Heteronormativity is toxic

Natalie Wolff, A&E Editor

The story was simple, she was the shy, intelligent school girl and he was the bad boy with a tragic backstory. They meet and fall in love in a solid three hundred pages. God. Never heard that one before. 

Growing up, I loved reading books and watching romantic comedies just as much as the next person, but after a while of reading the same storylines over and over again,  I simply got sick of it. The predictability of these cheesy stories made my eyes practically roll right off my face. What I would give to make the authors turn the love interest of my favorite female characters into a girl.

I never learned about the concept of same-sex couples in my childhood. There was no coverage about it in the books I read and the movies I watched, and therefore it simply did not exist in my mind. I believed for the longest time that the only relationships I could ever have were with boys as none of my role models ever said otherwise. 

My family, being more conservative, always told me that I was a beautiful young woman and one day I will be happy and would marry a nice rich man, and it seemed there really was no other option. I was basically introduced to the idea of homophobia before I even learned about homosexuality.

The first time I was introduced to homosexuality was in the sixth grade, where I saw two girls kissing on this TV show I was watching. I was in literal shock and frankly felt a little bit of disgust. I already had this closed mindset towards people who were attracted to the same gender, because I was so unfamiliar with it. 

However, despite that reaction, almost immediately after watching that kiss, hundreds of questions plagued my mind. Are people actually like this? Lingered more than any other. Although I never even considered the idea of liking a girl at the time, I would question my sexuality often. Usually when this happened, I felt high levels of anxiety and tried to compress those feelings down as far as possible and pretend as if they never existed. Whenever I asked my parents about it, they shrugged it off and said that I was “as straight as can be” and I had nothing to worry about because I was “perfectly normal.”

There were girls in my classes that I felt this gray area towards, but could not comprehend what that meant at the time. Because of that, I would avoid them completely. There were boys that I picked to like because they “felt right” yet I don’t recall ever feeling any stirring emotions about them. I could never relate to love songs that played on the radio stations as I never felt that strongly about anyone and found them all quite lame and cheesy. I could not even bring myself to read romance novels anymore, as they seemed so unrealistic and stupid.

I blamed the TV shows I watched for the longest time for making me think these thoughts, yet I didn’t seem to realize that I felt this way long before I even saw it on the screen. Couldn’t I tell based on the facts that all of my celebrity crushes were women, or that girls were the only figures I ever drew in my sketchbooks? 

The summer of freshman year was the first time I truly realized I had feelings for a girl, my friends helped me confront the fact that I was bisexual. When it first struck me, I cried for days on end as I did not want to be anything else besides straight. I could not picture anything else. My future suddenly became a blur and the one thing I was so sure of, was now tearing me apart in ways I could not comprehend. When I came out to my family, a majority of them did not take me seriously and said the way I felt about girls is just an admiration and is only a phase. That reaction only made me compress my now clear emotions even more. I hated myself for feeling this way and wished that I could just be “normal”.

 This idea of heteronormativity lived inside my brain for a majority of my life. The belief that heterosexuality is the only normal sexual orientation. What took me years to realize is that there is nothing wrong or unnormal about being part of the LGBTQ+ community and nobody should have to feel the way I did. The attraction that a person feels is completely natural and whether they like the same or a different gender does not make them any less human.

Something else happened when I came out, I was finally able to feel this different kind of happiness and could finally understand the significance behind all of those sappy love songs and the feeling of desire that was described in all the books I read, despite the way my family reacted. This newfound passion gave me the motivation to start writing my own romance stories and poems reflecting upon these emotions that have been suppressing inside of me for years.

With help from my friends, I was able to come to terms with my sexuality and even embrace it. Instead of compressing my emotions, I am able to accept them and love them as they are a huge and important part of my identity. It’s still hard for me even now as a junior, I still have a lot of internalized homophobia, but I am so much happier and have grown so much as a person and ally because of this.

There is so much more LGBT representation in the media now. It’s even starting to show up subtly in kids movies which genuinely warms my heart. The kids I work with that are so much younger than I was, are already becoming familiar with the community! They are so much more accepting than I would have ever been at their age. Having this representation is so significant as it does not alter the minds of young children, but rather gives them the opportunity to better express themselves and feel much more emotional validation. 

I could finally open my eyes and stray away from my old toxic mindset and thoughts. My feelings are valid and nobody can tell me otherwise. There is no such thing as a normal sexuality, and everyone is free to create their own story with whatever love interest they desire.