This is an open letter to hetero-normative people out there. We apologize (slightly, but not really) for the rant, but these constant frustrations are such a challenge the LGBTQ community!
Dear sheltered and naive hetero-normative folks:
When we say that you are sheltered and naive, we don’t mean any dis-respect, it’s probably not your fault that you haven’t been exposed enough to the real world to understand that your hetero-normative ideas are actually dis-respectful to those of us who don’t fall under that category.
So let’s start by explaining what hetero-normative means. If you google it, the definition you get states, “denoting or relating to a world view that promotes heterosexuality as the normal or preferred sexual orientation.” Despite your beliefs and opinions, everyone is the world is not heterosexual. In fact, if you don’t currently know someone who identifies as anything but heterosexual, you are probably clueless or the people you know are too afraid to tell you.
Let’s give some examples of what hetero-normative means. It means that when you think “parents,” or refer to “parents,” you automatically think and assume “mom” and “dad.” Same goes for “married couple,” you assume “husband” and “wife.” Here is a quick an easy solution to these thoughts and actions: STOP ASSUMING.
To be clear, none of us want to promote a “homo-normative” world view either. Nobody wants to promote “normative” anything! The solutions (and we are speaking in our wively opinions and don’t intend to speak for the community as a whole) are simple and easy to cover everyone rather than just specific groups.
Here come the examples of our constant frustrations:
Example 1 – “Spouses”
When we became legally married and were filing IRS and name change paperwork, some of the forms were fine and easy, but many only had boxes to fill in labeled “HUSBAND” and “WIFE.” We get it, marriage for same sex couples hasn’t been legal long, but this was in 2017, 2 years after the ruling! Naturally, we took a red pen to every time the word “husband” or the word “wife” was listed and crossed them out and replaced them with “SPOUSE,” and attached a post-it explaining why and suggesting that they update their paperwork to coincide with FEDERAL LAW, given that they are a federal institution. (side note, can’t stand the word “partner” for whatever reason)
Example 2 – “Parents”
Almost every time we have to fill out registration paperwork for our son, it explicitly asks for “mother” and “father” information. So, of course, we redline those forms as well and suggest replacing those words with “parent.”
In order to be better humans, communicate better, make each other feel accepted, and loved, and wanted, and respected, follow some of the following simple guidelines:
1. Make no assumptions.
Don’t ask that woman if she “has a husband,” simply ask, “are you married?” Same goes for any gender affiliation.
2. Use open terms that aren’t gender or hetero-normaly biased.
Rather than asking a child about its “mom and dad,” use the term, “parents.” Use the word “spouse” over “husband” or “wife.”
3. If you slip up, apologize for your naive words, not your “assumptions”
If you accidentally ask a man about his “wife” and he explains that he has a “husband,” it’s okay, it will take a while for society to change and for you to get used to being more open, but DO NOT, under ANY circumstances say, “I’m so sorry, I just ASSUMED.” That is the worst statement to make because you are essentially using your hetero-normative thoughts as an excuse to be disrespectful. A more appropriate response would be, “I’m so sorry, I should not have made that hetero-normative assumption. I’m still working on eliminating standards of normality from my thinking and I hope you can forgive me!” Or something along those lines. The error wasn’t really in what you said, but the fact that your go-to was a biased sense of what is “normal.”
In conclusion, this may have come off harsh, but hopefully it opened your eyes and your mind to help you be more aware of your idea of what is “normal.” Society is always evolving, and part of that is changing the way that we think and how we view the world and speak about it and each other. Many people reading this might be thinking that this is stupid and change is hard or refuse to want to change because you believe solely in a hetero-normative world view. You can have your own opinion, and that is fine. But, if you read this and thought , “huh, I’ve never thought about it that way,” AWESOME! Listen to those around you, spread some incite, spread some positive change. Shouldn’t we all be made to feel included and respected? If it’s as easy as using different words in our speech and on paper to make a positive difference, then doesn’t that make it worth it?
We all just want to be happy and feel “normal,” and it’s not like we’re asking you to eat a bigass rainbow cake that we made out of butterflies tears and unicorn farts (we’ll save that for a later date…). Just think about your world view and your words and do your best to make a positive difference in yourself and those around you. EVERYONE, not just the LGBTQ community, will be grateful to you for it.
Peace and love from a couple of homos,
The Two Wives
The struggle is real out there. Do any of you experience similar struggles? If so, what are your solutions for enacting some positive change?