Heteronormativity, by definition, is basically the principle that in our culture, heterosexuality is the norm and any deviations from it, be it homosexuality or asexuality or anything else, are in the excluded minority and are every day forced to live in a culture that isn’t ours but is increasingly forced upon us. Take it from an asexual (ace): Living in a very heteronormative and increasingly sex-enthusiastic culture is very isolating if you don’t conform to it. From TV shows and movies, with graphic sex scenes on HBO and plots that revolve entirely around trying to hook up with members of the opposite sex, to even walking down a supermarket aisle and seeing covers of magazines like Cosmo boldly showing headlines like “101 Sex Tips to Please Your Man” or Sport Illustrated’s “Sexiest Swimsuit Models!” it’s everywhere around us.
It’s not just media culture that’s alienating; it’s friends and family, too. Even queer friends that I have who still aren’t in the hetero status-quo talk about sex with their partners, Facebook feeds constantly show pictures and status updates of weddings, engagements, babies and dates and when I’m out with friends there’s usually at least one person remarking on the attractiveness of people walking by. There’s something reminding me almost constantly, every day, that I’m not normal, that I’m not a part of this.
For people out there who are part of this normativity, it can be hard to see what it is. You see yourself and your happy life and you see a handful of people you know who aren’t straight or sexual or cis-gendered, but you don’t fully realize the impact of it. To you, they’re the exception to a rule that you live by and to you, it’s not a rule, it’s normal, it’s life, and more than that, it’s your life.
To compare, think of any major sporting event that you DON’T partake in, be it the Superbowl, the World Series, March Madness or the Hockey Championships. Think of how much advertising goes into that—everywhere you look stores are selling something to do with the sport; jerseys, hats, ridiculous accessories, the supermarket is having sales on all the “game day essentials,” and you can’t turn on the TV for five minutes without having a Doritos ad featuring some beefed-up sports star or crazy amounts of advertising for the event itself. All the major retailers and food chains get in on the action and have sports posters hanging from the ceiling endorsing donuts and sneakers. You can’t even go out to the mall without tripping over people talking about it, when you’re not walking into giant cardboard athlete cutouts.
There’s always at least one betting pool going around if you work in an office, people discussing it at their desks all day and that one obnoxious co-worker who puts bobbleheads and hats at their desk in support of their favorite team. Then there’s at least half a dozen people in your neighborhood hosting viewing parties, and about a million social media posts of people supporting their favorite team or tearing down their rivals. It headlines most newspapers and magazines, the athletes involved are suddenly in documentaries, and the entire lineup for Jimmy Fallon suddenly looks like every celebrity who isn’t an athlete suddenly came down with a crippling case of stage fright.
By now I’m sure you have a pretty good picture of this in your mind, and by the time Superbowl Sunday, the World Series or the March Madness championship rolls around, you’re probably now remembering how annoyed you are with this particular sport and how much you just really, really want people to stop talking about it before you lock yourself in a dark, soundproof box just to get away from it all. That’s what it’s like to be alienated by culture, but as an asexual, I don’t just deal with this once a year on Superbowl Sunday. I deal with it every. single. day.
I don’t blame people for conforming to the coupling culture, I understand biology and I know that it’s heteronormative for a reason; it’s natural for the species to want to survive and propagate. At the same time, it’s hard for non-conformers to be living in a counter-culture. There’s no way to escape it or avoid it; I don’t even have the option of joining a hippie commune like I could if I was tired of capitalism, greed and processed foods.
While I fully and completely support LGBTQ and Trans folks, and their allies, who are out there working hard to be recognized and get their civil rights, the battle is a bit more subtle for asexuals or “aces.” We aren’t asking for civil rights, we’re just asking for recognition and acceptance amid the sea of heterosexuality.
Heteronormativity is something that is pushed upon everyone by society every single day, and it’s something that we’re constantly, internally and externally pushing back against, despite knowing that no matter how hard we try, it’s futile. Society won’t change and neither will we. So we can’t stop struggling for individuality, we can’t stop trying to distance ourselves from this culture that doesn’t belong to us and we can’t stop trying to preserve our own identity.
Sometimes I wish I could just be normal. I hate the struggle, I hate being constantly reminded that I’m different at best, or “not right” or broken at worst. I definitely have days and sometimes even phases when I wish I was heterosexual just to fit in, just to stop the fight, just to belong to society and not even need to use any more brainpower on it. But I always come back around because I know that for me personally, I’d hate conforming without a second thought even more.