The Burdens Of Being Heterosexual

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?”

  • Brent

    Good read! I always wondered why we would question some things as “the standard.” this also equates to heteronormative behaviors. I remember growing up playing with my cousins dolls or school. As the only child, I wanted to play with every and anything when I was away from the house. Parents play a huge role in keeping the tradition going. Forcing and pandering sexuality at a young age is stupid.

  • Sean

    This is true Brent. I also believe that when we start to police the behaviors of children according to their gender it stifles their creativity as they start to progress through life. Many children just are not afforded the opportunity to be children because they are so heavily ridiculed and critiqued for every little thing that they do. It is important for us to allow people to develop according to their individual level of comfort.

  • BougieHippie

    Really brilliant article. One of the many things I love about my parents is that they let me and my brother do just about about anything “manly” or “girly” they was more concerned with finding what works for us. I do remember one time my dad being concerned about my constant play with a Snow White doll I got as a prize but he got over it after seeing it was just that “play.” I think this nature v nurture thing is not only prevalent in dealing with homos but heteros as well. As for me & my parents it wasn’t for shame or gender roles it was more so survival. Because my dad didn’t want to know if I was gay to ridicule me but to prepare me.

    • Sean

      Thank you. I find it interesting that you mention the nurture vs. nature perspective and how your parents allowed you to play with dolls to discover your own identity. Just the other night while in Wal-Mart, I saw a young Black couple with their young son and they gave him a doll to play with. As a Women’s Studies major and someone who actively critiques gender roles, I was shocked yet happy to see this behavior; so I asked the mother while she allowed this. The mother stated to me that this was how she teaches her son to be affectionate, and that is really irritating when people have to distinguish between toys. I applauded this couple and felt that if more people raised their children in this manner we would not be dealing with the massive amount of bullying in schools, among other things.

  • Lady Tre

    Can I get credit on my photo?

    • Drew-Shane

      Please forward us the valid proof and we will happily remove the requested material or give the proper credit- Thanks!!

  • Rafael Mutis

    While I appreciate the writing and the naming of how gender and sexuality oppression impacts straight men, this is but a small part of what the rest of us face. Thank you for stepping up, let’s all end this stupid policing of who we are or who we are perceived to be, so we can all live, love and heal like the vibrant humans we are!