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Dulling the Spectrum: Challenging Heteronormativity

Dulling the Spectrum: Challenging Heteronormativity

By Saamir Askari

Edited by Nidhi Singh, Junior Editor, The Indian Economist

We all come from a womb. The premier experience of opening one’s eyes to let the world creep in to our vacant minds is one shared by all. While some of us would like to believe that they remember this overwhelming moment when the universe first paints itself on the blank slates of our memory, most of us can only recall as far as infancy. Our first memories are of cold tile floors, Fisher Price toys and our royal high chair. One memory that I clearly remember is that of pre-school, featuring a girl with caramel hair, and a slightly embarrassing teacher.

I went to a school that hid behind the foliage rooted in a respected residential area. I remember a generous sand pit in that school, in which sat the girl crying because her shoes were filled with sand. I recall helping her out and taking her to class, where my teacher cooed at my little act of chivalry, and teased me for having got a girlfriend at an age when my classmates couldn’t tell their right hand from left. At the time I felt bold, an overwhelming feeling of pride washed over me, as I felt older and more capable of handling the big bad world that awaited me behind those vine-riddled walls. However, as I look back upon the incident, and try to remember what I can, I find myself facing a question.

Why did my teacher think I was interested in girls?

Fast-forward 18 odd years, and I find myself living in a society that has now enabled me to answer this question. Over the past decade or so, the world has increasingly accepted homosexuality in all its colourful dimensions. The LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Transsexual, Queer) community grows stronger day after day, and year after year, the support for recognising their rights exponentially increases. While I too find myself a part of this support, I don’t believe it is something to be celebrated, solely because we haven’t even come halfway in making this monumental change in society. While accepting non-hetero relationships is necessary in today’s world, it should not be lauded because it is embedded in the idea of heteronormativity, an idea so new that as I write, my Word fails to recognise it; an apologetic red line under the word.

Heteronormativity is the idea that heterosexuality is the default orientation in human beings. All of us are born straight, and perhaps only after some experiences on the verge of adulthood do we change our outlook. It is the notion that you and I have our buttons set on the other sex, and that is normal to feel this way. While we may have accepted members of the LGBTQ community as ‘one of our own’, I feel that labeling them so deprives them of this very identity. The stigma attached with the terms ‘gay’, ‘lesbian’ or ‘queer’ is enough for these members of our society to feel detached and not included. Simply the language used by heterosexual members of society can indicate their outlook. Many people, who I am close to, refer to homosexuals as ‘flamboyant’ or ‘eccentric’. While that is because they are uncomfortable using the term ‘homosexual’ (which is a fight I shall pick on another day), it highlights the fact that for them, non-heterosexuals are abnormal and against the norm. They are an error in God’s calculations, a glitch in this bad game of Sims we call life.

In order to fully erase our awful history of oppression against non-heterosexuals, we must combine recognition with whole-hearted acceptance. Homosexuals are no different than heterosexuals, and their struggle shouldn’t viewed as any different from the former struggles of the blacks in America, or colonised countries around the world. For it is the same principle that binds all these struggles together – the basic and essential recognition of rights for all, and equality in the eyes of society.

It’s not a sin; it’s an idea whose time has come.

Saamir is a student of Economics at Hindu College, Delhi University. He is a writer across various platforms, most noticeably as a playwright. Apart from having a keen interest in the political and economic affairs of the country, he spends most of his time either in a cold, dark room writing; or on a hot, vast track running. He can be contacted either via his blog (, or through his email ([email protected]).

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