Queer Youth Speak Up About Heterosexual Privileges

A number of pressing issues are rarely talked about in everyday conversation, some of which are money, religion and politics. However, an issue that is often disregarded is privilege. In fact, the word itself has become rather stigmatized and offensive to people who do not fit into society’s labels of what is ‘normal’ and traditional.

In a culture dominated by heteronormativity – the institutionalized lifestyle that is associated with being a man and a woman – individuals who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender are often defamed and judged by their outward appearance.

While some LGBTQ individuals choose to deviate from the socially constructed ideals of gender expression, many queer folk decide to conform to a more mainstream external appearance. Sadly, how we are perceived by our outward appearance will determine what privileges we receive.

A system of privilege exists that gives benefits to certain groups of people who fall into historically dominant groups. Oftentimes, privilege is unearned, exclusive and socially granted. We may all be familiar with the ongoing discussions of white privilege and male privilege, but how often do we address heterosexual privilege?

On Oct. 8, ‘State of Out Youth’ Town Hall took place at The TimesCenter in New York City, and made it a key point to address issues of heterosexual privilege and the struggles of claiming a queer identity.

Grammy, Emmy and Tony Award-winning artist and co-founder of the True Colors Fund, Cyndi Lauper, hosted the event, featuring panelists from The New York Times GLBT & Allies Network.

The panels, moderated by New York Times editor Marcus Mabry, consisted of queer and ally youth from across the country that discussed their experiences with intersecting identities of race, gender and sexuality.

Evidently, the concept of heterosexual privilege was all too familiar to them.

“It’s been hard, but I like to think that I’m helping to bring the movement forward,” said panelist Paulina Aldaba, a Mexican-native senior at Rutgers Preparatory School in Somerset, N.J.

Aldaba is president of her school’s Gay-Straight Alliance, and has mobilized her school to support LGBT youth. She has also volunteered with GLSEN’s Central New Jersey chapter. Her plans for the future include ending all forms of bullying across the board.

“The other day, someone asked me if it was harder to be queer or be Latina. That was a really easy question. ‘Being queer,’ I answered. I have yet to come out to someone as Mexican and have them tell me it’s just a phase,” Aldaba added.