“Whatever you find in there, you should be proud.”
Our beloved source on all things sex, relationships, and health, Hannah Witton, is here to educate us on the basics of compulsory heterosexuality.
It’s Pride Month right now, and while most of us are unable to celebrate it in the usual fashion, Hannah begins her video reassuring us that “pride is not cancelled”. Instead, we can take this time to remember its history. Hannah notes that “pride was a protest”, and highlights the importance of the 1969 Stonewall Riots and its key figures: Stormé DeLarverie, Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson.
After covering the origins of pride, Hannah explains that she’s unable to cover speak on “LGBTQ+ issues from personal experience”, as she identifies as straight, and therefore will be covering the issue of compulsory heterosexuality. Though Hannah admits this could seem “counter-intuitive” to be covering in Pride Month, she details how it is part of the “systemic issues” that made and continue to make protests and riots for human rights necessary.
Starting with some background, Hannah tells us about Adrienne Rich, the woman who coined the term “compulsory heterosexuality” back in 1980. Rich argued that the concept was a “violent, political institution imposed on society and its people”, taking away the ability of people to express themselves, and forcing women into a “subordinate role to men”.
Hannah understands that a lot of us may be sceptical that the issue is as severe as Rich makes it out to be, but Hannah digs deep into the full description of compulsory heterosexuality. She notes that, amongst other things, it enforces that all relationships should be monogamous, between one cisgender man and one cisgender woman, and that marriage is necessary before any intimacy occurs. Anybody who doesn’t follow this is “deviant”, which Hannah admits makes “all of us feel wrong”.
Hannah then takes on how compulsory heterosexuality is responsible for the idea that being straight is “assumed”, and why anyone who doesn’t identify as straight may go through the “coming out process”. Hannah reasons that this all sounds similar to heteronormativity, a phrase a lot of us may have heard before, but makes the distinction that compulsory heterosexuality is a “system of oppression”. She breaks down how being LGBTQ+ identifying brings “punishments… in all institutions”, including those who diverge from traditional gender roles and gender expressions.
A lot of us could be dealing with the effects of this on an external, institutional level, but Hannah also emphasises how this can lead to internal struggles, like internalised homophobia and shame. It also intersects with racism, Hannah continues to explain as she references the works of Mattie Udora Richardson. Richardson stated that divergence from social norms can see racially-charged insults and accusations thrown at Black people. Combining the systems of oppression adds to the “racist nonsense” Black people are subject to, Hannah highlights.
Moving on, Hannah dedicates time to how compulsory heterosexuality can damage men specifically, whether it be confusing men about their sexuality, spreading toxic masculinity, or creating misogynists.
But Hannah doesn’t want us to lose hope. She notes how we can start to challenge this traditional, oppressive ideas due to an increase in visibility of LGBTQ+ stories and people. “That’s why representation is so important,” she says.
The video concludes with Hannah calling on us to “challenge these institutions” and “assumptions” that promote restrictive ideas as well as looking inside of us, reassuring us that “whatever you find in there, you should be proud”. Like always, Hannah both spreads the love and educates us, and we couldn’t be more grateful.