Data: Janice Mary Habarth, Thinking ‘Straight’: Heteronormativity and Associated Outcomes Across Sexual Orientation, The University of Michigan, 2008.
Love is in the air as Valentine’s Day approaches. Advertisements are all over the internet, for the most part depicting straight couples getting their significant other the perfect gift. But one is left to question the effect such exclusiveness can leave on same-sex couples, who are underrepresented in such commercials.
Heteronormativity is the assumption that, unless somebody has come out and declared their sexuality, that they are straight. This can impose harmful ideals on children who can be led to believe that the way to be normal is to be straight.
Brett Jones, a 2019 FZN graduate, explains exactly how heteronormativity affects gay teenagers but emphasizes that it gets better.
“It’s like straight is the default sexuality of life when that’s quite on the contrary. Of course, most people are heterosexual, but we need more inclusivity and diversity,” says Jones. “College is definitely more accepting than high school. Professors talk about it, and there are various clubs for LGBT+ students. In some classes they discuss LGBT+ content, whether it be for history or sociology, which I never heard in high school.”
However, heternormativity isn’t the only erasure in the community, as bisexuality is rarely represented in a realistic and positive light.
According to GLAAD, bisexual erasure, also known as bisexual invisibility, is the issue in which the existence or legitimacy of bisexuality is questioned or denied outright. In its extreme, it can be the belief that bisexuality doesn’t exist.
Emily Renaud, a bisexual senior at North, expresses the impact of the lack of representation in the media and how it correlated with her journey in self-acceptance.
“It gives the impression that I don’t have the same worth as somebody who’s straight or as another part of the community with more representation,” says Renaud. “At such an age, seeing somebody on television or in movies that had the same feelings as me could have made all the difference.”
LGBT+ kids everywhere are subjected to under representation in the media and television, causing their sexuality to struggle. With no healthy relationships to base themselves on, it’s easy to become confused and fearful of same-sex attractions.