I’m getting married this year! In fact it’s like 8 weeks away, and I am feeling all the feelings about it. Anyone who has ever planned a wedding knows that there are so many people to call and talk to and plan to orchestrate the whole thing. In my relationship, I’m that person, and I love it. It has been fun to pick venues, build our wedding website, and taste test cake! My fiancé and I aren’t particularly tied to any of the major traditional aspects of a wedding, which has made it fun to figure out how we want our wedding to be outside of the expectation. However, there are certain things that must be done, like getting tuxedos or reserving hotel rooms. These mundane tasks have taken an interesting turn for me as the planner. Every call I make and email I receive is drenched in good old heteronormativity. For those of you who see that word and think, “here we go again, another new crazy word for me to worry about,” I’ll try to explain it quickly.
In short, heteronormativity is when, as a default, you assume every person you’re speaking to is straight, and that accordingly, everything they do is done like a straight person would do it. A super simple, but very common example is asking your son if he likes any girls at school. It’s a really common, and very cute question. And yet, if that child is LGBTQ+, he can’t really answer it. And if he does answer it honestly by saying “no, but there are a few cute boys,” he’s making the decision to come out, which we all know is a big deal.
“Every call I make and email I receive is drenched in good old heteronormativity”
I just wanted to book a block of hotel rooms for our families coming into New York City for the wedding. I called a few hotels and spoke to many representatives to figure out which place and which price point were the best. Every single call, which often involved both a receptionist and a sales person, went like this:
Me: Hi there, I am getting married in October and have family coming in from out of state. We’re looking to set aside a block of rooms for them, who should I chat with about that?
Receptionist: Oh my goodness, congratulations to you and your bride-to-be! When is the wedding? Do you and she both have family flying in to New York?
Me: Well, I’m… uh, he… my fiancé, Nicholas, and I both have family flying in from out of town… It’s in October.
Receptionist: Oh, okay, well, let me connect you to our sales department…
Salesperson: Hi there, I’m a salesperson for ____ hotel. I hear you’re interested in a block of rooms for your wedding?
Me: Yup, we’re getting married in early October.
Salesperson: Congratulations to you and your bride-to-be! You and she must be so excited. Now how many family members do you expect from your family and her family total?
Me: My fiancé… Nicholas… and I… HE and I are expecting X number of people.
Salesperson: Oh, okay, well let’s see what we have available….
Every single call went like this. And I’m sure there will be those people who say, “this is harmless… no big deal… why does it bother you?” To which I would respond, “Queer visibility saves lives.” We have the words already. Every person could have said, “and your fiancé’s family?” or “will your spouse’s family need rooms too?” We live in a culture that prioritizes straight people, especially around the act of getting married. This may seem like no big deal, but I want you to do something: tomorrow just take a picture of every time you see heteronormativity advertised somewhere. Tag me on Instagram @theproudpath and put the hashtag #heteronormativity. Open your eyes to the dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of times in a day media highlights straight relationships. Every commercial, every billboard, every movie, everything. I would ask you to do the opposite and take a picture of every time you see a queer relationship, but it would be very few and far between. At the end of it all, ask yourself how you would feel if it were flipped. If every time you saw a photo it was two women, or gender non-conforming people, trans people, two men, etc. what would you think?
I did a little experiment just getting this blog post ready. I went to my favorite stock image site and just typed one word: couple. These are the most prevalent images that appeared in the search:
Not a single image out of approximately 50 that I saw over three pages of options showed a same-sex couple.
“…every time you see heteronormativity advertised somewhere… tag me on Instagram @theproudpath with the hashtag #heteronormativity.”