What is heterosexuality?
Heterosexuality, alongside homosexuality and bisexuality, is one of the three most common forms of sexual orientation. These terms refer to whom you are sexually attracted to, can be emotionally involved with and might have or want a romantic relationship with.
‘Hetero’ means ‘another’ in Greek. So, if you identify as a man, it means you are attracted to women. Or if you identify as a woman, it means you are attracted to men. It’s also called being ‘straight’ or ‘hetero’.
Around 90 percent of people identify as heterosexual. The other 10 percent identify as gay, bisexual, lesbian, or something else.
Sexual orientation affects more than just who people are attracted to. It affects your identity, how you interact with others and how you express yourself. Sexual orientation can’t be changed. It’s like being left-handed: you can try to teach yourself to use your right hand for writing, but it will never feel right – because it’s not who you are. And even if you stay true to being left-handed, the world around you isn’t for you. Scissors, knives, door knobs: none of them are made for you.
And sexual orientation is similar. Think about it: could someone who is openly gay or lesbian be president of your country?
This can make it very difficult to be open about your sexual orientation when you aren’t what others consider ‘normal’.
Unfortunately, it's a common assumption that all people are straight and that affects the way they see the world. We assume all people will date the opposite sex and have children. Which of course is true for a lot of people but not for everyone.
This is referred to as heteronormativity or heterosexism.
For example, when someone asks a woman if she has a boyfriend this assumes that all women date men. If you are a woman who dates women, this question can feel very isolating.
Another example is when someone asks a gay or lesbian couple ‘Who wears the pants in the relationship?’ This assumes that there is always a more masculine person and a feminine person in a relationship. This is an assumption based around the idea that everyone is straight or straight acting.
These ideas and assumptions shut out people of other sexual orientations and stigmatises them.