Gay and lesbian families, like these in a 2007 pride parade, are unlikely to label themselves non-heterosexual although researchers do so for a variety of reasons.[1]

Non-heterosexual is an umbrella term, describing homosexual, bisexual, asexual, and other people who do not identify as heterosexual.[2][3] The term helps define the "concept of what is the norm and how a particular group is different from that norm".[4] Non-heterosexual is used in feminist and gender studies fields as well as general academic literature to help differentiate between sexual identities chosen, prescribed and simply assumed, with varying understanding of implications of those sexual identities.[5][6][7][8] The term is similar to queer, though less politically charged and more clinical; queer generally refers to being non-normative and non-heterosexual.[9][10][11] Some view the term as being contentious and pejorative as it "labels people against the perceived norm of heterosexuality, thus reinforcing heteronormativity".[12][13] Still others note non-heterosexual is the only term useful to maintaining coherence in research and suggest it "highlights a shortcoming in our language around sexual identity"; for instance, its use can enable bisexual erasure.[14]



Many gay, lesbian and bisexual people were born into cultures and religions that stigmatized, repressed or negatively judged any sexuality that differed from a heterosexual identity and orientation.[15][16] Additionally the majority of heterosexuals still view non-heterosexual acts as taboo and non-conventional sexual desires are generally hidden entirely or masked in various ways.[7] Non-heterosexual is more fully inclusive of people who not only identify as other than heterosexual but also as other than gay, lesbian and bisexual.[17] Some common examples include same gender loving, men who have sex with men (MSM), women who have sex with women (WSW), bi-curious and questioning.[8][18][19] Non-heterosexual is considered a better general term than homosexual, lesbian and gay, LGBT or queer for being more neutral and without the baggage or gender discrimination that comes with many of the alternatives.[9] For instance, until 1973, the American Psychological Association listed homosexual as a mental illness, and it still has negative connotations.[20]


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Non-heterosexual is found predominantly in research and scholarly environments possibly as a means to avoid terms deemed politically incorrect like lesbian, dyke, gay, bisexual, etc. that gay, lesbian and bisexual people use as self descriptors.[16][21][22] When used by those who don't identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual or when used by gay, lesbian and bisexual people disparagingly, the terms are generally considered pejorative, so non-heterosexual is a default and innocuous term unlikely to offend readers.[1] For example, the Kinsey scale can be divided between those exclusively heterosexual and everyone else.[23] The term has come into more prominence in the academic field starting in the 1980s and more prominently in the 1990s with major studies of identities of non-heterosexual youth and a smaller number of studies specifically looking at non-heterosexual college students.[24] Non-heterosexual is also used to encompass transgender and intersex people[citation needed], although these are gender identities rather than sexual identities, they are within the LGBT and queer umbrella communities.[16][25] Additionally, non-heterosexual encompasses a wide variety of terms used by different cultures whose own terms might never neatly translate to a homosexual or bisexual identity; for researching and extrapolating data it is a practical and accepted term.[26]

In a 2004 book that integrates "the academic disciplines of cinema studies, sociology, cultural and critical studies" regarding the Big Brother phenomena, non-heterosexual was used as a universal term to help compare information from over thirty countries.[7] In exploring and studying the emerging field of gay, lesbian and bisexual seniors, non-heterosexual is a default term to demonstrate that the "vast majority" of literature assumes that older people are heterosexual and makes "no effort" to explore the experiences and attitudes of those who are not.[27] In Welfare and the State the authors describe the perceived advantages of lesbians in the workplace as they, in theory, wouldn't have children so would be advantageous to the labor force.[28] The authors point out, however, that not only do many lesbians have children but they routinely identify as heterosexual through much of their lives or at least until their children are old enough that a non-heterosexual identity would not greatly impact their families negatively.[28]

Non-heterosexual is also used when studying lesbian and gay families and family structures.[25][29] It came into wider use in this context when the AIDS pandemic's impact on gay male communities was being explored as many gay men created families out of extended networks of friends and these became their support systems.[25]

See also


  1. ^ a b Klesse, Christian (2007). The Spectre of Promiscuity: Gay Male and Bisexual Non-Monogamies and Polyamories. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.. ISBN 0754649067. Retrieved 2008-07-24. 
  2. ^ Dilley, Patrick (2002). Queer Man on Campus: A History of Non-Heterosexual College Men 1945-2000. Routledge. pp. 4–16. ISBN 0415933374. Retrieved 2008-07-24. 
  3. ^ Hinds, Hilary; Ann Phoenix, Jackie Stacey (1992). Working Out: New Directions For Women's Studies. Routledge. pp. 85–95. ISBN 0750700432. Retrieved 2008-07-24. 
  4. ^ Stevens, Richard A Jr (May/June 2005). "Queer Man on Campus: A History of Non-Heterosexual College Men, 1945-2000". Journal of College Student Development. Retrieved 2008-07-24. 
  5. ^ Jaggar, Alison M. (1994). Living with Contradictions: Controversies in Feminist Social Ethics. Westview Press. pp. 499–502. ISBN 0813317762. Retrieved 2008-07-24. 
  6. ^ Munt, Sally (1998). Butch/femme: Inside Lesbian Gender. Continuum International Publishing Group. pp. 93–100, 226, 228. ISBN 0304339598. Retrieved 2008-07-24. 
  7. ^ a b c Mathijs, Ernest; Janet Jones (2004). Big Brother International: Format, Critics and Publics. Wallflower Press. pp. 1945–55. ISBN 1904764185. Retrieved 2008-07-24. 
  8. ^ a b Jewkes, Yvonne (2002). Dot.Cons: Crime, Deviance and Identity on the Internet. Willan Publishing. pp. 59–65. ISBN 184392000X. Retrieved 2008-07-24. 
  9. ^ a b Weeks, Jeffrey; Brian Heaphy, Catherine Donovan (2001). Same Sex Intimacies: Families of Choice and Other Life Experiments. Routledge. pp. viii. ISBN 0415254779. Retrieved 2008-07-24. 
  10. ^ Taylor, Victor E.; Charles E. Winquist (2001). Encyclopedia of Postmodernism. Taylor & Francis. pp. 327. ISBN 0415152941. Retrieved 2008-07-24. 
  11. ^ Beasley, Chris; Charles E. Winquist (2005). Gender & Sexuality: Critical Theories, Critical Thinkers. Sage Publications Inc. pp. 161. ISBN 0761969799. Retrieved 2008-07-24. 
  12. ^ Yip, Andrew K.T. (2004). "Queering Religious Texts: An Exploration of British Non-heterosexual Christians’ and Muslims’ Strategy of Constructing Sexuality-affirming Hermeneutics". Nottingham Trent University. Retrieved 2008-07-24. ; PDF version
  13. ^ Browne, Kath (2003). "Negotiations and Fieldworkings: Friendship and Feminist Research". University of Brighton. Retrieved 2008-07-24. ; PDF version
  14. ^ Parker, Blaise Astra (May 2004). "Queer Theory Goes To College". Journal of Sex Research. Retrieved 2008-07-24.  "He includes interviews of some men who have a behaviorally bisexual pattern, but none of men who self-identify as bisexual. Therefore, the term non-heterosexual was inherently problematic to me, given that I am sensitive to issues of bisexual exclusion."
  15. ^ Althaus-Reid, Marcella; Ann Phoenix, Jackie Stacey (2006). Liberation Theology and Sexuality. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.. pp. 10–16. ISBN 0754650804. Retrieved 2008-07-24. 
  16. ^ a b c Gelder, Ken; Sarah Thornton (2005). The Subcultures Reader. Routledge. pp. 421–9. ISBN 0415344166. Retrieved 2008-07-24. 
  17. ^ Svensson, Travis K.; Charles E. Winquist (2004). A Bioethical Analysis of Sexual Reorientation Interventions: The Ethics of Conversion Therapy. Sage Publications Inc. pp. 23. ISBN 1581124155. Retrieved 2008-07-24. 
  18. ^ Joseph, Sherry (2005). Social Work Practice and Men who Have Sex with Men. Sage Publications Inc. pp. 27. ISBN 0761933522. Retrieved 2008-07-24. 
  19. ^ Gullotta, Thomas P.; Martin Bloom (2003). Encyclopedia of Primary Prevention and Health Promotion. Springer. ISBN ISBN 0306472961. Retrieved 2008-07-24. 
  20. ^ Gaddy, Jim (3 February 2003). Spectrum trains members to educate students: Group to host sexual identity discussions. The Daily Reveille. ISBN ISBN 0306472961. Retrieved 2008-07-24. 
  21. ^ Quam, Jean K.; Sarah Thornton (1997). Social Services for Senior Gay Men and Lesbians. Haworth Press. pp. 11–40, 93, 113. ISBN 1560248084. Retrieved 2008-07-24. 
  22. ^ Clarke, Karen; Tony Maltby, Patricia Kennett (2007). Social Policy Review 19: Analysis and Debate in Social Policy, 2007. The Policy Press. pp. 145. ISBN 1861349416. Retrieved 2008-07-24. 
  23. ^ Brooks-Gordon, Belinda; Andrew Bainham, Loraine Gelsthorpe (2004). Sexuality Repositioned: Diversity and the Law. Hart Publishing. pp. 164. ISBN 1841134899. Retrieved 2008-07-24. 
  24. ^ Dilley, Patrick (1 January 2005). "Which way out? A typology of non-heterosexual male collegiate identities.". Journal of Higher Education. Retrieved 2008-07-24. 
  25. ^ a b c Hines, Sally; Catherine Jones Finer, Bob Matthews (2007). Transforming Gender: Transgender Practices of Identity, Intimacy and Care. The Policy Press. pp. 32–41, 103–115. ISBN 1861349165. Retrieved 2008-07-24. 
  26. ^ Murray, David A. B. (2003). Anthropologica: Who Is Takatapui? Maori Language, Sexuality and Identity in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Canadian Anthropology Society. pp. 233–245. ISSN 0003-5459. Retrieved 2008-07-24. 
  27. ^ Gott, Merryn (2005). Sexuality, Sexual Health and Ageing. McGraw-Hill International. pp. 30, 82–9, 134. ISBN 0335225543. Retrieved 2008-07-24. 
  28. ^ a b Deakin, Nicholas; Catherine Jones Finer, Bob Matthews (2003). Welfare and the State. Taylor & Francis. pp. 80–90. ISBN 0415327709. Retrieved 2008-07-24. 
  29. ^ Dunne, Gillian A. (1998). Living "difference": Lesbian Perspectives on Work and Family Life. Haworth Press. pp. 1–12, 69–83. ISBN 0789005379. Retrieved 2008-07-24. 

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