Comment Rescue: What, if anything, is Wrong with the Theory of Heteronormativity?
Kazzy asks the question and North answers:
I can try to put into words my distaste for the concept. Apologies if they’re scattershot or incomplete; I never immersed myself in that field (I avoided it in fact).
First in my experience with it I’ve always gotten the impression that in the word “heteronormative” queer studies profs were seeking to forge a linguistic blade that they intended to wield on behalf of non-heterosexuals everywhere much in the manner that the word racist was used (and overused and now days apparently used to death) by the heirs of the great racial civil rights activists or the way sexist was used by feminists. My own opinion is that this is a category error of the highest level and risks repeating the most dreadful mistakes of those two civil rights struggles which preceded (and indeed gave birth to) the gay civil rights struggle.
Second from my own understanding of this field the general thrust and desire of queer studies groups was to forge a brave new world from which all traditional social structures would be torn down. Gay rights in general and the struggle against heteronormativity in particular were intended not specifically to better the lot of gay people who have been oppressed but rather to liberate the entirety of society from heteronormativity (which would incidentally help gay people in theory). While I’m not one to wave the flag of traditional social mores the idea of a miniscule group of social science professors attempting to engineer the social mores of society in general was distasteful. Just as bad it is unrealistic in that particularly distasteful manner that fringe theories are in that they presume that the great masses will be moved if the right minority hectors them sufficiently.
Third, pragmatically, is the simple fact that queer studies implies that homosexuals are somehow uniquely different from heterosexuals when all personal experience (and the progress made socially in the civilized west generally) suggests that instead homosexuals and heterosexuals are very much alike. Both gays and straights desire to love and be loved. They largely desire stability, security, companionship and reliability and they generally wish to have the freedom to choose for themselves how much of those goods each desire in their own relationships. It is only in turning away from the recommendations of queer studies groups and ditching the poisonous charade of heteronormativity that the gay rights movement has made its greatest advances. Marriage, military service, ordinary civil rights, the pursuit of these things (embraced in the 90?s in defiance of queer studies demands that they be spurned as heteronormative) has turned the masses of the people from generally repulsed by gays to sympathetic to us and increasingly scornful of those who would condemn us based on animus with the fig leaf of religious dogma. It is telling to me that queer studies leftists stand right along side moral warrior rightists in intense puckered revulsion at the sight of gays happily going about their lives and melding back into the population as if homosexuality were nothing more special that red headedness.
Finally, alas anecdotally, is my own personal experience with professors and other gays of their generations (also their younger acolytes) and my personal experience with reading what they write about all things heteronormative. Their wounds (inflicted to be fair by right wing conservatives and right wing social conservative ideals in practice) have left them twisted to my privileged eyes. They’ve crossed out of the wasteland of gay oppression but they carry that terrible era in their hearts still. I have always had the impression of a desire for vengeance that burns in their collective motivations. It is not adequate, for them, that homosexuals flourish and be happy. No we must also assail every stone of the previous social order and leave not one atop the other. This is to be our reckoning on the social conservatives who tormented us so; the utter dissolution of all of their works. Well I’m privileged. I was born in ’79 and came to my orientation only in the 90?s. I’ve never suffered the way the preceding generations have though I know many of my generation did. I’ve seen how each succeeding generation of young gay people are becoming increasingly unafraid and how as they have done so they’ve become increasingly indistinguishable from their straight peers. Heteronormative is a battle cry for a war that gay people neither need nor desire to fight. They would have us seek to tear all social mores down, look at the scars that would result and call it good.
I reject the theory of heteronormativity because I think it’s wrong. I think it seeks to divide apart people who are more or less the same. It is wrong in spirit; am I so utterly different than my brother who is straight; I know this to not be the case. It’s wrong in motivation; the social right’s worst fear is to be ignored and for us to flourish indifferent to their fulminating. Consider if you were the slavering anticipation that glows in right wing writing when they contemplate the assault of the cultural left and wrap the mantle of victimization about themselves “the homos are coming to throw us to the lions! We’ll be martyrs again! We’ll know we’re righteous; just like the martyrs in the bible! No, I’d rather get married, buy a house and maybe adopt a cat or two and let the social right caper on the sidewalk like a demented South Park Mel Gibson “Look at me *mwargle* they’re torturing me!” Finally heteronormativity is simply wrong in practice. There is no natural historic inevitability to the advance of gay rights. Our rights have advanced because we’ve chosen correct paths and eschewed incorrect ones like the theory of heteronormativity. If we listened to the Queer Studies profs we’d still likely be where we were before we turned from their guidance: angry, marginalized and sequestered away in our gilded urban ghettos. All I can do is echo the younger gay generations because they’re right on this: Look dudes, I know you were hurt and it sucks and we’re sorry for you but we won’t fight this war; we’d rather play Nintendo, get married. make home brew, complain about our boyfriends and cats and do all the other millions of things everybody does when they’re free to do what they want.
And crap, this is way too long. Sorry man.
Not too long at all