WOTD: Homonormativity

In the last year I have haphazardly added a Women’s Studies degree to my agenda and slammed my schedule with classes like Feminist Analysis and Social Activism of Feminism. These classes are more or less language courses. Unlike the French I’m accustomed to, Feminist Language often times repurposes or adjusts language already in my arsenal and uses it to describe certain cultural happenings.

At the rate that feminist analysis is expanding, this is a tricky process, with more words to learn every single day.

I had already been pretty well rehearsed on what heteronormativity was. Heteronormativity asserts that there is a certain right way to hold your gender and sexuality and that right way is through heterosexual practices. It’s through a framework of heteronormativity that people who are not heteronormative become marginalized and made invisible. Things like film and television can be heteronormative, for instance, by making opposite-sex clean cut white couples the highlight of media and reinforcing that there is a normal acceptable way for people to be.

Homonormativity is newer to me, and expands on other feminist analysis I’ve been working on the past couple of weeks. You could view homonormativity through the same lens as heteronormativity. Homonormativity presents the idea that there is a right way to be gay and that there is a norm within gay/lesbian couples. Homonormativity does not question heteronormativity, but rather falls comfortable beside it. Laws about what is or isn’t an acceptable way to treat human beings go unchallenged as long as some gay and lesbian couples (those who are homonormative) gain some progress.

Through this viewpoint, gay marriage itself could be homonormative.

We recently watched the HBO Film The Cast Against 8 and noted as a group how the gay couples in the film were presented. It appeared then (and as it does in the news, or any other public arena) that to gain a foothold for equality, we must highlight a certain kind of homonormativity. It is the clean cut, “we just want to love like you love”, good American gay couple who is pressed forward in the gay movement as a symbol of how homosexuality is just like heterosexuality and we are all the same.

But are we? Do we have to be the same to deserve the same rights? One argument is that the homonormative allows some gay and lesbian citizens to gain rights by hiding or stepping on the heads of those who are not homonormative. For instance, by leaving out those who are trans* from the conversation.

Heteronormativity and homonormativity create a picture for us about who is right or normal and it is useful to be critical of who is left out of these conversations and how fear is used to prevent certain people from their equal rights.

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