Before 1868 Gay People Didn't Exist — Nor Did Straight People; Hanne Blank Explains

Be careful what you assume, and be careful what you consider “normal.” So sings the perpetual chorus here in über-diverse San Francisco. As it should be. But there's a big assumption a lot of us probably have overlooked. It involves the heterosexual. It's not that “Some people aren't hetero,” but rather, “Hetero hasn't been considered the norm — or even a thing at all — for very long.” Author, historian, and lecturer Hanne Blank breaks it down in her book Straight: The Surprisingly Short History of Heterosexuality. Blank shows how equating hetero with normal affects our laws, cultural institutions, scientific study, artistic expression, and ideas of love and romance. Underlying it all are assumptions about others — and ourselves — that most of us have never thought to even acknowledge.

She appears Tuesday (April 24) at Good Vibrations on Valencia. We spoke with her recently about her book.

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