”No mum, he isn’t my boyfriend. I promise, let it go.”
Sometimes people say things that in the moment seem small and innocent, a subtle comment, a remark or perhaps a simple question. It seems innocent, curious and you answer the question like you would answer any other. And then all of a sudden it is two at night and you are lying in the darkness with compressed silence echoing in your ears. Nothing is left to distract you, to block all of these thoughts you have been suppressing. You are left all alone with your own mind and that is when it hits you. As if from nowhere, you feel a fist hit your stomach and steal your breath away as you convulsively embrace yourself. When you turn the light on you find a dark and painful bruise cover your body. One sleepless night later you are sitting on the bus on your way to another weekday with your head in the cloud as another fist comes flying and the bruise on your belly only grows. After that they come again and again. During class, in a meeting, at the store, during lunch, dinner, breakfast, day, evening and night. Finally the dark mark on your stomach, layered with fist after fist, turns into a black hole. It eats up all of your time, all your energy and all your will.
No mum, he isn’t my boyfriend. I wish that it was the first time that I had to tell her, but it was not. Time and time again she asks, and I suppose that it is not that bad, she only means well. Yet I still take offence. Not for the times when she asks me but for the times when she stays silent. I take offence when statistically nine out of ten of my friends are female yet she only asks if I am together with one out of ten. I take offence when she thinks that she knows anything at all about my sexuality. I take offence when she forces her norms onto me, intentionally as well as unintentionally. I take offence.
Oftentimes people seem to believe that I take these assumptions as insults, that I see heterosexuality as something insulting and negative. I wish that was the case. I wish that I could take it as insults because no matter how painful it may be in the moment, you will get over it. But these are not insults, it is oppression. No, oppression is not like insults that hurt temporarily but stops after a while. Oppression is constant, it hangs above you like a big dark cloud that grows bigger and bigger for every day. Wherever you go it will follow. Sometimes you might forget that it is there but then you see it soaring above your head, waiting. You are constantly reminded that you are never allowed to think of yourself as normal, you are not the way that you are supposed to be.
This specific form of oppression, this unjustified assumption, has a name; Heteronormativity. It is an in the moment innocent assumption that everyone in your surrounding is heterosexual unless they have specifically expressed something else. If you define yourself as bisexual, asexual, homosexual, pansexual or in general are anything else than straight and cis-gendered, you are expected to come out of some strange closet. Many tend to get heteronormativity mixed up with homophobia but it is important that you understand the difference between the two. A homophobe is one who out of religious, cultural or other reasons find homosexuality repulsive and ”wrong”. But a heteronormative person is the neighbour who thinks that your girlfriend is your cousin. A heteronormative person is the gynaecologist who yells at a woman because she does not condoms without asking about her sexual orientation. A heteronormative person could be you and a heteronormative person could be I. Because we cannot escape it, it is a system etched into the depths of our minds. We assume that everyone we meet is heterosexual even if we do not mean to, even if we are not homophobic, even if we are not heterosexual ourselves. But ever pattern is breakable. It is not easy and you will not change within a day but we all possess the ability to decline heteronormativity. Just like learning how to ride a bike or how to use a new word, this pattern demands persistence and constant awareness to break, to change our subconscious we need to be constantly conscious.
So take this as an invitation, perhaps even an awakening, to see the heteronormative structure in our society. To challenge the norm, say no to the assumptions programmed into our brains. Take this as an appeal for understanding, a call for help. Take this as a sign that you need to go home and ask your daughter if that pretty girl is her girlfriend, hack yourself into your own mind and change the programming for yourself and that you need to realise that everyone makes mistakes but we are all capable of change.
”No mum, she’s not my girlfriend. But thanks for asking.”