The gender expectations and burdens one faces as a heterosexual within American society and the standards set forth upon heterosexual men and women from conception are not only oppressive and limiting, but – to my astonishment – are passed down like African folklore traditions.
As children, we are constantly scrutinized for things as minute as the toys we play with, the activities we engage in, and the people we associate with. The innocence our parent(s) suggest we inherit at birth becomes an anomaly the minute mommy’s little boy asks for a Barbie dream house, fully equipped with a kitchen, red Corvette, and a dog; or daddy’s little girl asks for a football, G.I. Joe, or a toolbox. One can almost hear the oxymoronic hetero-normative gender sirens blaring as mommy and daddy immediately go over heterosexual gender separation theory 101. As long as adults continue to buy into the heterosexual propaganda of gender separation, we all will forever be held hostage by its expectations, burdens and requirements, and our children – if we choose to have them – will never be able to fully experience life unchained from the rituals of heterosexuality.
I recall wanting to get my ear pierced as a young boy. Little did I know the feat that I had just accepted, and the rules and expectations I would be required to follow. In the months leading up to this exciting day, many of those around me, who aided my decision, ensured that I was adept to the proper protocol of a male ear piercing. It was my understanding at the time, and to this day, that each ear was a single determining factor of your sexual orientation; piercing your left meant you were straight, and your right meant you were gay.
As I grew older, I am sure you could understand my confusion around this asinine categorization of something as simple as getting my ear pierced. And with age came more rigidity. As a freshman in college, I decided to get my right ear pierced. I was not attempting to make a statement at the time, only that I was confused by the fact that two earrings came in a box, but according to some unwritten social rule, I could not wear both. According to some friends, a heterosexual male who decides to pierce both ears is also placed in the abysmal box of having his sexual orientation questioned. What I learned during that episode of attempting to integrate myself into the latest fashion craze was that it is not accepted according to the rules of heterosexuality, and one must tread carefully on the invisible line of hetero-normative gender expectations.
I remember every time I would visit my father, I was faced with the daunting task of answering his invasive questions. These questions did not pertain to my recent academic progress; rather, my perceived sexual orientation.
“You ain’t gay, is you, boy?”