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Hetercentrism | Heterosexism | Homophobia


Heterocenterism(ideology) – Heterocentrism is the ideology and assumption that all people are heterosexual.

Heterosexism (system) – Heterosexism is the system of oppression that gives privileges to heterosexual people to the disadvantage of those who are not.

Homophobia (manifestation) – Homophobia is the fear, discomfort, or hatred of non-heterosexual people that is manifested on the individual level.

The ideology of heterocentrism creates the system of oppression (heterosexism), and both create the individual manifestation of homophobia.

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In 1973 Dr. Dorothy Riddle developed the Riddle Homophobia Scale for the American Psycholigical Associaitons’s Task Force on Gays and Lesbians.  Riddle wanted to so the varying degrees to which individuals were homophobic or accepting.  The eight-point scale is divided into two sections: “Homophobic Levels of Attitude” and “Positive Levels of Attitude.”

Homophobic Levels of Attitude:

  1. Repulsion: Homosexuality is seen as a “crime against nature.” Gay/lesbians are sick, crazy, immoral, sinful, wicked, etc. Anything is justified to change them: prison, hospitalization, negative behavior therapy, electroshock therapy, etc.
  2. Pity: Heterosexual chauvinism. Heterosexuality is more mature and certainly to be preferred. Any possibility of “becoming straight” should be reinforced, and those who seem to be born “that way” should be pitied, “the poor dears.”
  3. Tolerance: Homosexuality is just a phase of adolescent development that many people go through and most people “grow out of.” Thus lesbians/gays are less mature than “straights” and should be treated with the protectiveness and indulgence one uses with a child. Lesbians/gays should not be given positions of authority because they are still working through their adolescent behavior.
  4. Acceptance: Still implies there is something to accept. Characterized by such statements as “You’re not a lesbian to me, you’re a person!” or “What you do in bed is your own business,” or “That’s fine with me as long as you don’t flaunt it!”

Positive Levels of Attitudes:

  1. Support: The basic ACLU position. Work to safeguard the rights of lesbians and gays. People at this level may be uncomfortable themselves, but they are aware of homophobic climate and the irrational unfairness.
  2. Admiration: Acknowledges that being lesbian/gay in our society takes strength. People at this level are willing to truly examine their homophobic attitudes, values, and behaviors.
  3. Appreciation: Value the diversity of people and see lesbian/gays as a valid part of that diversity. These people are willing to combat homophobia in themselves and others.
  4. Nurturance: Assumes that gay/lesbian people are indispensable in our society. They view lesbians/gays with genuine affection and delight, and are willing to be allies and advocates.

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  • Homophobia discourages emotional closeness and intimate relationships among same-sex friends, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Homophobia supports stereotypes, giving us all a distorted and inaccurate view of reality.
  • Homophobia can condition heterosexual people to treat others badly and commit actions contrary to their basic humanity.
  • Homophobia has been used to divert attention away from more pressing and serious societal concerns, and diverts energy away from the search for solutions to those concerned.
  • Homophobia pushes heterosexual males to constantly “prove” their masculinity and thus their heterosexuality.
  • Homophobia pressures young people to become sexually active with members of the “opposite” sex/gender to “prove” they are “normal.” This premature sexual activity can result in emotional damage, as well as increasing the chances of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
  • Homophobia can be used to restrict education about sexuality and sexual behavior resulting in incomplete sexual education. Such lack of information has been shown to contribute to the spread of HIV/AIDS and the increase in teen pregnancy.
  • Homophobia results in prejudice and discrimination, creating a culture in which people who are members of the LGBTQ community live with fear of being rejected by family or friends, losing their jobs, or being physically assaulted.
  • Homophobia causes people who are members of the LGBTQ community to struggle to achieve self-acceptance and maintain self-esteem.
  • Homophobia can be used to stigmatize, silence, and target people who are perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender but who are in reality heterosexual/cisgender.
  • Homophobia reinforces rigid gender roles and limits the range of acceptable behavior by both men and women.
  • Homophobia has led to an increase in “bullying” in our school system from elementary school to high school and even to college.

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  1. I can play a gay or straight fictional character on television or film without a negative response from viewers.
  2. I feel comfortable holding hands with my partner in public.
  3. As a child growing up I am presented with figures of my orientation, in cartoons, children’s book, and family movies.
  4. As a child it is assumed that I will grow up to be heterosexual (Homosexuals must “become” gay and “come out of the closet”).
  5. When it comes to information about safer sex and sexual health I do not have great difficulty finding that information, particularly in an educational setting.
  6. I can feel comfortable talking about my sexual practices with the majority of my peers.
  7. Growing up I have an ample supply of role models I can look up to.
  8. Even if I am part of a social minority group (specifically ethnic or religious) I will have role models of my orientation to look up to.
  9. My orientation is accepted by all mainstream religions and all governments.
  10. My relationship is recognized and rewarded by all mainstream religions and governments.
  11. I can find adult entertainment on television for me to watch which features my orientation.
  12. My assumed sexual practices as a heterosexual are accepted by society.
  13. I don’t have trouble finding people like me to hang-out with.
  14. Whenever someone meets me in public they assume I am heterosexual.
  15. If I am ever brought up in the media there is never an issue with my orientation.
  16. Historical figures of my orientation never have their orientation neglected, omitted, or disputed from their historical legacy.
  17. My heterosexuality is not an aspect of my life, or a lifestyle, just a fact about myself.
  18. Whenever I go out in public I can be sure that I am not the only person of my orientation.
  19. I will not feel stupid if I assume someone is of my orientation, even if they are not.
  20. In public I feel safe as the majority.
  21. I can assume that I will not be assaulted because of my sexuality.
  22. People will not make fun or ridicule me because of my sexual orientation.
  23. I know that when the mainstream media makes reference to men or women, they are referring to men and women of my orientation, unless specifically mentioned as homosexual men and women.
  24. I can turn on the television or open the pages of any mainstream newspaper and see my orientation represented in a positive light.
  25. I know when people of my orientation are rewarded it is not because of their sexual orientation.
  26. I can be sure that children of my orientation will be given curricular materials of their orientation.
  27. I can be sure people of my orientation do not have to worry about heterophobia in society.
  28. I know that children and teens of my orientation will have teachers that will be tolerable and accepting of their orientation, as well as employers, doctors, etc.
  29. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my orientation.
  30. I am not expected to be a representation of my orientation.
  31. If I declare that there is sexual orientation prejudicial situation at hand, my orientation will lend me more creditability than a person of one of the other orientations.
  32. I can choose to ignore the writings or materials of people of other sexual orientations and there be no negative consequences.
  33. I can worry about homophobia and not be seen as self-interested or self-seeking.
  34. If my day, week, or year is going badly, I don’t have to wonder if it is so because of issues relating to my orientation.
  35. I can think over many options: social, political, imaginative, or professional, without wondering whether or not a person of my orientation will be accepted, or even allowed.
  36. I can be open about my sexuality on the Internet (MySpace, Facebook, or other social networking sites; or other things online) and not worry about any possible repercussions.
  37. I can be sure that if I need legal or medical assistance, my orientation will not work against me.
  38. I will never experience social rejection, such as in a fraternity, social club, or family, because of my orientation.
  39. I can expect figurative language and imagery in all of the arts to reflect my orientation, in a positive light.
  40. I can safely display my affection for my partner or openly speak about my sexual orientation wherever I travel.
  41. I don’t have to tailor my travel plans to consider my orientation.
  42. My orientation is not a topic of discussion for politicians.
  43. I will never have to specifically seek out heterosexual establishments to be around others like me.
  44. I will never have my heterosexuality used for a reason not to feel comfortable living with me, being on an athletic team, or being assigned to the same group project for a class assignment.
  45. I will never have to think about how my orientation will affect me while I am in school.
  46. I do not have to explain how or why I am heterosexual, or when I realized that I was.
  47. I can display photos of my partners on my desk without fear or embarrassment.
  48. People do not assume that I am experienced in sex, because of my sexual orientation.
  49. People do not ask me why I made my choice to be public about my sexual orientation.
  50. I am not accused of being abused, warped or psychologically confused because of my sexual orientation; and thus a potential danger to others.
  51. I did not grow up with games that attack my sexual orientation (i.e., Fag Tag or Smear the Queer).
  52. I am never asked to speak for everyone who is heterosexual.

**Composed by J. Clarence Flanders 
***More Examples of Heterosexual Privilege by Maura Cullen

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There appears to be little in the way of a comprehensive cisgender (non transgender) privilege list. These lists are generally written in the first person relative to having the privilege. Number #1 speaks to both heterosexual and cisgender privilege. The remainder of the list focuses on cisgender privilege.

  1. It is unlikely that I will be ostracized by my family and friends, fired from my job, evicted from my home, given substandard medical care, suffer violent or sexual abuse, ridiculed by the media, or preached against by religious organizations simply because of my professed identity or perceived incongruent gendered behaviors or characteristics.
  2. I can be confident that people will not call me by a different name or use improper pronouns.
  3. I never suffered the indignation of "holding it," when both functional and unoccupied public restrooms are available. In fact, I don't need to be concerned about public facilities segregated by sex.
  4. If I am institutionalized, I don't have to worry about being housed in the wrong section of a facility segregated by sex.
  5. I am not denied entrance to appropriate services or events that are segregated by sex.
  6. My childhood innocence was not interrupted with desperate prayers to a divinity begging to wake up the opposite sex.
  7. I never grieve about my lost childhood and adolescence because I was born the opposite sex.
  8. I will only experience puberty once.
  9. I never worry about potential lovers shifting instantly from amorous affection to disdain and even violence because of my genitals.
  10. I am unlikely to be questioned about my genitals, even less likely to be touched inappropriately or asked to see them.
  11. It is unlikely that I would risk my health by avoiding the medical profession for fear of discovery.
  12. I never considered hiding my body parts by binding or tucking.
  13. It is unlikely that I would consider changing my voice.
  14. If I have a professionally recognized and diagnosed condition, I am unlikely to be excluded from medical insurance coverage.
  15. As a man, I am more likely to look my age, and have a body similar in size and shape to other men.
  16. As a man, I am more likely to be satisfied with the functionality of my genitals.
  17. As a man, I am more likely able to father children.
  18. As a woman, I am more likely to have a body similar in size and shape to other women.
  19. As a woman, I am unlikely to lose my hair before middle age.
  20. As a woman, I am more likely able to conceive and bear children.
  21. As a woman, I don't have to dilate (vaginal dilation) the rest of my life.
  22. I am more likely able to achieve orgasm.
  23. I will likely have $50,000 or more to spend or save for retirement.
  24. I can't imagine spending months and $1000s of dollars on a therapist so they can tell me something I already knew.
  25. If I am physically healthy, I don't think about having a hysterectomy, a mastectomy, massive hair removal, contra-hormone therapy, vocal surgery, facial reassignment surgery, or genital reassignment surgery.
  26. I have a better chance of reaching old age without taking my own life.
  27. At my funeral, it is unlikely that my family would present me crossdressed against my living wishes.
  28. I never worry about passing, gender-wise. I am oblivious to the consequences of someone failing to ‘pass’, and consequently losing my cisgender (non transgender) privilege. In fact, I have the privilege of being completely unaware of my own cisgender privilege.

The Transgender Boards – “The Cisgender Privilege Checklist - The Membership”
September, 2005

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