Heteronormativity in cultural organizations at Harvard.
Cultural organizations at Harvard support the well-being of our community in many ways. They foster a sense of home for students of similar backgrounds; they provide safe space to talk about issues related to racial and ethnic identity. But at times, social constructs and norms from home permeate into these very organizations at Harvard. Heteronormativity is one of them.
I have yet to see a case of active discrimination or blatant homophobia within these cultural organizations. I would like to believe that we are all sensible Harvard students who don’t form misjudgments about someone’s sexuality or gender identity. But lurking beneath the water of political correctness is often plain indifference or preconceived notions about sexual identity.
Take mixers at some of these organizations for instance. A classic activity involves each board member going around sharing who in the group they would hookup with. The crowd reels in excitement and poses the following gendered question to a guy: “Which girl here would you hook up with?” They dare them to approach the opposite gender and make a lap dance. Even for the game “Never Have I Ever,” heteronormative assumptions are built into the questions. It pains my heart to see my gay friends blush in awkwardness and crawl into a corner, feeling alienated from the rest of their group.
In another case, some members of Asian-American groups would comment: “I’ve never seen an Asian girl who’s lesbian. It’s just very uncommon.” There was at least one closeted Asian lesbian in the room.
I don’t mean to make a gross generalization, but these groups tend to attract foreign students and Asian-Americans from more conservative backgrounds, who often reiterate what their family members have to say about sexuality and gender identity.
Diversity is a value that these organizations often trumpet, but never seemed to fully extend to their LGBTQ+ members. Their testimonies reveal that they often felt uncomfortable joining the organization in fear of judgement and isolation. Many quit halfway through the semester in search of a safer space to open up.
It is perfectly natural for young people to go through sexuality crises. And that’s precisely what college is for: a time of reflection and exploration, and cushioned against the pressures of real life. That’s where cultural organizations should come in–to embrace all those who’ve felt marginalized.