Following is a list of examples of heterosexual privilege. If you are straight, these are unearned benefits you receive as a result of the sexuality you were born with.
If you are straight (or in some cases, perceived to be), you can live without ever having to think twice, face, confront, engage, or cope with anything listed below. These privileges are granted to you, and many of them are things you’ve likely taken for granted. (Otherwise known as the “Why it’s easier to be straight” list.)
- Receiving public recognition and support for an intimate relationship (e.g., congratulations for an engagement).
- Expressing affection in most social situations and not expecting hostile or violent reactions from others.
- Living with your partner openly.
- Expressing pain when a relationship ends from death or separation and receiving support from others.
- Receiving social acceptance from neighbors, colleagues, and good friends.
- Learning about romance and relationships from fictional movies and television shows.
- Having role models of your gender and sexual orientation.
- Having positive and accurate media images of people with whom you can identify.
- Expecting to be around others of your sexuality most of the time. Not worrying about being the only one of your sexuality in a class, on a job, or in a social situation.
- Talking openly about your relationship, vacations, and family planning you and your lover/partner are doing.
- Easily finding a neighborhood in which residents will accept how you have constituted your household.
- Raising, adopting, and teaching children without people believing that you will molest them or force them into your sexuality.
- Working in a job dominated by people of your gender, but not feeling as though you are a representative/spokesperson for your sexuality.
- Receiving paid leave from employment when grieving the death of your spouse.
- Assuming strangers won’t ask, “How does sex work for you?” or other too-personal questions.
- Sharing health, auto, and homeowners’ insurance policies at reduced rates.
- Not having to hide or lie about women- or men-only social activities.
- Acting, dressing, or talking as you choose without it being a reflection on people of your sexuality.
- Freely teaching about lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals without being seen as having a bias because of your sexuality or forcing your “homosexual agenda” on students.
- Having property laws work in your favor, filing joint tax returns, and automatically inheriting from your spouse under probate laws.
- Sharing joint child custody.
- Going wherever you wish knowing that you will not be harassed, beaten, or killed because of your sexuality.
- Not worrying about being mistreated by the police nor victimized by the criminal justice system because of your sexuality.
- Legally marrying the person you love, and not having that marriage questions or refuted in court.
- Being granted immediate access to your loved one in case of accident or emergency.
- Knowing that your basic civil rights will not be denied or outlawed because some people disapprove of your sexuality.
- Expecting that your children will be given texts in school that support your kind of family unit and will not be taught that your sexuality is a “perversion.”
- Freely expressing your sexuality without fear of being prosecuted for breaking the law.
- Belonging to the religious denomination of your choice and knowing that your sexuality will not be denounced by its religious leaders.
- Knowing that you will not be fired from a job nor denied a promotion based on your sexuality.
- Not being asked by your child’s school to only send one parent to back-to-school night so as not to upset the other parents by having two same-sex partners in the class together.
- Playing a professional sport and not worrying that your athletic ability will be overshadowed by your sexuality and the fact that you share a locker room with the same gender.
- Not having to worry about being evicted if your landlord finds out about your sexuality.
- Not having to “come out” (explain to people that you’re straight, as they will most likely assume it).
- Knowing that people aren’t going to mutter about your sexuality behind your back.
- Knowing that being open with your sexuality isn’t going to change how people view you.
- Being able to live anywhere in the world and find people like yourself, unlike gay people, who are limited geographically. (Even if the people in more rural areas aren’t homophobic, living in a low-density population means social isolation, lack of a dating pool, etc., for queer folks. Even among urban areas, there are only a few cities in the world, relatively speaking, where gay people can live openly and without too much fear.)
- Being able to have your partner from a different country obtain citizenship in your country through marriage.
- Not having people think your sexuality is a mental health problem.
- Not having to think about whether your kid’s friend’s parents will flip out when they pick their kid up from a play date and are greeted by you and your partner.
- Not having to worry that people won’t let their children play with your children because of your sexuality.
- Not having to worry about where you can move, alone or with your spouse, and have equal job opportunities abroad.
- Being able to move abroad with your children without sudden changes of your legal status and the possibly of even losing your children.
Consider jumping over and reading 30+ Examples of Cisgender Privilege now that you’ve read this list, and take stock of how the lists overlap and contrast.
Thanks to BGSU’s Safe Zone Program for the beginnings of this list.
Important IP/Copyright/Credit Editorial Note: A reader brought it to my attention that many items in this list may have originated in the appendix of this book: Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice. The handout I started from, which I have had the “thanks to” message above for the past few years) was apparently based on that appendix without referencing it. I’m sorry for the misunderstanding.