What is Heterosexual Privilege?

This is a work in progress. Please use with permission from Shiva Subbaraman, University of Maryland, 301-405-8287, .

I Have Heterosexual Privilege If??

  1. I don?t have to worry about hiding my friends, partner, and my weekend activities and can talk about it when I come in to work on Monday morning.
    1. I don?t have to feel like a split personality.
    2. I am able to be fully who I am at work or school without having to worry about what others may say about my partner or friends.
    3. I don?t have to lead a double life.
  2. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure that my neighbors will be neutral, pleasant, and/or accepting of me.
  3. I can turn on the TV or radio or open up to the front page of the paper and see people of my orientation widely and positively represented.
  4. When people talk about our national heritage or civilization, I am shown that people like me did contribute to it in positive and healthy ways.
  5. I can, at my workplace, talk about my partner or have a picture on my desk, without fearing that people will automatically disapprove or think that I am being ?flamboyant,? ?blatant,? or ?forcing my beliefs? upon them.
  6. I can be open about my sexual orientation at work without fear of reprisal in terms of job promotion, loss of job, or be accused of negatively affecting the work climate.
  7. I can bring my partner to work related parties and events and be seen as promoting a positive familial climate.
  8. I can get paid leave from work and/or condolences when grieving for the death of a long term partner.
  9. My friends can be seen with me without being afraid of being labeled by others.
  10. I can go apartment or house hunting with my partner without fear of reprisal.
  11. I can, if I wish, arrange to be in the company of people of my sexual orientation most of the time.
  12. I can avoid spending time with people who look upon my sexual orientation with repulsion, hatred, loathing, or even pity.
  13. I can publicly hold hands, kiss, or otherwise express affection to my loved one without fear of harassment or attack.
  14. I can express myself sexually without the fear of being prosecuted for breaking the law.
  15. My romantic and emotional intimacies have not been reduced to being based upon an act of sex.
  16. I can go wherever I want and know that I will not be harassed, beaten, mugged, or killed because of my sexual orientation.
  17. I can talk about my sexual orientation without people thinking that it is abnormal, unnatural, a crime against God or Nature, or that I am a freak.
  18. I have never been accused of being ?disgusting,? of flaunting my sexuality, or of being obsessed with sex for sharing romantic experiences.
  19. I can expect my family to include me and my partner at family events, occasions and gatherings.
  20. I can be pretty sure I will not be denied the right to marry whomever I choose to.
  21. I need not fear emotional and financial truncation from my family because of my sexual orientation.
  22. If I decide to adopt a child, I am perfectly certain that my sexual orientation will not be an issue of concern; or that I will be seen as influencing a child towards a particular sexual orientation.
  23. I can be pretty sure that I can raise, adopt, and teach children without people believing that I am a child molester or will force them into my sexual orientation.
  24. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to our familial existence in positive ways.
  25. I can raise my children without fear of state intervention because of my sexual orientation.
  26. I can be pretty sure that my children will not be made fun of, ridiculed, or harassed because of who raises them.
  27. I can approach my medical doctor and be open about my health and illnesses without fear of being judged or denied service.
  28. I can approach the legal system, social service organizations, and government agencies without fearing discrimination because of my sexual orientation.
  29. I can join the military and be open about my sexual orientation.
  30. I can belong to a religious organization or denomination of my choice and know that I will not be condemned or denounced by the religious leaders and the members because of my sexual orientation.
  31. I can be close friends with people who do not share my sexual orientation.
  32. I can teach from pre-school through high-school without fear of being fired any day.
  33. I can teach about lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgender or intersex people without being seen as having ?a bias? because of my orientation, or of forcing a ?homosexual or personal agenda? on students.
  34. I can easily find academic courses and institutions that give attention to people of my sexual orientation.
  35. I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling tied in and accepted, rather than isolated, outnumbered, held at a distance, or feared.
  36. I can worry about homophobia without being seen as self-interested or self-seeking.
  37. I have the right to inherit jointly-owned property when my partner passes away.
  38. I can receive tax breaks, health and insurance coverage, and spousal legal rights through being in a long term relationship.
  39. I can get auto and homeowners? insurance policies at reduced rates with my partner.
  40. I have the right to visit my partner in the hospital and intensive care and make important medical decisions for him/her.
  41. I can legally sponsor my partner to live in the United States who is not a US citizen or Permanent Resident.
  42. I can expect that most social institutions will validate me by social gestures such as nurture, support, and the usual celebratory cards, emails, and phone calls that celebrate who I am and my relationship to another person.
  43. I don?t have to constantly explain that I am not ?a pedophile.?
  44. I have never been asked if I am heterosexual because I had a bad homosexual experience.
  45. I have never been accused of hating women because I am married to a man.


Note: It is important to note that much of the list of privileges is relevant only in the US social, political, and economic contexts; this same list would vary significantly in other nations.

I owe this model to Peggy McIntosh?s groundbreaking models on Gender and Race Privilege. Although the concept of ?heterosexual privilege? and its relation to homophobia is well documented, it was not easy to find a listing of Heterosexual Privilege comparable to the ones on Race and Gender. Ohio State University, NYU Safe Zone workshop, and a few other online sources had some sample lists which I drew upon. Several colleagues helped me refine and expand on this list.


Also check out the handout ?What is Heterosexual Privilege?? developed by Ohio State?s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Student Services (), which can be found at http://multiculturalcenter.osu.edu/Posts/Documents/87_4.PDF


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