Heteronormativity: definition, societal examples and why it’s harmful to LGBT+ community

Boy and girl genders

Heteronormativity is the belief that heterosexuality is the ‘acceptable’ sexual orientation of society.

It follows the perpetuation of social norms, defining which gender role identities and sexualities are considered  ‘standard’.

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of heteronormative is the “attitude that heterosexuality is the only normal and natural expression of sexuality.”

It also follows the viewpoint that cisgender people (meaning those whose gender identity corresponds with their birth sex) in opposite-sex relationships are the standard kind. It’s said that this thought process is often coded into minds through various heteronormative societal influences.

Grace and Frankie: Mom thought that was too heteronormative

TV series Grace and Frankie often mentions heteronormative issues. (Netflix)

This is why people often believe that LGBT people are simply confused or going through “a phase.” This view is especially taken if the LGBT+ person’s appearance doesn’t match the stereotype. A prime example of this is with femme or ‘lipstick’ lesbians.

It can be harmful to the LGBT+ community as it makes one feel like they don’t belong in what society deems to be acceptable.

Heteronormativity examples and influences in society

Heteronormative societal assumptions and influences can be seen everywhere from traditional views on marriages, religion, cinema and Western media, including the news, commercials and advertisements. This could be why we live in such a heteronormative society.

For example, here is a classic heteronormative scenario: The wife stays home with the kids while the husband goes off to work.

Not only is this the standard plot in most movies and sitcoms, until recent times, it was also the standard way of looking at marriage and gender roles.

Romantic comedies are pretty heterosexual and heteronormative.” 


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