to promote it (Neisen, 1990). Because only heterosexual relationships are seen as “nor­mal,” the heterosexist feels justified in suppressing or ignoring those who do not follow that model.

For example, even those with no ill feelings toward homosexuality are often un­aware that businesses will not provide health care and other benefits to the partners of homosexuals. In other words, heterosexism can be passive rather than active, involving a lack of awareness rather than active discrimination:

I remember there was a really cute guy in my psychology class. It took me all semester to walk up to him and talk. I was hoping to ask him out for coffee or something. As I walked up behind him to say hello I became aware of a button pinned to the back of his backpack. I was horrified when I read what it said, “How dare you assume I’m het­erosexual!!” I nearly tripped and fell over backwards. (Author’s files)

The gay rights movement has been successful at changing some of these assump­tions, especially in larger cities, but today heterosexism still dictates a large part of the way the average American considers his or her world. Heterosexism can lead to a lack of awareness of issues that can harm gay, lesbian, and bisexual (GLB) individuals today. Let’s now turn our attention to hate crimes against GLB people.