One of the things I read over the summer which has stuck with me was a short essay by M. Rochlin titled, “The Heterosexual Questionnaire,” from Privilege: A Reader, edited by Michael Kimmel and Abby Ferber. I have included part of it below from an open Internet source for you to read. Take a look.
1. What do you think caused your heterosexuality?
2. When and how did you first decide you were a heterosexual?
3. Is it possible your heterosexuality is just a phase you may grow out of?
4. Is it possible that your heterosexuality stems from a neurotic fear of others of the same sex?
5. If you’ve never slept with a person of the same sex, is it possible that all you need is a good gay lover?
6. Do your parents know you are straight? Do your friends and/or roommates know? How did they react?
7. Why do you insist on displaying your heterosexuality? Can’t you just be what you are and keep it quiet?
8. Why do heterosexuals place so much emphasis on sex?
9. Why do heterosexuals feel compelled to seduce others into their lifestyle?
10. A disproportionate majority of child molesters are heterosexual. Do you consider it safe to expose children to heterosexual teachers?
11. With all the societal support for marriage, the divorce rate is spiraling. Why are there so few stable relationships among heterosexuals?
What struck me about this piece, and will likely strike you as well, was how well it illustrated the concept that certain social identities are considered “normal” in dominant US culture. Others, not considered “normal,” are made marginal or pathological. Dr. Steve Jones described these as “one up” or “one down” social identities. The normalization or invisibility of a social identity can be difficult to see if you share that identity, but is often obvious to those who do not share the "normal" identity. This checklist which poses questions from a perspective of homosexual normality, highlights the often invisible normalization of heterosexuality.
We are given information continuously from birth about how these various social identities are valued in our dominant culture, so if you ask older elementary students, “Which is it considered better to be? A ___ or a ____?” they will be able to give answers in line with our dominant United States culture, even if they personally think differently. Some examples from Dr. Steve Jones of our dominant cultural norms:
“One up” group
Fully mentally able
Physical ability/ appearance
Able bodied, attractive
Unfortunately, the value hierarchy of the dominant culture does not need to be taught to be absorbed, as children are already exposed to it hundreds of times per day in large and small ways. However what does need to be explicitly taught is the ability to recognize, reconsider, and eschew the validity of this hierarchy of social identities.
Take care all,