This week I’m doing a series of posts about privilege. By privilege, I mean the rights I enjoy as being part of a dominant group subject to certain attributes. Because of my privileges I have rarely if ever suffered oppression or discrimination, because my group has the power to subjugate others. For information on how discrimination against me differs from that against marginalised people, I suggest my post ‘Not Reverse Discrimination’.
“Sexual expression is designed for the marital relationship,” says one of Focus on the Family’s many anti-gay websites, “and homosexual behaviour is one of many sexual sins that is outside God’s created intent and desire for us.” Religious dogma is a huge source of homophobia. This idea of ‘God’s created intent’, which links in with the general perception that homosexuality is ‘weird’ and cannot yield children.
This quote from my Spirit Day post highlights one way in which heterosexuality is normalised in Western culture. Not only is it the commonly excepted ‘deafult’ for sexuality. It is the sexuality endorsed by God himself, in every religious text and in every religious tradition marriage is seen as between a man and a woman. Relationships are seen as between a man and a woman. Homosexuality can be openly described as a ‘sexual sin’ by Focus on the Family, a supposedly mainstream Christian organisation, without fear of prosecution for hate crime.
Because it’s all about ‘beliefs’.
In 550 BCE, the first Abrahamic laws against sex between men were passed, and the punishment was the death penalty. Such laws continued to be spread up to and including the Middle Ages. The Buggery Act was instated in England in 1534 CE, which made sodomy and bestiality punishable by death. This remained law until 1861, though the persecution of homosexuals has continued.
They were one of the groups targeted in the Nazi holocaust.
In my commentary on this photo submitted by lordmayorscroupier, I talked about how gendered media is intrinsically hetero-normative. The picture depicts a cover of ‘More’ magazine, with a tagline that reads: “fashion and men… what else is there!” Aside from reducing women to such trivial interests with scant regard for the big issues our world faces (as I covered in the post), it is reducing women to an interest in men. Are all women interested in men? No. Are all women interested in fashion? No.
Here we see gender stereotypes contributing further to a normalisation of heterosexuality as a gendered pursuit, while homosexuals are relegated to their own limited media, separate from that made for ‘men’ or ‘women’.
And it’s not just homosexuals that are discriminated against. Bisexuals have often had their legitimacy questioned not only by society but by the LGBT movement itself, as I covered in my post on the topic.
As a straight person, I can read and watch media that is always designed for me. Women are seen as a key interest of men, and men a key interest of women. My sexuality is not a gimmick creating the basis for a TV character’s entire personality. I never struggled to identify with my sexuality. I was never told my sexuality was a sin. I was never bullied in school for it, I do not face discrimination at work for it. I can (and do) give blood. I am unlikely to become the victim of a hate crime for being heterosexual, while every year persons of different sexualities are killed and driven to suicide.
I do not carry with me the history of thousands beaten, tortured, degraded, persecuted and killed for their sexuality.
I do not experience systematic abuse on a daily basis.
I will not be the victim of hate crimes similar to that experienced by maniahum (and worse).
I am not reduced to an ‘other’, a gimmick, a freak to be interrogated rather than a human being.
I recognise my straight privilege and seek to reduce its impact on others.
Gary McLachlan wrote via disqus:
Slight correction on the law: The 1535 Act was actually incorporated into the Offences Against the Person Act of 1824. 1861 was just a re-codification of that Act and the offence of buggery stayed on the statute books through the 1956 Sexual Offences Act until reduced (for those over 21 in private) by the 1967 Act and then removed as an offence (except against animals) in 2003. :) Sorry to be geeky about the law, but I covered that area deeply in legal history.
Haha, the geekier the better. Thanks for the addition and clarification :)
TOMORROW: White privilege.