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Heteronormativity: 14 Negative Consequences of a Sad Reality

Everyone wants to be accepted. And while our world is more accepting than it used to be, there’s no denying that heteronormativity still exists.


Maybe you’re straight, maybe you’re gay, or bi, or even sexually fluid. Whatever your sexual orientation, it’s obvious to everyone who isn’t living under a rock that being straight is the “preferred” way to be – if for no other reason, because you don’t get criticized or rejected for it.

What is heteronormativity?

Even though the term has been around since 1991 *created by Michael Warner as part of ‘queer theory’* not everyone has heard of it. And lately, it seems to be more common because of all the changes that have happened in our society over the last few decades.

According to Wikipedia.com, heteronormativity is defined as, “the belief that people fall into distinct and complementary genders *man and woman* with natural roles in life. It assumes that heterosexuality is the only sexual orientation or only norm, and states that sexual and marital relations are most *or only* fitting between people of opposite sexes… ”

Whew! That was a mouthful, huh? Okay, in plain English, it basically means that if you aren’t comfortable as either a man or woman, and not attracted to the opposite sex, then there’s something wrong with you.

Woah. Not cool, right?


While people in the older generations are probably having heart attacks just thinking about the fact that some people are gay, bisexual, or transgendered, the younger people are much more accepting. But still, that’s not to say there aren’t a lot of bigots under the age of 30. [Read: 9 sure ways to tell if you’re really bi-curious]

What heteronormativity does in our society

Well, I guess it depends on who you ask. An 80-year-old bigot would say yes. They would probably say something like it’s destroying the traditional family. Or that “those people” are mentally ill. Again, not cool.

But most of us non-judgmental people do think heteronormativity is bad. And here are the reasons why:

#1 It suppresses groups of people. I know most of us weren’t alive during the civil rights movement, but we’ve all heard about it. If you have never seen the movie The Help, you should watch it. It’s a glimpse into how African Americans were treated back in the mid-20th century.

Separate bathrooms, separate areas of restaurants and buses, and just overall treatment as if they were sub-human. It was awful. The same can be said for women at a time in our history.

I mean, it was less than a 100 years ago that women weren’t even allowed to vote and were literally considered property of men if they were married *or property of their father if they weren’t*. [Read: Male privilege – What it is and what it looks like in real life]

#2 It promotes hate. Assuming that there is ONLY one right and that everything else is wrong leads to hate. If a person doesn’t fit into someone’s vision of what is “right,” then the emotions, thoughts, and actions that result against that person can be horrendous.

Hello? Anyone remember the Holocaust from history class? Yeah, it wasn’t a good time to be Jewish in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. And while that’s an extreme case, so many people harbor hate against people who are different than they are.

#3 It separates us. Most religions of the world promote loving one. Although that obviously is very rare in this world – unfortunately.

People are almost always looking to find ways that we are different, and not how we are SIMILAR. Because believe me, we are all humans. And that means we all have the same basic needs.

But if we voluntarily separate ourselves because of hate, well, that’s just downright sad. Humanity should be coming together, not ripping ourselves apart. [Read: How to feel happy – 13 strategies for instant happiness]

#4 It perpetuates ignorance. One of the reasons for bigotry and hate is ignorance. For example, many people are against transgendered people using the public bathroom of their choice.

One of the common arguments for this is that, “Our children use those restrooms, and who knows what they will do to them?!” In other words, they are implying that all transgendered people are sick, twisted, child molesters. Ummm, no.

I have known several transgendered people, and they are just as normal and kind as most people. So, if we don’t learn about people who are different than we are, then the ignorance just keeps going… and going… from generation to generation. [Read: Do you know someone who is guilty of Cissexism – Even you?]

Consequences of heteronormativity on people who aren’t heterosexual

All of these expectations, hate, and suppressions take a toll on people who do not fit into heteronormativity in our society. And that’s wrong. Here are some of the consequences of living in a culture that constantly criticizes and rejects anything outside of what most people think is “normal.”

#1 Low self-esteem. Okay, we all know what it feels like to feel bad about ourselves, right? I mean, about 0.00000001% of the population looks like a super model.

But so many girls look in the mirror and judge themselves for being “fat.” But imagine if you were constantly getting judged just for being who you are! Yep. Hello, low self-esteem! Ugh. So sad. [Read: 10 signs of low self-esteem and 5 ways to overcome it quickly]

#2 Confusion. If you’re heterosexual, can you imagine how difficult and confusing it would be to be gay, bisexual, or transgendered? Most of us take for granted that we are comfortable in our own body. And/or that we are sexually attracted to the opposite sex.

But how would it feel if you didn’t feel like that… for as long as you can remember? Confusion is an understatement.

#3 Rejection. When you are different than most people, rejection is inevitable. Because of hatred or ignorance, lots of people don’t support people who are not in the “social norm.”

Whether it’s their family, peers, or church members, so many people who are not heterosexual feel like many people reject them – just for being who they are. Others might even try to change them. [Read: How to know if you are gay – All the signs you can’t ignore]

#4 Bullying. Bullying has existed probably since the caveman days. But, it’s even worse now because people don’t just have to do it face-to-face anymore. It’s a lot easier to sit behind your computer or phone and spew out hateful comments to people who don’t fall onto the heteronormativity spectrum.

And bullies also like to gang up on the ones who are perceived as “weak” or “different,” so yeah. Non-heteronormative people are a prime target.

#5 Social shunning. And it doesn’t just have to be the bullies who don’t treat non-heterosexual people well. Just because people aren’t actively bullying other people doesn’t mean that they are welcoming them with open arms either.

Sort of like the “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule. They look the other way, put their heads in the sand, and just don’t really acknowledge their existence. As you probably guessed, this is not a fun way to live. [Read: 15 ridiculous lesbian myths you probably still believe]

#6 Fear. So, if you don’t fall on the heteronormativity scale, then you might not want to be around a lot of people. In fact, you might even fear them if you have been rejected, bullied, and shunned by enough people. Heck, who wouldn’t have fear if that happened so frequently?

#7 No hope for the future. What if your parents have shunned you? Or your church? Or your friends? If someone feels like they have no social support, how can the feel hopeful about the future? And then their imagination goes wild thinking that perhaps all people in the world will reject them *which isn’t true*.

#8 Depression. I’m not saying that all people who aren’t in the realm of heteronormativity are depressed. But let’s face it – with all the horrible bigots and phobic people out there, it would difficult to not feel sad a lot. When people are beaten down so often, they will just emotionally shut down. [Read: 10 Things a woman should know when dating a bisexual man]

#9 Self-harm. Again, not everyone will harm themselves. But there are a lot of people in the world who do. Whether it’s cutting their arms or legs or some other form of self-harm, they are desperately trying to find a way to cope.

And as crazy as it sounds to most people, feeling the physical pain takes their mind off of the emotional and mental pain inflicted on them by the people on the heteronormativity spectrum. [Read: Turning emotional pain into physical – Why do people cut?]

#10 Suicide. God willing, most people won’t get to this desperate point. But as we all know, suicide is a real problem – especially when people are constantly bullied and rejected. And how sad is it to think that it can be prevented.

While there are lots of reasons people commit suicide *including brain chemical imbalances*, social stigma and rejection is one of them. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

[Read: The perks and unperks of coming out of the closet]

Heteronormativity is a reality – a sad reality. But it is real nonetheless. So, the next time you talk to someone who doesn’t fall into that category, be kind, gentle, loving, and empathetic.

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Carol Morgan LP
Dr. Carol Morgan
Dr. Carol Morgan has a Ph.D. in communication and is a professor at Wright State University where she loves corrupting young minds. As a relationship and succes...