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I just returned from a three week holiday in Scotland. My girl and I traveled around in a little camper van. Scotland is the perfect country for camping wild, since it’s allowed almost anywhere and public toilets are cleaner then they are at my house. I haven’t felt so much abroad as I was now. It’s not that I never travel: I visit a womens camp in Denmark every summer for a week. I visit my lesbian friends in other countries during the year. But to spend three weeks in a strange country, mainly in the countryside, seeing only straight couples day in day out, made me realize even more how society forces us to be ‘normal’. Normal as in heterosexual. They are the norm. On campings, in restaurants, on the road, on our boat birding trips, on the ferry, in the t.v. shows, in the commercials, in all the books I can freely swap or buy for charity everywhere, in the pub, at breakfast in the hotel, in all the brochures from the tourist office. I looked around me one day, having coffee and cheesecake in a little cafe, in a little village and watched all the straight couples around us and I felt all of a sudden so incredibly sad and alone, even with my girlfriend sitting opposite me. I know people say to me that it is all changing, that it is much easier to be gay, or lesbian, or trans. Those who say that have no idea how heterosexist the whole society is and how much it can take for a person to defy the heteronorm. On one of the last days of our holiday we stayed one night in a hotel, in the mountains. The hotel lay at the end of a dead-end road, used mainly by hikers and fishermen. A man and a group of young men were staying there too, they looked to me like a father and his sons, having an outdoor trip together. The man was dressed in military clothing. I watched them for some time. And I started thinking how it would be to be a son of that man, so obviously straight and a patriarch, and having to tell him that I was gay. I really could not imagine. After travelling for just a few weeks outside of my relatively safe spaces I started to suffocate. I desperately looked for other lesbians, other gay men, even queer looking people, but I only found them on the ferry trip home.

If you are heterosexual and reading this, you may not understand what I try to say. Because you are fine with lesbians, gays, diversity and you don’t really see the problem. The best way to understand it is to imagine yourself living in another world, where you, as a heterosexual grow up in a homonormative society. As a little child you are being read from a book by your two fathers or two mothers the sweet stories about a girl and a girl who fall in love and live happily ever after. You watch the soap-opera’s when you get older and where girls fall in love with girls and boys with boys. You read magazines that tell you how to attract other girls, how to dress for other girls, watch dozens of commercials with happy gay couples every hour, read literature about dramatic love affairs between two men or three, or the life story of two women. You are told at school how sexuality works, that it is between a man and a man or a woman and a woman and you learn that some people deviate from that sexuality, because they are attracted to the opposite sex. But normal sexuality is of course between the same sex. And in the meantime all your friends get girlfriends and ask you why you don’t have a girlfriend yet…the story ends when you are old and maybe live in a retirement home, where all the others talk about their lives, their families and they won’t ask you about your lovers, because that’s not their world. You are the odd one out after all. Then you may choose to live in a separate retirement home, with more people ‘like you’ and other people will complain about that and will accuse you of separating yourself from society…

It is not difficult to understand why so many people decide to stay in the closet or live secret lives. I understand it now even better. As Jeannette Winterson wrote: “why be happy if you can be normal?”. The truth is we live in a patriarchy in which heterosexuality always will be the norm. We will remain the deviant ones. Even though society is trying so hard to fit us in this norm (maybe more accepting, but at the same time assimilating), I’m proud to see there are many who defy it, who form other kinds of relationships instead of marriage, who form families in other ways, who choose friends as family and form strong resilient communities. And even though I haven’t met them in Scotland this time, I’m sure there are many who did in the end find the strength to come out and lead their happy, not normal life.