When you read about and are interested in the different intersecting systems of oppression that operate in our society, you know how certain privileges exist and float around, invisible. You know that part of how you fight against discrimination, oppression and inequality is by marking and pointing to these privileges: in the media, in our communities, in our families, and most importantly (and much harder), in ourselves. It is so much easier to focus on others’ privileges which oppress us than the privileges from which we profit and that we take for granted.
Truth is, I could give a zillion reasons as to why I don’t “come out” as a bisexual person – yeah, yeah, I am doing it cowardly through the interwebz, BITE ME. Because of ideology: just like no one expects a heterosexual to do so, “coming out” as an ‘exception’ still serves a heteronormativity that seems to need that we wear a sort of ‘Star of David’; some indication to let straight people know how to act around us, what kind of social control needs to be enforced around us. Because of my philosophy of life: I don’t have to be announcing myself and who I fancy or not, who I date or not; they’ll know when they know and if they don’t, well, it was none of their business anyway. Because it’s not convenient: because I am still studying with my dad’s money, and I care more about staying here studying than about making a ridiculous universal declaration about something that doesn’t mean much in my book in any case. I can even say that it’s because it’s fairly irrelevant: most of my significant relationships have been with people from the opposite sex, and 80% of the people I find truly, fantastically, significantly attractive are too, so why bother. I have this idea that until I have someone relevant to introduce them too, I have no real reason to tell my parents that I also like people from the same sex.
But really, truthfully, all this is BS. I mean, it is not BS – I do have all those reasons not to come out as well – but there is a reason well above them all. Well underneath my skin and underneath the sheets of many people I know are bisexual but find no good reason to say it out loud to their families and friends. This reason, my friends, is heterosexual privilege. And you’ll ask, what is heterosexual privilege? In short, it is all the things that do not burden you, that you do not have to ask yourself, that you do not have to go through only because your sexual orientation just so happens to be the norm in the society and culture that you live in.
Here is a list of some things that I find particularly true to my experience (not to be taken as a comprehensive one):
– I don’t have to declare anything to anyone. Silence means you are heterosexual, as a default. Nothing heterosexist here, BTW.
– My declaring my sexual orientation/having PDA is not interpreted as me pushing my sexual orientation to other people’s faces.
– I don’t have to explain, validate or otherwise prove my sexual orientation to anyone. No one questions why it is so, when did I decide (as if), when did I realize, how did I find out, or if I really am heterosexual.
– I don’t have to fear that my attitudes, opinions or actions be attributed or generalized to everyone of my sexual orientation. This is a big one. Notice the difference between: “He (heterosexual) is promiscuous because he is afraid of commitment”, where the reason given is on an individual level, as opposed to “He (homosexual/bisexual/pansexual/gender non-conforming) is promiscuous because he is homosexual/bisexual/pansexual/gender non-conforming”, where the reason given to the SAME ATTITUDE is a generalization of everyone who has the same sexual orientation.
– No one assumes anything about my personality, attitudes, opinions, sexual practices or gender identity (among others) based only on my sexual orientation.
– Looking for a roommate, I know my sexual orientation is not going to make anyone uncomfortable.
– My activism around gender feminism and sexuality is not attributed to my sexual orientation or minimized and reduced to “self interest”. (Oh, surely she is for same-sex marriage because she is gay. Not because it is the human and rational thing. That is nonsense.”)
– My sexual orientation does not “take points off” my femininity, nor do I have to prove it to anyone – a man on my side is proof enough
(because we are only women in relation to men. pfff.)
– Looking for a job, a scholarship, a school, a partner, social assistance, health care, I know that being heterosexual is not going to be an issue.
– My sexual orientation is not invalidated as a “myth”, a “phase” or a “fad”. Watch this vid 😀
– My sexual orientation is not constantly trivialized and sold as a fetish. And yes I am referring to those ridiculous ads or porn vids of pillow-fights turning into lesbian sex or porn in which the only reason two women are together is to please the man together.
Truth is, being bisexual (and more so being much more leaning towards the heterosexual side of the spectrum), one has the option of just shutting up, but it is a double edged sword. You can just not say it and keep the heterosexual privilege without sacrificing TOO much. But you are tying your own hands, your own sexual experience, in someone else’s bounds. You are trapping yourself in this binary system that only serves the dominant heteronormative system. And this heteronormative system is the biggest buzzkill of all since someone came up with the idea of the catholic mass.
So here is what I say: ENOUGH. I cannot aspire to study human sexuality if I am not a 1000% comfortable with my own, which includes giving up the comfy straight couch I have been sitting on all my life. I cannot aspire to be an activist against gender oppression and ignorance without shouting loud and clear about privilege and lack thereof. Lastly, I cannot aspire to have honesty, responsability, trust, or happiness in my relationships if I am not having them with everything that I am.
On the other hand, I want to invite everyone to do a checklist of heterosexual privilege (or any privilege, for that matter) or to reappropriate my list or one of the ones I linked below, and place it in the context of your own lives. Mark, in your daily lives, in what ways you profit (or are limited by) from heterosexual privilege, in what ways do you reinforce it. Pause, recognize, deconstruct. Identify in which ways you can contribute to improve the lives of those without this privilege, in what ways can the playing field be leveled – one daily interaction at a time.
Cool things to check out: