Barbie and Ken. Tarzan and Jane. I mean, even the Grinch had a hetero love story with Martha Mae Whovier. Media representation and my personal socialization impacted me to believe that I would also have a hetero love story. Turns out, I don’t love being hetero at all. Quite the opposite, in fact. But we are all subject to the immense tools of heteronormative socialization that make us believe that being straight equates to being normal. Myself included.
As a child, I always knew intrinsically that my attraction to feminine presenting bodies was different from my relationship to wanting to be attracted to masculine presenting bodies. It becomes much more complicated looking back on it now, but back then, I knew that girls were pretty, that I wanted to be around girls, that I wanted to like them and to be liked by them. Boys, however, I thought they were cool, good friends, and I wanted to be accepted by them, not necessarily liked. Keep in mind, I’m using binary language to capture the thinking of my child/preteen brain.
I grew up playing hockey in a league and on a team of mostly boys; that was never weird for me and I created great friendships from that. Friendships I thought would last a long time. But then came fifth grade, and the life-changing health classes full of “sex education” – or so they called it. More accurately, “heteronormative education and narrow-minded, misogynist concepts of how women can simultaneously be shamed for and guilty of inviting men to act on toxic masculinity”, but, y’know, “sex education” works, I guess. These seemingly harmless few classes, describing menstruation, sex, pubic hair, etc., completely changed my adolescent life, and the decade to follow.
Up until this point in my life, I had not felt the need to question my relationships, my friendships, my attractions, or my motivations behind why I felt the way that I did. The narrow, heteronormative boxes that “sex ed” laid out for all of us made me question everything. This brought on embarrassment around boys, friendships being broken because people assumed we liked one another romantically, and feeling the need to have a crush on a boy (sorry to the boy who I hyper-fixated on for about seven years, you were a great sport, and a great disguise for my lesbianism). I began to surveil myself around girls to ensure I wasn’t crossing lines that hadn’t even existed previous to this knowledge of what I was “supposed” to be feeling and going through as a cisgender girl “becoming a woman.”
It took ten long years to unlearn all of the heteronormative ideas that so passively are engrained within us through our upbringing. Things like romantic comedies, weddings you attend, even songs you sing on the playground, all instilling within us that straight is the default, the normal, what we are supposed to be. Well, I took a U-turn (ha, get it, straight joke). It took a very long time to come to terms with this, to embrace this, to not question myself or compare my experiences with the heterosexual norm in our society.
The truth of the matter is, we cannot control who we love or who we are. Who I am romantically attracted to is an intrinsic part of who I am, and it is difficult not to stew over the fact that my genuine sexuality was hidden from me for all those years due to heteronormativity. It was always there, of course, but being a lesbian is not exactly represented well in the media, nor was it ever really accepted in my everyday life when I was growing up. This is changing, and it makes my heart swell to think of the younger generations being able to love who they love without any fear of judgment. We have a long way to go before this becomes reality, no question, but I can only hope that by living authentically, loudly and genuinely as a queer woman that I can help show others that being who you are can be spectacular.
Kaitlyn has a bachelors in sociology and disability studies. You can check out her social activism and other fun stuff on her Instagram.
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