The process of developing an awareness of the power and privileges that one experiences as a heterosexual is often the most painful part of becoming a straight ally. Coming to terms with the fact that as a heterosexual, you do not experience the world in the same way as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people is an important step in becoming an ally. Learning that gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender individuals are mistreated on the basis of sexual orientation can result in feelings of guilt for being a member an oppressive group and/or anger directed toward heterosexuals. Allies actively work to develop an understanding of sexual orientation and do not see it as a reason for discrimination, violence, or abuse. This awareness helps the ally realize that equality and equity are goals that have not been realized, and that he or she can help to make these goals a reality.
The following activity is designed to help increase awareness of heterosexual privilege. Heterosexual privileges are the advantages bestowed on heterosexuals because of their sexual orientation. These privileges are rooted in societal assumptions that all people are or should be heterosexual and, therefore, exclude the needs, concerns, and life experiences of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals.
This activity is most effective when done with a friend or two. Imagine for a moment that you are a gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender individual then ask yourself the following questions:
What kinds of limits might you experience socially?
Would there be things that you were not permitted to do?
How would you feel emotionally growing up in our society?
What would you be most afraid of in your daily life?
Would there be any ways that might choose to limit yourself?
How would you feel different from you're peers?
After developing your personal lists compare and discuss your responses to the responses of your friends. You can also click on the link below to compare your answers to others that we have identified. If you have answers that are not on our list please share them so we can post them on this site.
Adapted from: Evans, N. J., & Wall, V. A. (1991). Beyond tolerance: Gays, lesbians and bisexuals on campus. American College Personnel Association, Alexandria, VA.