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Posted on Feb 28 2022 by Fiona Bailey

Pride Network member Casey Fox secured a second column in the Chronicle and Echo in February, ensuring readers were fully aware that it is LGBT+ History Month.

Casey, who is also an Assistant Psychologist at St Andrew’s Healthcare, chose to write about the subject of heteronormativity in the workplace.

For anyone who has not come across the term, heteronormativity is the concept that heterosexuality is the ‘normal’ mode of sexual orientation. This means, it assumes the gender binary and that sexual and marital relations are most fitting between people of opposite sex.

Casey write: “Thereby, individuals are assumed to be heterosexual until proven otherwise, and other sexualities are perceived as less or not normal.

“Traditional gender norms expect males to be masculine and females to be feminine, with heterosexuality being the normalised and dominant sexual identity. Generally, if a female is feminine, she is presumed to be heterosexual.

“This is because assumptions are based on societal norms and if the sex (male or female) and gender (masculine or feminine) of an individual is known, then their sexuality is often automatically presumed.”

She explained that “Non-heterosexual individuals are often stereotyped”. This is because there is a “lack of adherence to gender norms; therefore, society feminises gay men and masculinises lesbian women”.

Therefore, if an individual does not fit this binary (e.g a feminine female), they are assumed to identify as heterosexual, which is a perfect example of heteronormativity.

Casey continued: “Assuming an individual’s sexuality or gender can make individuals feel uncomfortable or hesitant when disclosing their identity and they might feel unsafe or embarrassed in their working environment about who they are.

“It is because of this that we really must do better as a society. Many people may be blissfully unaware that the things they are saying and the language they are using is making their LGBTQIA+ colleague feel uncomfortable.”

She recommend the following actions to ensure the LGBTQIA+ community is being considered within our daily interactions at work:

- Avoid presuming someone’s sexuality, as many individuals do not fit the outdated ‘stereotypes’ associated with their sexuality

- Avoid presuming someone’s gender identity- normalise sharing your pronouns with others (a good way to do this is to add them to your email signature!)

- Avoid presuming the gender of other people’s partners, e.g., asking women if they have a boyfriend/husband, instead use gender neutral terms such as partner/spouse.

- If a colleague brings someone along to a work event, rather than presuming the relationship between them, ask to be introduced to them instead.

- Do not label things in a way you wouldn’t with heterosexual relationships, e.g., saying “gay marriage” rather than marriage.

- Do not ask any inappropriate questions that you would not ask to someone that identifies as heterosexual.

 Casey Fox is a member of the Pride Network at St Andrew’s Healthcare which aims to increase the visibility of employees and patients who identify as LGBTQ+.