The other day I found online a list of observations made by a class of heterosexual university students in the USA, asked to think about advantages held by heterosexual students over their non-heterosexual counterparts. I think they made a very good effort, and I think doing such an exercise helps to broaden the mind.
It certainly helps to show others how fortunate they are - and highlights the clear advantages straight people have over us - and thereby reveals the inequalities in society we face today. Hopefully this will show people why it is we fight for equal rights - and that we really have a few good reasons to gripe after all.
I thought about it and worked through the original posting, making some additions of my own - and this is what I came up with:
As a heterosexual person...
- I am not asked to think about why I am straight.
- I can go for months without being called "straight".
- People don't ask why I made my "choice" of sexual orientation.
- People don't ask why I made my "choice" to be public about my sexual orientation.
- People don't ask me why I "have to be so 'obviously straight'".
- I am not accused of "flaunting my lifestyle".
- I am not accused of being "mentally ill" because of my sexuality.
- I'm not grouped because of my sexual orientation.
- I have no need to qualify my straight identity.
- I am not identified by my sexual orientation.
- I don't have to defend my heterosexuality.
- when I tell people I am heterosexual by birth they believe me and see no reason to argue.
- I never felt a need to hide my sexual orientation or gender identity.
- My sexual orientation was never associated with a closet.
- Nobody calls me straight out of malice.
- When people use the word "straight", it is not used to mean "stupid".
- People of my gender do not try to convince me to change my sexual orientation.
- My masculinity/femininity is not challenged because of my sexual orientation.
- I do not need to worry that people will harass me because of my sexual orientation.
- I can be open about my sexual orientation without worrying about my job.
- If my day, week, or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it has sexual orientation overtones.
- My individual behavior does not reflect on all other people who also identity as heterosexual.
- I am never asked to speak for everyone who is heterosexual.
- I am not thought of as "weak" or "perverted" because of my sexuality or the gender of the person I love.
- I can be pretty sure that my roommates and classmates will be comfortable with my sexual orientation.
- If I pick up a magazine, watch TV, or play music, I can be certain my sexual orientation will be represented and without negative bias.
- Whether I go to a theater, or take a video rental I can be sure I will not have trouble finding my sexual orientation represented.
- I will not see articles in the paper or on TV attacking all people with my sexual orientation with malicious propaganda and rhetoric founded on obvious ignorance.
- I can walk in public with my partner and not have people double-take or stare or experience intimidation.
- I can kiss a person of the opposite gender without being stared at.
- I am guaranteed to find sex education literature for couples with my sexual orientation.
- People do not assume I am experienced in sex (or that I even have it!) merely because of my sexual orientation.
- People do not accuse me of being a pedophile or of bestiality just because of my sexual orientation.
- I do not have to fear that if my family or friends find out about my sexual orientation there will be economic, emotional, physical or psychological consequences.
- As a heterosexual person I will not be targeted by my church or religion because of who I am, or have my membership terminated because of who I love.
- As a heterosexual person I am not asked why I want to marry my partner.
- I can easily find a religious community that will not exclude me for being heterosexual.
- I will not be targeted by my church or religion because of who I am, or have my membership terminated because of who I love.
- I can count on finding a therapist or doctor willing and able to talk about my sexuality.
- I am guaranteed to receive equal treatment at clinics and hospitals where medical staff will not refuse to treat me on the grounds of my sexuality or their religious persuasions.
- I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help my sexual orientation will not work against me.
- When I talk about my heterosexuality (such as in a joke or talking about my relationships), I will not be accused of pushing my sexual orientation onto others.
- I did not grow up with games that attack my own sexual orientation (IE fag tag or smear the queer).
- I am guaranteed to find people of my sexual orientation represented in the curriculum, faculty, and administration of my university or place of learning.
- I do not have to worry about telling my roommate about my sexuality. It is assumed I am a heterosexual.
- I can go home from most meetings, classes, and conversations without feeling excluded, fearful, attacked, isolated, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance, stereotyped or feared because of my sexual orientation.
- I can be sure that my classes will require curricular materials that testify to the existence of people with my sexual orientation.
- I am not accused of being abused, warped or psychologically confused because of my sexual orientation.
- In everyday conversation, the language my friends and I use generally assumes my sexual orientation. For example, "sex" inappropriately referring to only heterosexual sex or "family" meaning only heterosexual partners with kids.
- People can use terms that describe my sexual orientation and mean positive things (IE "straight as an arrow", "standing up straight" or "straightened out") instead of demeaning terms (IE "ewww, that's gay" or being "queer").
- People do not look down on me and all those like me simply because of my sexual orientation or gender identity.
- I can choose to not think politically about my sexual orientation.
- I do not need to worry about losing all my civil rights in the next general election.
- I am not treated like or called a "criminal" because of my sexuality.
- I can walk around in clothes that I am comfortable in without that being used as a dumb excuse later that I "provoked a violent response" (as in the case of transgender people in transition).
- I can be sure that I will not run the risk of being the statistic one person murdered worldwide every three days just for my gender identity or sexual orientation.
- I can be sure I will not be one of 35 people murdered or "correctively raped" yearly in South Africa because of my sexual orientation.
- I am unlikely to get targeted in violent crime specifically because of my sexuality or gender identity.
- If I am murdered because of my sexuality or gender identity my family will receive the sympathy of the public and not be told that I deserved to die as punishment for who I am.
If you are straight, I hope this list shows you what we as gay, lesbian, transgender, intersex and bisexual people face today. That this is how it is for us and why we campaign for equality. Not to have more rights than you, but to have the same rights as you - and to be treated as human beings equal to you and not as second class citizens.
It is one thing to argue that we are "already protected under law" - and as far as you are concerned we are "already equal" - and that what we are after is "special rights", but I think if you consider the truth in the list above you will see something looking straight back at you, something we see and experience every single day of our lives.