Heterosexism is the belief that heterosexuality is the normal social sexual orientation against homosexuality which then leads to discrimination and prejudice against the homosexuals. Homosexuality can be understood as the quality of being attracted solely to people who are of one’s own sex while heterosexuality is the quality of being attracted solely to people of the opposite sex.
Heterosexism is a system that favours opposite gender sexuality and relationships considering them superior ranking gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and people of other sexual orientation as second class citizens. They are derogated in terms of legal and civil rights, economic resources, social equality, and moral status in many jurisdictions across the world.
The term heterosexist is often related to homophobia. Homophobia can be understood as a form of heterosexism that causes unreasoning fear of antipathy towards homosexuals and homosexuality. In addition, it also refers to the behaviour or reactions which are based on such a feeling. However, heterosexism can be broadly explained as the ideological thought or considering heterosexuality as the sole or only norm. It has often been equated with concepts like racism and apartheid which too promote and accord privilege to dominant groups within a society. Just as white people are considered superior to people of colour due to racism, heterosexism gives heterosexuals the privilege of exercising superiority over the homosexuals and non-heterosexuals.
Homosexuals are constantly being humiliated in society. They are often considered as child molesters or mentally ill. Children from their very birth are taught how they should behave as either girls or boys. They are taught certain characteristics by not only their parents but also their teachers, friends, relatives, and the entire society they live in. If in any way they deviate from these characteristics they are considered as deviants and are discriminated.
The heterosexist views propel that the sexuality of non-heterosexuals should be kept private. Gay men and women are not considered real men and women hence pushed down to an inferior position. As homosexuals cannot procreate due to their lifestyle they are blamed for undermining the survival of the human race. As because heterosexism considers only heterosexuality as the norm, homosexuality and bisexuality are seen as deviant behaviour, not conforming to the norms, hence rendered as abnormal. So, they are seen as constituting mental illnesses or some kind of a disease which needs to be cured. If it is not cured or eradicated it might cause social disintegration and lead to the collapse of the society. Due to these beliefs attempts are made to convert homosexuals into heterosexuals through punishments, anti-gay laws, policies, institutional practices, harassment etc.
Heterosexuality forbids people from marrying people of the same sex in many countries. In some countries, same-sex couples are restrained from having rights and benefits. Non-heterosexuals are marginalized; they go through anti-LGBT violence and abuse. In response to these atrocities, LGBT communities have started confronting and questioning heterosexism through protests, demands or through removing themselves altogether from the hostile heterosexist environment. They have started developing communities of their own where there are people just like them due to which they neither feel as if they are different nor do they suffer any hostility or discrimination.