Heteronormativity: the impact on lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans* individuals workplace experience


  • Jenny Louise Meinich Heriot-Watt University



Heterosexuality plays a crucial role in explaining how the society is constructed, especially the belief that there are two and only two sexualities, thus only two genders, which has been termed heteronormativity (Coston and Kimmel, 2012; Eliason, 2011). Furthermore, the normative binary and hegemonic meaning of gender is often associated with the dualistic and binary assumption of women as feminine and men as masculine (Button and Worthen, 2014). As such, it is recognized that workers act according to the standard script of heterosexuality, which allows sexual routines to be used as an asset for preferred ends (Watkins et al, 2013). This has implications for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans* (LGBT) individuals and may affect their workplace experience. Following Judith Butler`s (1999; 2004) theory of gender as `performative` and West and Zimmerman`s (1987) theory of `doing gender`, this essay sought to examine the impact of heteronormative practices on LGBT employees` workplace experience and how gender and sexuality can be destabilised through the lens of `queer theory` (Rumens and Broomfield, 2014).

The literature presented in this essay illustrate the ways in which heteronormative practices and heterogender structure many facets of organizational life. This included workplace interactions (Denissen and Saguy, 2014; Schilt, 2006), career opportunities (Mizzi, 2014) and choice of career paths (Brown et al, 2012; Budge et al, 2010).

As such, it can be argued that gender and heterosexuality is inextricably linked within the workplaces as heterosexuality remains taken for granted whereas LGBT employees need to adjust their gender and sexual identities to fit into the heteronormative organization (Denissen and Saguy, 2014; Miller et al, 2003; Schilt, 2006). However, the presence of LGBT employees were found to threaten the hegemonic masculine idea of men`s subordination of women (Denissen and Saguy, 2014). As such, more empirical research is needed to further understand the heteronormative practices and its impact on LGBT employees` workplace experience, in particular the identities and experiences of bisexual individuals as it remains under researched and neglected in much seuxality research.    



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