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6.5: Heteronormativity and the Sexual Hierarchy

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    The LGBTQIA+ community has been a marginalized group, not unlike racial and ethnic groups. They face discrimination and hate and have been targets of violence. People have sought to deny their identity and pursued efforts to invalidate queer identities. The rights of this community have been debated by government officials, sometimes leading to laws that protect rights, and other times, to deny rights.

    One of the reasons queer people have been seen as deviant and are marginalized is because of the idea of heteronormativity, the ways in which heterosexuality is normalized through myriad practices, so that it becomes naturalized as the only legitimate form of sexuality. Society has a socially constructed sexual hierarchy that classifies certain acts as morally superior and as the model that should be followed (Rubin 1984). Because of this hierarchy, there is what is considered a charmed circle and the outer limits of what is culturally seen as acceptable sexual behavior. Heterosexuality gets privileged as the orientation that is every other orientation is viewed in relation to, and as a result,  homosexuality and queerness are viewed as unnatural. Knowing what we know about homosexuality, we know it exists throughout the animal kingdom, including humans, it was historically not always stigmatized, and in fact, was part of what was regarded as normal sexual activity. As culture shifts, we see attitudes and rules around sexuality change, and at present depending on where you are geographically located, homosexuality is more widely accepted now than in the past (Rubin 1984).

    Throughout this chapter  “LGBTQIA+ community” and “queer community” will be used interchangeably; however, some argue that there is a major difference in these terms. The LGBTQIA+ community has a wide range of people who have different beliefs and practices. While some desire to not be viewed differently and fit in with the systems in place, others desire radical changes to these systems. Queer is often the word used to express a more radical approach.