An LGBTQ student asks: Is heterophobia real?

October 3, 2013 6:23 pm4 commentsViews: 936

By now, most students have heard of the Smith College student who campaigned for an exclusively straight sorority on the Smith campus. Her proposition went viral on both and Tumblr on Sept. 19. For those who have not yet read her blissfully insensitive reasoning, she explained in an email to select girls that “as a straight girl at Smith, [she] feel[s] marginalized and…like the minority,” that “[the sorority] could be a really great way to socialize with people [the members would] identify more with at Smith, and to meet more guys.”

Though there may be a greater proportion of people who identify as LGBTQ+ in the Smith community than there are outside of it, until I see a study, I strongly doubt that straight women are in the minority of students at Smith. Also, just because a community is not heterocentric, homosexual discrimination against heterosexuals does not give this student the right to claim “marginalization.” As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I bristle at this idea as I do at the idea of heterophobia. Many of us in the LGBTQ+ community truly have been in the minority and marginalized. Unless she has been shunned, been pigeonholed because of stereotypes or felt frightened to express herself on account of her heterosexuality, she has no right to even broach the term “marginalize.”

By creating this social group based solely on sexuality, this student is implying that the only way women can bond is over sexuality. Are meaningful relationships only founded upon a shared figurative manhunt? Are straight women and LGBTQ+ people so different that we have nothing to offer one another?

Are we defined by our sexualities? If this student truly believes so, I am surprised that she chose to spend four years at a women’s college. Women’s colleges support the idea that we should think about more than whom we might marry. We are more than sexual objects, defined by so much more than our sexual preferences, a point that somehow managed to elude this student’s grasp.

The foundations on which this sorority would be created not only play into the idea that women only identify with those who, in generational terms, “fangirl” over boys, but also further enforce gender roles.

Baking nights? The questionably ironic reference to Mean Girls? Of course, in this student’s mind, the straight girls joining the sorority would wholeheartedly embrace these activities and behavior. For, as we all know, in order to be straight, we must act feminine. Never mind the huge number of heterosexual women who are abysmal bakers or are indifferent to pink—they’re in the closet, right? Because all straight girls like baking.

Not only does this demean women and imply that we are only able to unite in our shared search for a mate, but this objectifies men. This sorority would be created in part so that students could “meet more guys.” However, does nobody in the LGBTQ+ community want to meet guys? Or is this student implying that the sorority would only be meeting guys in order to hook up, rather than meeting men as individuals and getting to know them for their personalities? This reduces men to mere sexual objects, which is despicable in its own right. Every individual has more to offer than sex.

This student seems to have completely missed the point of college. We came to college in order to learn and, in my few weeks at Mount Holyoke College, I know I have grown exponentially as a result of being exposed to my classmates’ various differences. This student is so afraid of being around those she doesn’t “identify…with” that she hopes to manufacture her own comfort zone. Someone, on behalf of all of us, alert the Gender Studies department.

A response to last week’s new article, “Smith student tries to start ‘straight girl’ sorority.”



  • Theresa Lorne

    Your article practically oozes hypocrisy:

    1. You “bristle” at the Smith student’s use of the word “marginalize” and want to ban this term from her vocabulary. Your dismissive tone and restrictions on this girl’s choice of speech are effectively a form of marginalization.

    True, members of the LGBTQ community have experienced great suffering, but that does not and should not preclude the possibility of lesser suffering happening within other groups, nor should it be ignored purely because it is not the worst suffering.

    METAPHOR: Hurricane Katrina survivors have no right to use the word “devastation” because the Tohoku tsunami affected more people more negatively.

    You don’t get to decide how someone feels, and you definitely don’t get to police their word choices.

    2. You are confused/disgusted/annoyed by the fact that a person would want to create a social group around his/her sexuality. The irony here is almost laughable. Take a look at your title:

    “An LGBTQ student asks: Is heterophobia real?”

    Looks like you’re identifying first and foremost as a member of the LGBTQ community, a community which is formed around people’s sexual preferences. Is that some sort of exception to your belief that we are not defined by our sexual preferences?

    Is it somehow more acceptable for a group of homosexual students to gather based solely on the fact that they are homosexual? That is not a rhetorical question; I would be interested in your answer.

  • I agree with everything Theresa outlined above.

    “Unless she has been shunned, been pigeonholed because of stereotypes or felt frightened to express herself on account of her heterosexuality, she has no right to even broach the term “marginalize.”

    I identified as straight during my years at MHC, and definitly experienced your above definition of being “marginalized”. I never thought much about it, honestly, until I read the Smithie’s sorority letter. I figured it was just the LBGT community flexing their newly found voices. However, the hubris of telling someone else what their rights are is a little much. Perhaps asking how someone is experiencing MHC (or Smith) would be a good way to start a conversation.

  • How can I or my members of the LGBTQ community demand legitimacy in society when we’re busy trying to tear down the legitimacy of the feelings of those who consider themselves outside of us? Yes, while the Smith student’s concept can be interpreted as discriminatory, insensitive, and a reinforcement of gender roles, the sorority is just as much a manifestation and outlet of her feeling a need for community and support as a GSA or LGBTQ-oriented organization is to those for freedom of homosexual expression.

    There ought to be an understanding that, in this new age of an increasing amount of shamelessly out-and-proud LGBTQ people, sexuality and rights to do with sexuality are not black-and-white issues. The fact that society does not necessarily embrace cisgender heterosexuals as the standard identity and mold for human beings and our moral values does not mean that the values of the LGBTQ community automatically take overarching precedence over everyone else. DO NOT LIMIT OURSELVES AS, SIMPLY, THE ALTERNATIVE TO CISGENDER HETEROSEXUALS.

    Let’s learn from the example of the state of our federal government these days–realize that partisanship merely serves to turn a chance for productive debate into a power struggle that sets us further back than where the discussion began.

  • As a straight member of the MHC community I have felt discriminated against because of my sexuality and have also come across members of the LGBTQ+ community that discriminate against themselves. People who identify as Bi have often felt discriminated against by the Gay community because they are “not gay enough or straight enough”.
    I am not unaware of the LGBTQ+ communities struggles and do not want to diminish them, after all this country still is fighting for rights for the LGBTQ+ community.

    However, in the All-Women’s college communities where the LGBTQ+ communities have a larger presence in the culture of the school, those who identify as straight have a right to feel marginalized as a group and there have been many instances where I have felt judged because “I am not identifying myself enough” whether it be my sexuality or my ethnicity.

    To create a sorority at Smith for straight girls has every legitimacy as it does to create a sorority for an ethnicity group or for the LGBTQ+ community. Would you have been as upset if there was just a Sorority for Lesbians at Smith?

    Even at MHC, the clubs offered are geared toward ethnic group and LGBTQ+.
    There are groups for every country and ethnic background and of course the LGBTQ+ clubs. So as a matter of equality doesn’t a heterosexual group have the rights to have their voices heard.
    At MHC the community prides itself on acceptance and respect for all no matter their gender, ethnicity, sexuality, race, political view etc. so would it not make sense that in such a community heterosexuals should be represented in some way.
    In the broader world community of course LGBTQ+ is discriminated against and has every right to find the idea of a straight sorority at Smith discriminatory, but doesn’t having any group, on a diverse campus, geared toward only allowing people based on ethnicity or sexual preference, come across as discriminatory to those who don’t fall into those groups, just because they are born the way they are?