Societies are evolving in practically every social dimension and yet homosexuality is still considered a taboo, if we observe cautiously, we can see how individuals in their developmental stage get conditioned to be heterosexuals.

Are we conditioned to be Heterosexuals?

Sexuality is not something which is innate but is developed through life experiences and the kind of introduction an individual receives in their developmental stage, which is one of the reasons why sexuality is generally stated to be fluid in nature. No one is born heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual. Scientists have not yet found a gene that can be responsible to control or regulate an individual’s sexuality.

Sexuality is not just about “sex” or just correlated to the certain reproductory body parts that an individual has, or doesn’t. It isn’t point A or point B; sexuality is a spectrum. Sexuality comprises several different sexual orientations like heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, or asexual. It also refers to whom a person feels most attracted physically as well as mentally. It also refers to all sexual desires, attitudes, morals, and values an individual has regarding sex. (Ref. Gender Unicorn)

GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) describes gender identity as “External manifestations of gender, expressed through one’s name, pronouns, clothing, haircut, behavior, voice, or body characteristics. Society identifies these cues as masculine and feminine, although what is considered masculine and feminine changes over time and varies by culture.”

Though historically, the terms “sex” and “gender” have been used interchangeably, both the terms have different meaning altogether. Whereas, sex refers to the biological feature of an individual, gender is firmly a social construct. Gender is what a society creates and characterizes a man and a woman with, such as values, gender norms, behavior, attitude, etc. these values, norms, gender-related expectations generally vary from society to society. Sex can be categorized into three main groups ‘male’, ‘female’, and ‘other’, whereas on the other hand, gender, like sexuality, is considered to be on a spectrum, Gender also refers to what an individual identifies themselves as, for example, a male can identify himself as a ‘she’, or a female can prefer to be gender binary and have pronounces like ‘they’ and ‘them’. Gender roles and gender stereotypes are seen to be super rigid in actual society but at the same time highly fluid in nature and can change significantly over time.

Since we are born, we are categorized and put into rigid gender binaries, pink and blue! Barbies and race cars! Classical dance and sports! Girls are told if a boy pulls her hair at school it’s ok because it means that he loves her, boys are told to be strong and protect their princesses, whereas girls are told: “someday you will find your prince charming!” Saying these things is pretty normal and unharming, but it directly promotes heterosexuality.
Perhaps, in the scenarios mentioned above, a girl pulls another girl’s hair? What if the boy prefers to ‘be protected’ than protecting someone else? What if the girl wishes for a princess instead of prince charming? What if these kids want to explore and experience something that doesn’t fit the social rigid norm? What if THEY want to decided whom they love? This becomes a source of bias and discrimination. Instead of saying you can like whoever you wish or telling them to see the soul before the body, tables turn, parents who had promised unconditional love to their kids suddenly turn their backs on them, instead of acknowledging the facts, they prefer ignorance and rule it out by sayings “it’s a phase”.

Social pressure and parental pressure promote heterosexuality and this has been happening for decades. Perceiving homosexuality as “taboo” and “unnatural” and making individuals who are not heterosexual outcasted is one of the main reasons why factors like homophobia and transphobia leads to bias and discrimination. As a matter of fact, Homosexuality can be naturally found in more than 1000 animal species and these homosexual couples are considered as an important factor when it comes to the survival of the species as homosexual animals tend to adopt younglings which are abandoned by their parents or are orphans, which directly leads to survival of the species. Same happens with humans, homosexual couples are willing to adopt and foster kids, but unfortunately, as humans are nowhere near extinction, and are overpopulating this plant, the value of “life” as a whole has decreased.

Environmental factors, political factors, and other external factors lead to corrupt our instincts and process and social evils such as homophobia are born. Homophobia is not innate. The concept of conditioning was original given by Ivan Pavlov, conditioning refers to “a behavioral process whereby a response becomes more frequent or more predictable in a given environment as a result of reinforcement, with reinforcement typically being a stimulus or reward for a desired response”.

Every single cartoon, movie, storybooks written or made considering kids as their main audience is profoundly heterosexual in nature. Heterosexuality becomes a norm. Moreover, it’s considered normal to show two characters (a girl and a boy of course) to be in love or crushing on each other, for example, every Disney movie or show ever, where every single relationship portraited is strictly heterosexual. Deliberately and profoundly showing only heterosexual relations is considered normal and overwhelmingly showing heterosexual love-relationships to a younger audience is not considered “too much” but homosexuality which of course is just another form of love suddenly gets considered as “too much”.

Conditioning also happens through mere exposure effect. Mere exposure effect, I would like to state is as a term, which means a psychological phenomenon in which people tend to develop a preference or favor things merely because they are acquainted with them, which is also known as familiarity principle is one of the effect which helps us understand why majority of the people are heterosexual, through decades gender norms have got rigid and as time after time individuals are only exposed to profound subliminal and supraliminal heterosexual experiences, they tend to get acquainted with heterosexuality and heterosexuality becomes the norm.

Poet Adrienne Rich, in her literary work, most notably in her 1980 essay gave the concept of
“Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence.” Adrienne was one of the first female
public intellectuals to challenge the idea that heterosexuality is the natural or normal expression of human sexuality and that other forms of sexuality are deviant, unnatural and are considered a taboo. She reasons that heterosexuality, rather than being natural or something innate, is an institution which is wickedly designed to perpetuate and spread male social and economic privilege. Compulsory heterosexuality benefits the “majority” of the society. Even when Adrienne’s thoughts are critically opposed by many scholars and intellectuals, the concept itself still stands strong in today’s world his concept has been acknowledged and embraced in many social studies and by numerous human rights activists. As one example of its scope, the International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women, held in Brussels, March 1976, named compulsory heterosexuality (in the form of discrimination against and persecution of lesbians) as a “crime against women”.

The problem in our society is that all the exposure/experiences that an individual gets in their developmental stage is strictly heterosexual, severe conditioning takes place through parents, family, society, social norms and values, culture, school, cartoons, movies, books; the list is endless, where heterosexuality is portrayed normally and is recurring and on the other hand homosexuality is nowhere even acknowledged.

A set of strict sexual norms that are pre-determined are given to kids instead of letting them decide what they want to be or in which way they feel comfortable or as what they feel comfortable. Instead of letting children explore and understand themselves. They are TOLD, to follow heterosexuality. Girls are told that they will sooner or later find a perfect man to settle down with. Boys are told “you will find a beautiful girl who will look after him”, they are tolddirectly or indirectly, they are given intentional rigid heterosexual exposure and low-key molded in a heterosexual way, straightly promoting heterosexuality and conditioning them to only give preference to heterosexuality as “it’s the norm”.

Expecting unconditional regards, love, or support from anyone, to be honest, is a utopian
thought, but as an evolved species we least can expect acceptance if not support, coexistence, the attitude of “live and let live”, consideration and understanding.
Is it too much to let individuals decide who they are or whom to love?