Human beings seem to like simple patterns of duality: good vs. bad, strong vs. weak, rich vs. poor, heterosexual vs. homosexual. Traditionally, there has always been one side that is considered the normal or more desirable one. Seeing the world in black and white is convenient, but it's a dangerous simplification of society.
Sadly (or luckily), it's just not that easy. A bad person is probably not a bad person by nature, but acts ‘badly' for more profound reasons. In the same way, a person might not be heterosexual, but not quite homosexual either. On the one hand, the term "non-heteronormative" is politically correct because it is inclusive of every sexual orientation other than 'straight'. However, the very fact that there is such a thing as heteronormativity destroys even the slightest possibility of equality for LGBTQ+ (or non-heteronormative) people. The norm will always be desirable because deviating from the 'standard' is not something everyone is comfortable with. As Panti Bliss puts it in her TED talk:
I am fourty-five years old and I have never once unselfconsciously held hands with a lover in public. I am fourty-five years old and I have never once casually, comfortably, carelessly held hands with a partner in public.
For LGBTQ+ people, holding hands in public is a political statement. That should not be the case.
I am a female-looking, white young woman who looks like many other women in Switzerland. My boyfriend is a good bit taller than me, of the same skin colour and looks decent in a shirt. If we walk into the theatre together, holding hands, people will smile at us, probably thinking that we are a lovely young couple that will certainly produce one or two beautiful babies and make wonderful parents. When I did the same thing with my ex-girlfriend a few years earlier, the experience was quite different. We couldn’t just walk in casually. We had all eyes on us; some were curious, some confused or even appalled. A few were friendly. What these people were thinking I cannot judge, but the fact that it was impossible for us to just walk in without attracting everyone’s attention proves how deeply heteronormativity is rooted in our society. As I said, some of the eyes were friendly and it's likely that their owners thought something along the lines “Oh, how courageous of these women to be so open about their relationship", and I don't blame them. I think that myself when I see couples that deviate from the 'standard' in any way. But as I think that thought, I know that by thinking it, I reinforce the powers of heteronormativity by noticing that the two people in front of me are not what we consider normal. They are deviant. Non-heteronormative. Queer. However one might want to call it.
So how can we grant equal rights for people whom we call 'non-normal', 'non-standard' or even 'weird'? The obvious answer to this question is that we can't. The only way to truly achieve equality for LGBTQ+ people would be to be inclusive of them, which means that we should accept them as fully equal members of the community. We cannot deprive them of a single right that heteronormative people enjoy. We can't prevent them from getting married and from adopting children, that one is for sure. But we cannot deny them the right to unselfconsciously hold hands, either. We cannot deprive them of the right to live their relationship freely and openly without being watched and talked about all the time. We must accept any kind of sexuality that isn't 'straight' and every gender identity that isn't 'male' or 'female' as a non-negotiable part of society, without calling it 'different' or 'not normal'. In fact, in order to grant equal rights to the LGBTQ+ community, we must get rid of the term 'non-heteronormative'.
This was Post #3 of the Equal Rights Week on Carrie Speaking.