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Proulx: Stop forcing heteronormativity on queer love

Collegian | Caden Proulx

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

Don’t get me wrong: I love the romances of Nick and Charlie from “Heartstopper” or Elio and Oliver from “Call Me by Your Name” as much as the next person. The problem is that almost all popular queer media depict homosexual relationships as only this certain top-bottom, fem-masc way, stemming from a culture of heteronormativity pressed onto the queer community. And this falls woefully short of displaying the vast diversity and beauty present within LGBTQIA+ relationships.


Shows like “Heartstopper” feel like straight shows but with gay people as the protagonists. The only difference is Disney wouldn’t allow it on their network because it’s two guys. Ask any queer person near you, and their experience of romance in high school is probably nowhere close to “Love, Simon” or “Heartstopper.” And never having LGBTQIA+ shows that accurately portray the queer experience really sucks.

I love these kinds of shows, and you probably love these kinds of shows too. There’s nothing wrong with shows like these, especially at a time when lots of people just want to be swept off their feet by Prince Charming. But the problem is that it’s sort of like Disney princess movies, which, until recently, always showed heterosexual attraction with the man being dominant and the woman being submissive. It’s no wonder that these traditional gender roles being spouted throughout our childhood had huge influences on us. And they inadvertently contribute to a narrow and homogenized representation of LGBTQIA+ relationships.

“Even the basic plotlines of all LGBTQIA+ movies only showcase coming-out stories, almost like you don’t even start being queer until you publicly come out and start having sex everywhere.”

Have you ever heard, “Two bottoms don’t make a top?” Well, they totally can. The problem with this mindset is it assumes “top” means masculine and “bottom” means feminine, and those are the only options if you are queer. We never see the beauty of the sexuality spectrum ever offered as a choice.

For example, verses and switches, who are queer people whose sex position preference fluctuates on a spectrum, are not commonly represented in characters. This also means heterosexual people never get to see the fluidity of a lot of real-life queer relationships, contributing to the over-sexualization of the queer community both among LGBTQIA+ people and straight, cisgender people.

This is the best we can do right now, though, because until queerness is more profitable than sensationalism, the media won’t tell diverse stories. There is no reason to tell an accurate story because being queer is fucking hard, and that’s not binge-worthy. If we have to sacrifice authenticity for the sake of getting representation, I’d honestly just rather not be represented at all.

Kit Connor of “Heartstopper” was forced to come out before he was ready because of the boxes put around queer individuals. The minute he was seen holding hands with a female costar, the immediate assumption was that he was straight and queerbaiting. Everyone simply erased Connor’s bisexuality from him because the heteronormative, masculine character that he plays in the show couldn’t be anything more than a sexualized gay top.

Even the basic plotlines of all LGBTQIA+ movies only showcase coming-out stories, almost like you don’t even start being queer until you publicly come out and start having sex everywhere: “Heartstopper,” “Call Me By Your Name,” “Love, Simon,” “Love, Victor,” “Brokeback Mountain” — the list goes on and on. The same accusations and pressure that Connor faced happened to Nicholas Galitzine in “Red, White and Royal Blue,” who is a straight man who portrays queer roles frequently. This showcases an alarming obsession with sexualizing and stereotyping queer people at the expense of the people playing them.

You might be wondering, then, “Who is on ‘top’?” or, “Who pays for dinner on the first date?” These questions are super important to the queer experience, and a lot of LGBTQIA+ people struggle with them. The answer to these questions is not one-size-fits-all and goes back to the diversity present in queer love.

This brings up terrible questions like, “Will this guy not like me if I’m not masculine enough?” or “How do I express that sometimes I don’t want to be the one on top?” or “How do I express my feminine side enough that it feels authentic to me but not too much so that I can still date my type?”


Being a masculine top or feminine bottom is totally valid and one of the many ways that queer individuals choose to express themselves. However, when the majority sexuality is participating in something, it is undoubtedly going to impact the minority sexuality and gender groups, especially when it comes to personal expectations of ourselves. The problem is not that some queer individuals are heteronormative in relationships; the problem is we feel like we have to be. Until this stops being forced on us in our everyday lives due to ignorance and until the media begins to display a spectrum of queer experiences, we will not be truly free.

Reach Caden Proulx at or on Twitter @CSUCollegian.

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About the Contributor
Caden Proulx, Print Editor
Caden Proulx is a human development and family studies student at Colorado State University pursuing his passion for graphic design at The Collegian. Originally from Austin, Texas, Caden's journalistic journey began in the high school yearbook department, where his passion for design grew. This led to him to seek out student media when he got to Colorado State University. Starting as a page designer in his first year, Caden found a home at The Collegian. This led him to the position of print director his sophomore year. Despite majoring in HDFS, Caden seamlessly integrates his hobby of graphic design with his academic pursuits. The Collegian has become an integral part of his success at CSU. Now firmly rooted in Colorado, Caden is eager to contribute to the student media landscape, The Collegian and its success. He loves working alongside other excited students who are talented and have a lot to teach and push him to continue to grow as a visual journalist.

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