I'm a recent Wellesley College grad known to many as Gigi and I like books and tea. I think whales are awesome and numbers rule the universe.
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I was talking to my father about some LGBTQ issues. And I came up with this analogy/rant. Which I thought was worthy of some research and writing it down in a more elegant manner.
Alright, before I start, I don’t mean that these issues are equal in importance, but I think it shows a pattern in (at least) Western society.
I am left handed. I have been a leftie since I was born. My mother and brother are also lefties, it’s partially a genetic thing. We’re a minority in the population. It’s been put forward that it has been this way since prehistoric times, based on analysis of cave paintings. It is a minority that is worldwide, not just in certain areas.
Historically, there has been a stigma against left-handed people. Our world, even to this day, is often designed for righties, intentionally or not. In Latin, the word sinistra meant left and the word dexter meant right. Now, looking at words in English, we have sinister from sinistra, and dexterity from dexter. Also, see ‘right’. Even the word ‘ambidextrous’ has a slant to the right. There are even more examples in French, Dutch, Chinese, Portuguese, and Russian. Even in ancient Hebrew and other Semitic and Mesopotamian languages, there were words that used the word for left to mean something unfortunate or evil. In the Western world, where most languages are written from left to right, being left handed meant (and still means!) that you are more prone to smudging. There are some examples of left being a positive thing in some cultures, even special or mystical, but they are far outnumbered by the negative connotations.
People know about some of the more common things that are usually designed for righies, such as scissors (I can’t always see what I’m cutting and they can be very uncomfortable, and occasionally they don’t cut well because of the positions of the blades in relation to my hand), desks, and spiral bound notebooks (although that might be because of how we developed the folio). But there are a lot of things in everyday life that righties and some lefties might not notice are intended for right hand use. Cameras, subway turnstiles, can openers, corkscrews, power tools, some firearms, measuring cups, mugs, computer mice, and fishing reels are all examples of things that, in their standard form, require the ‘dexterity’ of the right hand. We don’t always notice it because it’s how the world around us has almost always been. It’s often considered “normal”.
Historically, many lefties were encouraged, if not outright forced, to learn to write with their right hands. In some societies, the right hand was the one used for eating and social interactions whereas the left was used for personal hygiene, hence the idea that the left hand was ‘unclean’. The conversion of lefties can cause various learning disorders, such as dyslexia, and speech disorders, such as stuttering. Conversion is still fairly common in Asia today. There is also a correlation between less-developed countries and anti-left-handed bias.
But in America today, we mostly see left-handedness as a normal thing that is in the minority. Sure, a lot of the world around me isn’t always designed to be optimal for me (those pens that are attached to the credit card readers…. I hate them so much), and sometimes we don’t even notice the bias. There are some efforts to make life easier for lefties, such as special desks, notebooks, and tools. And they have helped a lot. But, most importantly, we have mostly moved on from an opinion that the majority means normalcy and the minority not.
In case you haven’t guessed by now (it was kinda obvious in parts), I am using left-handedness as an analogy for being a member of the LGBTQ community. Many of the stigmas, the language used, the historical data, and the pressure to change to conform, even with the undesirable results of ‘conversion’ seem to be somewhat similar. Sure, they are at different levels, but I think there is a marked similarity. My hope is that, in the future, being non-hetero will be seen as perfectly normal and the world will strive more to accept the minority and will try to lose heteronormality. Sure, you can be heteronormative unintentionally because it’s currently what society has taught us. But I’m hoping that, like us lefties, non-hetero people will be seen as normal even if they are a minority.
Interesting note: While I was researching this, I found out that studies have suggested (although there isn’t yet anything conclusive) that left handedness is more common among the homosexual population than the heterosexual population. Also, one study found that boys with non-traditional gender identities were more than twice as likely to be left handed than a control group.