are you guilty of the hetero default mentality?
I went to a kid’s birthday party (at the park, small group, masks on, distanced sitting) not too long ago and as a queer Mexican woman I am always vigilant of those around me. As I surveyed my surroundings I noticed a theme; heterosexual couples only. Some of the couples had kids, some did not, but it was all heterosexual, thin, fit couples. When I asked the host if they didn’t have any lgbtq friends, they told me they did, but kept the invite to people with kids. I said I saw straight couples without kids, and they replied, “well they love the kid.” It was odd to me as a single queer mom because I have a lot of gay friends who love my daughter. And when I didn’t have my daughter, I still attended straight friends’ kids parties, brought gifts for their babies for every occassion, etc. Now, being the nosy hoe that I am, I inquired further (but careful as to not offend) and discovered that the hosts of the party suffered a subconscious bias; a hetero default mentality. Their close friends were all straight couples, like them, and their “other” friends – those not like their specific mold – were auxiliary friends, who where there on the outskirts to fill a quota or requirement of ensuring they have all kinds of friends. These “other” friends were there to ease the hetero default guilt.
Before you accuse me of being too harsh to straight married couples, I will be clear; I agree and accept that to a certain level most of us exist in insular social groups. We find those we have commonalities with and we create a core group. This is natural, you want to be around those that you have things in common with. With that being said, my close friend vary from age, demographic, size, shape, color, etc. Yes, most of my friends are lgbtq, but some of my closest are heterosexual, or married, no kids, or all of the above. All things I am not. And as much as I can appreciate and understand wanting to be surrounded by like-minded people, I believe a true mark of maturity is finding the common ground with people who otherwise on the surface you would have nothing in common with.
This prompted me to vent and discuss with my good Judy, Lindsey, and I said to her that I feel like there is this subconscious bias ingrained in some straight people that they are the default, they are “normal”, and the rest of us are the “others.” Therefore, they tolerate and entertain the rest of the world different than them as being the “different” one of the group, or “quirky”, but there seems to be a base line of hetero default (Lindsey used this term and I stole it). I think because there is still so much bias within our society, it is easy to fall into this mentality, even if you are a member of the lgbtq community. Growing up I was always made to be and told I am the “other”. The “weird one”, whist everyone else was “normal.” So I wanted to know, are you guilty of hetero default mentality?
As I reflect on this, I even think about the friend who ghosted me (which I talk about in previous posts and on my podcast), and she is a straight married woman, with primarily other straight couples as friends, who – if I reflect on encounters and conversations – I believe was someone who had hetero default mentality. I remember her defending the use of the term “normal” regarding a nuclear family with a heterosexual married parental unit as lack of exposure to others. And it is this subconscious bias and this excuse making that perpetuates this mentality and keeps people like me, the “others” of the world… othered.
My hope is that this hetero default mentality will change. There should be, and there is not in reality, a such thing as a default human disposition or list of characteristic. Some of us have more in common than others – entire clubs and social groups and cultures exist for this reason – but there is no such thing as a default normal way to be a human. Teaching and reinforcing this belief system creates a dangerous situation; the dangerous situation we are currently in where if some are normal then that must mean that others are abnormal – causing a negative connotation which is what leads to discrimination. I want to teach my daughter that the only version of normal that exists is being a human being with thoughts and feelings and various experiences. It is normal to feel sad. It is normal to be happy. It is normal to be scared. It is normal to get taller, to get hungry, to breathe, to laugh, to cry. That’s what is normal.
I have always been different, and despite the adversity that I have faced, I have never deviated from embracing my weirdness. I never understood why anyone would want to be “normal” or “like everyone else.” I never wanted to be like everyone else; that all seemed boring and basic to me. Even as a small child I remember being annoyed at how generic a lot of people seemed. And I got picked on a lot; I got made fun of, teased, outcast. None of it ever made me want to conform to social expectations of what I should look like and how I should act. Unfortunately, what it did do was make me angry. I did not understand why people could not accept me for who I am even though I accepted them for their basic generic ways. It wasn’t until I found more people like me that I stopped being so angry, and I realized that the anger came from a place of hurt. The world was constantly rejecting me and that broke my heart, so I lashed out. I made sure to reject them and be mean to others before I gave them the chance to reject and hurt me. As I have gotten older, I have learned how to maneuver in difficult environments which were not as accepting or where I had to be cautious. I have also learned how to communicate with close-minded people in a way that hopefully opens their eyes and minds to embracing us weirdos a little more. And most importantly, I have learned patience; which is painfully necessary in this world.
This all takes work. All of it. Not othering people, being patient, communicating with each other, finding common ground, making a conscious effort to see people in a different way, and making a conscious effort to step out of our boxes. This is all something that we all need to work on. Just like being patient with one another takes work. Patience takes so much work, and even more so for some of us who naturally aren’t very patient people. I get frustrated easily, and that little kid who got fired up angry is still in me and sometimes ready to explode. I have to make a conscious effort every single morning when I wake up to keep those things in check, and work hard to always lead with patience and love. And I’m gonna tell y’all some days are easier than others. Some days I want to scorch the earth. But I work on it every day, and my hope is that I use these tools to teach my daughter at an earlier age (than when I realized it), how to lead with love and patience. How to try to accept and appreciate everyone for who they are, and respect our differences while at the same time respecting boundaries…. Just typing this it feels like an overwhelming task when the world still seems like such a hot mess. Yet, I remain hopelessly hopeful.
Also, these feels like an appropriate discussion because it is LGBTQ Pride Month.