality. Heterosexuality is considered the origin, and everything else moves from that. No matter what we do, how much we protest, or who we are, our lives will never escape the overwhelming Heterosexual institution which surrounds us.
I would venture to say many heterosexuals would not consider Heterosexuality to be an institution. They are wrong. Heterosexuality is held up as what is aspired to be; heterosexuality is the norm. But further, it is a norm that is forced upon everyone. Chiefly the Heterosexual institution affects queer folk but heterosexuals are most certainly affected by it too. If one can go one’s entire existence without questioning what is to be Heterosexual, one is effected by the Heterosexual institution. A critique or commentary of the Heterosexual institution is not one of all people who claim the title heterosexual, but instead the ways in heterosexuality is forced.
It would impossible to quantify all the ways in which heterosexuals are privileged over queer folk, not to mention, it would be foolish to claim to speak or voice all queer experiences with the Heterosexual institution. So this record of Heterosexual privileges is very much from my perspective as a queer, non-binary, masculine presenting, person (google it).
First off all, you never have to come out. And, please, “allies” do not go declare that you are heterosexual on Facebook on National Coming Out Day—that’s our day. It’s just assumed that everyone, from the first breath they take, is heterosexual. That’s odd. And then, of course, no one is immune from the continuous cultural reinforcement of hetero-monogamy.
Let me elaborate on hetero-monogamy. I would be willing to bet that from a very young age anyone reading this has been capable of recognizing the image of a white heterosexual couple on top of a wedding cake. (Aside: do some people not examine the connection between purity and whiteness? And by whiteness, I, of course, mean white folk. There’s a reason why women are supposed to wear white on their wedding, because whiteness, as in white folk, and in particular, white women, convey purity and innocence.) Or, the age-old argument of saving oneself till marriage, and then being with that one person, forever (think: “one man, one women”). The idea that another person is your missing piece. Hetero-monogamy is not only a function of the Heterosexual institution and sexism that is forced upon queers—again, our expressions and experiences are compared on a backdrop of Heterosexuality—but also, it’s a function of white supremacy. Heterosexuals who consider themselves to be standing in solidarity with queer folk need to start questioning what it means to be heterosexual and the roots of the Heterosexual institution.
Heterosexuals will never be perceived as being deviant, abnormal, degenerate, less than, or mentally ill for their heterosexuality. This is the source of countless heterosexual privileges. No one tells Heterosexuals their existence is in sin for being heterosexual. Heterosexuals do not have to struggle to find representation of heterosexuals in media. Heterosexuals can present or express themselves without it being viewed as reflection of all heterosexuals. Heterosexuals are not questioned on their concepts of sex and sexual expression. Heterosexuals are not denied housing or employment for being heterosexual. Heterosexuals have never been hunted down and killed for being heterosexual.
Regardless if individual heterosexuals want to admit it or not, the simple existence of the Heterosexual institution oppresses queer folk. The Heterosexual institution is what makes us queer in the first place. The Heterosexual institution, to this day, kills queers. Why are heterosexuals okay with this? If you want queers to believe you stand in solidarity with us, start thinking beyond “marriage equality.” Start questioning what it means to be heterosexual.