Wednesday, April 24, 2013

WTF is Heteronormativity?

One of the readers of this blog submitted a few interesting questions that I thought warranted a post response. No vitriol this time, though.
lol gay

What are your opinions on heteronormativity and the current trend of gays trying to mirror heterosexual relationships and family structures? Did you ever consider that perhaps the 'straight acting' masculine trend in the gay community is a form of heteronormativity? Or is it just another way of saying not what is typically perceived as classically gay in the modern sense? Do you feel as if being attracted solely to males or mostly to males makes one gay? I ask this because not once in any of your posts did you refer to yourself as gay, queer, homosexual or the desired partner of your choice.

First of all, the questions are framed to assume that the current trend, if it even exists, is a negative one that is moving non heteros away from their "true form". As if all homos were liberated, true to themselves, and happy before, and now society and other nonheteros are ganging up on them to force them to conform again. To my mind, what is actually happening is that a new generation of non heteros is emerging that has a somewhat different identity than the prior ones.

There is no "true form" for a human being, and non heteros are no exception. Possibly more importantly, I think that as society has become more comfortable with the idea of non heteros, a more diverse group of non heteros is coming out of the woodwork. That is, twenty years ago, a guy who didn't feel he had anything in common with the gay community would never identify himself as nonhetero, ever. Today, I think more and more of us are realizing that being a non hetero doesn't mean we have to do or be anything besides ourselves. This is a good thing.

I'm not a big fan of overly restrictive or technical language in general, but I think "heteronormativity" is a real thing, and a damaging thing. But I also think homonormativity exists, and while less common, that it too is harmful. We as a country need to be less normative in general. Put simply, we all need to worry less about what society, or whatever groups we are a part of, are nudging us towards and focus more on what's best for us and the people around us.
lol gay

As for my orientation. I like guys almost exclusively and have been cognizant of this since I was about 14. I have random peripheral attractions to women which are a little confusing, but, as far as I can tell, not invented.

I think labels of any sort are restrictive to the multifaceted nature of our minds so I try not to use them unless necessary. I'm also aware (maybe hyper-aware) of the meanings, origins, and connotations of the words in the English language. Words like gay, queer, and homosexual all have a set of connotations associated with them. Of the group, homosexual is maybe the most "scientific", in that it's supposed to just mean one who is attracted to the same sex as themselves, but it still has a pejorative ring to my ear and/or conjures up the wrong images for what I am trying to convey. I'm clearly not alone in this quest or we wouldn't have people saying things like "straight-acting" and "he's not that gay". This is why I came up with non-hetero as a label, which I feel is neural and appropriately encompasses the diversity of the group.

Being gay to me is a cultural thing as well as a sexual attraction thing. Like many other groups, people who identify as gay often seem to have a lot in common--like a eerily large amount. Some of us are fighting to say that we both accept and enjoy the fact that we like dudes without being "proud" of it, or making it central to our identities or lives. Again, "making something not central" is not the same as repressing or hiding it.

It's oft-said, and sometimes true that some homos feel pressure to conform to a hetero-styled life. And while I personally think shit like overblown church-weddings and cookie-cutter suburban neighborhoods with nosy neighbors border on a nightmare, that doesn't mean that some people don't legitimately find comfort and pleasure in those things. Again it isn't binary. It's not that everyone needs to conform or be freed from the matrix.

Different lifestyles make different people happy, and it's hard enough for us to decide what will make us happy, let alone what will make friends or strangers happy, so I steer away from inferring that heteronormative people are just sheep or miserable, or whatever. Neither the stereotypically hetero, nor the stereotypically homo "lifestyle" appeals to me. I just want to do the things I like to do with the people I like to be around; that's all.

lol gay


  1. You hit the nail on the head with this post. Thank you

  2. Labels *should* be for convenience, but we as a species work (mentally) by categorizing things in order to make predictions (it's how we learn and probably the source of every single bit of science or technology the species has ever come up with).

    If we pin a label on someone, we can make predictions about how they'll behave by association with others who have fit the label. If we have no label, we're flying blind. For a lot of people, "flying blind" is *terrifying*, and they'd rather have a *wrong* label than no label at all (because, as odd as it may seem, as least they'll have a direction with a wrong label, even if it's the wrong direction).

    I think, at this point in my life, I'm less antagonistic to "homonormativity" than I used to be. I think the fact that there *are* alternatives now - that more guys exist outside "the scenes" and don't necessarily fit "the types" - makes me see it as less oppressive simply because it isn't the only game in town. When I was 16 and just walking into West Hollywood for the first time, it seemed both overwhelming and foreign but also no less restrictive than the straight world I was used to.

    It's important to remember that masculinity is as much a social construct as any other social norm; the point is that people shouldn't feel trapped into artificially being the "straight norm" or the "gay norm" - and that the binary nature of the either/or itself is the trap.

  3. Definitely the best post you've written dude

  4. "Put simply, we all need to worry less about what society, or whatever groups we are a part of, are nudging us towards and focus more on what's best for us and the people around us." I agree, but it seems like a lot of your earlier posts are pretty condescending to anyone who follows stereotypical gay identity trends, which makes it seem like you are concerned with what other people are doing and how it reflects on you.

    As far as heteronormativity, it's not only the notion of chasing the white-picket-fence ideal, but also the idea that gays need to do this or that thing that is typically associated with straight culture in order to be more accepted. Gays need to stop sleeping around, they need to stop having pride parades where they run around in their underwear, they need to stop speaking with lisps, etc. etc. etc. Any sort of policing of the gay community to weed out stereotypical gay aspects so as to be accepted by the straight community - in essence, telling people they need to "behave" - is the real issue of heteronormativity.

  5. I have to piggy-back on my earlier comment: what you write here as your personal approach to all of this seems noble initially, but I do suggest you read over your other posts with a self-critical eye. I think the majority of them ARE heteronormative in that they typically isolate a specific aspect of modern stereotypical gay culture, often with the underlying suggestion that these people need to "straighten up and fly right" - which, for most gay men who don't identify with stereotypical aspects, means "acting straight."

    There is one post in particular, I think it's the one about gay pride, where you use the analogy of a hyperactive student and how that student prevents others from being visible/present/etc. If you truly believe that everyone should be able to do whatever they want or express themselves in whatever way they want, then your examination of gay culture is irrelevant - or rather, examining it is not problematic, but by then prescribing specific remedies (usually of the "stop being so stereotypical" strain), you move out of examination and into heteronormative demands.

    Again, this is not an attempt to attack you, but I'm making an observation that is extremely relevant to this post and hopefully enlightening to you. Nobody is telling you that you have to like anything other gay men do OR participate in it, but I do think you yourself fulfill a lot of stereotypes - most obviously those of the militantly heteronormative gay male (using the word "bro," for example, and really the majority of this blog's content) who wants everyone else to behave and stop prancing around.

    In the end, no matter how much it aggravates you, everyone IS going to do what they want, and THOSE are the gays that don't give a shit what people think about them, regardless of their behavior. If you want to be represented, then get out there and represent yourself. This blog appears to be an attempt at that, but I would suggest finding a way to represent yourself that isn't contingent solely on the "well I'm not like the other gays!"-style argument.

  6. I totally agree with the post above! And like that person said it isn't an attack. If any community should be open and diverse it should be the gay community.

    Young gay kids are being bullied, discriminated against, and some are committing suicide. It is up to us to make sure that the gay community is a welcoming place of refuge for anyone whether they are "feminine", "masculine" or anything in between.

    The whole "fem" vs "masculine" debate has never made sense to me. Who cares? We're all going through similar experiences. The entire debate just seems regressive