I was exposed to the gay community at a young age. My mother’s boyfriend – Stuart – lives in a very old neighborhood in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, called Wilton Manors. This neighborhood (somewhat) recently became a “gay neighborhood”; each house has a vibrant rainbow flag patriotically hanging from the exterior and same-sex couples are constantly walking and biking around town, exchanging smiles with everyone they pass. I was exposed to this community and environment when I was in elementary school. Luckily, I grew up with the idea that non-hetero couples were just as equal as hetero couples.
As I got older, I understood that some people were not accepting of non-hetero couples. Whatever, they’re just ignorant, I thought. What I did not realize until now, however, was how heteronormative our culture is. Every ad I see, every book I read, and every movie or television show I watch involves a “normal,” boy-girl couple. This bothers me.
Heteronormativity is the belief that individuals are categorized as a man or woman and are obligated to behave based on their gender. Furthermore, it claims that heterosexuality is the default sexuality among people.
The way our culture is constructed causes people to grow up with the idea that “normal” couples include a boy and a girl, with the boy having a penis and the girl having a vagina. We grow up automatically assuming that relationships are between a man and a woman. We are told how to dress in school based on our sex, not our gender. Boys tease the girls they have crushes on and girls giggle and twirl their hair. This is what we perceive as normal.
But this isn’t normal. Nothing is “normal.”
(This is what came up when I searched “marriage.” How sad.)
As a child, I never thought much into it. I’m thankful I was exposed to Stuart’s neighborhood at a young age. It taught me to label people as people and not care about who they love or the gender they identify with. It never mattered to me. But, the heteronormative nature of our society is wrong. Not every child will grow up like I did. There are many children out there who feel uncomfortable around non-hetero or same-sex couples. They’re freaked out because this does not fit into the schema they already have.
Not many of us, myself included, pick up on these little hints in the media. Ariel finds her prince and they live happily every after? Cool. Cory and Topanga have an everlasting love that began when they were young children? Aww, how cute! We are not taught to analyze the nature of these relationships — we are wired to adopt them as our own and consider them the norm.
I wish heternormativity wasn’t even a thing. There are so many influences that teach people that same-sex couples are “wrong,” such as churches. We don’t need society to do it, too. We can control this. We can stop this. We are the technological generation; we are the ones who have the ability to change what is sent out into the world.