. Gay Bashing and Hate Crimes
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.