Resisting Heteronormativity—Sexuality Series

messy thoughts, Sexuality Series

By Emma Bishop

Coming out is a personal process that I have been going through at my own pace this summer. This year, I’ve come to accept that I’m gay and have come out to two of my closest friends. It has been terrifying yet freeing to share a part of myself that I have kept secret for so long. It takes some time to adjust to the feeling of someone else knowing, but it feels so good to be treated the same way and to talk about your feelings openly.

Some people may believe that coming out isn’t necessary anymore and ask why people don’t just live their lives and avoid making a big deal out of their sexuality. While I agree—that sexuality shouldn’t be a big deal and, hopefully, in the future it won’t be—the truth is: we are living in a heteronormative, cisnormative society in which the default sexuality is straight.

Unless proven otherwise, many people still assume everyone they encounter is straight without truly knowing them.

This is why coming out is necessary. It doesn’t always have to be a sit-down talk, but most of the time, people won’t even consider the possibility that you may not be straight unless you tell them.

The impact that heteronormativity has on LGBTQ+ people’s lives may be difficult for cis and straight people to grasp, but I will do my best to explain. Imagine that a part of who you are is invisible to others and that, instead of getting to know you, people assume they know what that part of you is like already (simply based on the way you appear on the outside or how you act). It can make you feel invisible and simultaneously invalidate LGBTQ+ individuals by making them an exception to the norm—a group that is different and distinctly abnormal.

One example of heteronormativity that I encountered recently was my friend asking me if there were any cute boys in my class, to which I sheepishly replied no and smiled in silence. I wasn’t ready to bring up the topic of girls, but if she had simply asked: “Is there anyone cute in your class?” I would have immediately felt more comfortable.

Heteronormativity feels like a slap in the face every time I watch a movie and all of the main characters and romances are straight. Every time I turn on the radio, I hear men singing about their love of women and/or women singing about their love of men. I cannot put into words how alienating this feels, but I can say that when I see a positively portrayed LGBTQ+ character or hear a song sung by an LGBTQ+ singer, I finally don’t feel alone. It reminds me of how beautiful being a member of the LGBTQ+ community is and that I can be happy too, not regardless of my sexuality but because of it.

My sexuality should not prevent me from living a fulfilling life. This message is something that I carry with me and that I am reminded of whenever I find a new piece of LGBTQ+ media. Media representation has become immensely important to me in order to accept who I am.

I want to share some of my favorite LGBTQ+ related things so that any other LGBT+ messy head (or just anyone interested in finding a new favorite book, movie, tv show, or musician) can be inspired to be themselves.

Movies

The Way He Looks

This romance between a 17-year-old blind Portuguese boy, Leonardo, and the new boy, Gabriel, at his school is absolutely heartwarming and has many sweet moments (for example, they go to the cinema and the new boy, Gabriel, describes all of the movie to Leonardo while they huddle near each other and giggle). It also has beautiful cinematography and a lovely soundtrack (featuring Belle and Sebastian). There’s a 17 minute version on Youtube which is equally stunning called I Don’t Want to go Back Alone or Eu Não Quero Voltar Sozinho (2010). Both are worth a watch.

But I’m a Cheerleader

This movie tells the story of a cheerleader called Megan whose friends and family suspect is gay before she’s even aware of her own sexuality. She’s sent off to a conversion therapy camp where she comes to terms with her sexuality. Despite the serious topic, it’s cute and funny.

Imagine Me and You

This is your typical rom-com (which I normally wouldn’t be into, but since it’s about two women falling in love, it’s all the more amazing). The florist at a wedding meets the bride and it’s love at first sight. My favourite line is when the bride asks the florist what the lily flower’s significance is. She responds “The lily means I dare you to love me.”

The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls Falling in Love

This is the story of an interracial romance between two teen girls: a black girl from an affluent family and a white girl growing up poor in a family of lesbians. I love how it goes against stereotypes through their different upbringings. They leave each other letters in their lockers and share poetry books. They both have their own struggles in the film (one loses all her friends and the other is failing school), but they support each other through it.

TV

Skam Season 3

The third season of the Norwegian show Skam depicts Isak Valtersen, a closeted gay boy, as he deals with his feelings for boys and internalized homophobia. He meets a boy who will change his life and make him realize the value in living openly, honestly, and in the moment. Their first kiss is underwater, paralleling the movie Romeo + Juliet directed by Baz Luhrmann. It made me cry. Highly recommend.

Eyewitness

This is the first crime TV show with gay main characters. The story is about a deeply closeted boy who likes motocross and the new boy in town living with foster parents. The plot becomes complicated when they witness a crime and don’t tell anyone out of fear that people will find out about their relationship.

One Day at a Time

This comedy is about a Cuban family living in the US. Elena Alvarez is my inspiration. She’s not afraid to stand up for who she is and is totally unapologetically passionate about feminism and social justice. Her coming out story becomes a focus in later episodes, and I love it for showing many different facets of coming out: that it’s not always one way or another, and it happens in stages. Some people may accept you easily while others may surprise you. It’s on Netflix and a second season is coming.

Music

Tegan and Sara

Their music style has changed so much over the years, so whether you like punk, pop, rock, indie, alternative, folk or electronic music, they will probably have some songs you’ll like. My personal favourite album of theirs is Love You To Death.

Angel Haze – Same Love

This rewritten version of Macklemore’s Same Love is powerful to me, since it comes from the perspective of a queer, non-binary black artist. Angel Haze is incredible.

Shura- What’s It Gonna Be

Shura’s music video for this song is a masterpiece. It draws inspiration from John Hughes movies and the color palette and aesthetic is great.

Mary Lambert

I love Mary. She is so confident and honest about herself and her struggles in her songs. Her latest single “Know Your Name” is so catchy and the music video features trans and poc members of the LGBTQ+ community!

Books

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Simple yet heart-wrenching. The main character Ari struggles with loneliness, coming-of-age, and acknowledging his thoughts and feelings about his best friend Dante. The main characters are Mexican, and this part of their heritage is not ignored in the book, yet instead an integral part of their story.

11 Comments

  1. Gabriela says

    hey, just to correct, “The way he looks” is a Brazilian movie, not Portuguese 🙂
    one of my faves for sure

  2. kate says

    i love this!! lgbtq+ representation is so important, and i don’t think there’s nearly enough yet. a book that i love with great trans representation is ‘if i was your girl’ by meredith russo – it’s a story about a trans girl, by a trans girl:)

    https://katenosullivan.wixsite.com/mess

  3. Dana says

    I long for a day when people don’t have to be scared to “come out” because nobody will care what the fuc$ they do in the privacy of their own bedroom unless they are there. Love is a personal choice, an individual choice and not up for group approval. If the youth keep exploring and accepting the way they are now such a day won’t be long off. Imagine…

  4. Melek says

    This series is such an amazing idea! I’m always looking for more LGBTQ+ books and movies! Some recommendations. Books: carry on by rainbow rowell, the song of achilles by madeline miller. Shows: sense8!!!!!! I love that show so much! If you read this please just watch sense8! Movies: Boys (or jongens in dutch bc its a dutch movie). That’s all I can think of rn.

  5. I love this a lot, there’s a pang in my chest every time someone assumes i’m straight, even though i’m mostly out I often don’t feel like correcting them. I feel like heteronormativity affects lbpq women especially in the form of compulsory heterosexuality.

    Also but i’m a cheerleader is a classic, on recent-ish f/f movies I really want to watch the handmaiden!

  6. I saw The Way He Looks and all of Skam’ seasons, personally my favorite is the last one. Another movie I recommend is JONGENS a.k.a BOYS. It’s a coming of age norwegian movie about two boys falling in love. It´s so beautifully shot and so well written.

  7. Issy Mather says

    Love this!!
    what i recommend:
    Book – “I’ll Give You the Sun” by Jandy Nelson
    this is one of my all time favourite books, it follows two twins (a straight girl and a gay boy) as they grow up, deal with issues and find themselves.
    Music – “Girls Like Girls” by Hayley Kiyoko
    this song is incredible and the music video makes it even better.

  8. julia says

    you should check out adult mom!! The lead singer is LGBTQA+ and they have super cute and supportive songs!! They were so lovely to listen to as I came to terms with my sexuality!!

  9. abigail says

    i love this a lot, another good LGBTQ+ book is Annie On My Mind, it’s about two girls in New York that fall in love 🙂

  10. Gwenna says

    The Way He Looks is an amazing movie! Weekend is a very good movie also about a man that has trouble being himself outside of his home.

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