Coming out to others
Heteronormativity is the way that heterosexuality (or being 'straight') is seen as the norm, or in some cases the superior. It is the bias expressed by a society that can be obvious, but which is often subtle and pervasive, whereby individuals are conditioned to expect others to live and behave as if everyone were heterosexual.
Like sexism, heteronormativity is firmly entrenched in the prevailing customs, traditions and institutions of society and often leads to the neglect of issues facing gay men and lesbians. Heterosexuality also leads to the dilemma of whether to hide the fact you are gay or to make a decision to ‘come out’, with all that this entails. Homophobia feeds on heteronormativity, and both can be equally damaging. When services are heteronormative they can, at best, prevent the needs of our community being met and, at worst, cause someone to become disenfranchised or isolated. Examples could include our presumptions about family life ("You met that special woman yet?") or prevent access to core services we all need ("What do you mean you were raped?").
Heteronormativity and homophobia within society create an atmosphere where gay men can feel less valued and more vulnerable than their heterosexual counterparts. While landmark legislation in recent years now plays an important part in setting out what it is people can say and do, there remains a mismatch between what the law states and how people actually behave and treat gay men, and other individuals from the LGBT community.
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