What Is “Hetero-normal”?

IMG_0184Posted by Smriti Gupta
Artwork by Charmi Singh

To understand the magnitude of the presence of heteronormativity it is first important for us to grasp what heteronormativity actually is. According to the dictionary, heteronormativity is a system that works to normalize behavior and societal expectations that are tied to the presumption of heterosexuality and adhere to the gender binaries. Therefore, it isn’t about challenging heterosexuality but questioning the idea that heterosexuality is the only normal, natural or good form of sexuality.

Right from when we are born, we become part of a structure that has rigid gender binaries with an overarching patriarchal narrative. This paves way for gendered toys and a gendered curriculum that makes children associate only a certain set of characteristics with a certain one of the two normalized genders, e.g- soft and pretty are always adjectives for girls and, ‘laborious’ and ‘muscular’ for boys. This creates an ambit for bullying, harassment and subsequently assault of those students who don’t conform to these identities.
Here are instances of more exclusion in public spaces:

Bathrooms in all public institutions across India are also accessible to only men and women. Most surveys and forms also have only two sections, leaving no scope of identification for people who aren’t either. So much is the societal conditioning that when you Google search “couple”, you will see heterosexuals. All this creates hostility to any display of affection that is not heteronormative.

We also normalize these ideas through the language we use casually. A boy is always asked if he has a girlfriend and similarly a girl is always asked if she has a boyfriend, matrimonial sites being inclusive is a mirage in this scenario. Mainstream media’s portrayal of LGBTQ+ characters in a stereotypical and mostly negative manner is also a result of heteronormativity. Be it advertisements, literature or movies, all of them have a fetish for straight sex. When a man applies deodorant in a commercial, only women get attracted to him. Restrictions on same sex marriage, prohibition on adoption for these couples, difficulty in finding places to rent are all proof of our regressive mindset.

As a society we are made to believe that cis gendered heterosexuals are the pinnacle of normality and all social structures.  The queer revolution is about undoing this fabric stitch by stitch.

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