What is Homonormativity? – a rebuttal



A response to an article suggesting that people in the "Queer World" should be acting in a particular way and not conform to the so called norms of the Heterosexual world

In the last few days I have read a couple of articles in relation to Homonormativity including one by Jayson Flores in Pride online (see link below), both articles in effect indicating that Homonormativity is a conspiracy pushing people in the queer/gay community to conform to norms and standards which are generally found within the Heterosexual community, therefore arguing that Homonormativity is a conspiracy against those in the queer community setting their own norms and standards and being who they want to be.

The thing I want to say right from the off is that I truly admire Jayson and his view and I love him for it, however I do believe that his argument is leading us down a blind alley, and if I’m reading his article correctly he himself appears to come to the same conclusion, so I guess what I’m asking in this article is why we even need to go down that road.

According to Jayson; “Homonormativity is a privileging set of hierarchies, social norms, and expectations that cause the oppressed to oppress one another.”  In this statement his argument is that because of these so called norms and expectations the queer community is oppressing itself.  There is no denying that different elements of the queer community have attitudes toward other members of the community and that within certain groups there is a destructive element to how they treat each other, however is Homonormativity the cause of this oppression?  I mean how often do we see drag queens talking smack to one another, how often do we see on social media queer people commenting on someone in the trans community, but can we really attribute cause and effect?

A further argument is that “It encourages heterosexual mimicking wherein queer people get married, adopt children, attend church every weekend, and live in a suburban neighbourhood with a white picket fence”.  Admittedly he does say that there is nothing inherently wrong in wanting these things however his premise appears to be that through wanting these things queer people are influenced in who they interact with and who they help and who they support.  

I can only presume that what he is saying is that gay people begin to interact with the Heterosexual world and that this is what is detrimental to the gay community.  However I sincerely hope that that is not what he is suggesting, because that then seems to me that he is suggesting that queer people should only interact within their own community and does this then not create isolationism and even worse ghettoization.  Are queer people supposed to operate in clearly defined siloes, one for the queers, one for the straights, one for this, one for that?  His argument surely cannot be that in order be queer man you have to like effeminate men, I mean if one is attracted to for example another man who is buff and butch is this wrong, because its what “The Straight World” wants?

To argue Homonormativity tries, in essence to control how we feel about ourselves and others and it attempts to morph the queer community into the heterosexual community, having us act and live just like them I find rather a naïve argument. 

 All people in the queer community are not the same and I find it patronising to suggest that all members of the queer community should have the same aspirations, wants and needs, some in the queer community may want the house and picket fence, they may want to love another man or woman and not want to show outwardly that they are gay.  So to construct a construct that creates a definition of what the queer community do not want to be and then endorse its existence, by suggesting this is a construct of the Heterosexual community in order to define queer people and to grade the acceptability of those within it and to argue that the construct shouldn’t be accepted to me seems ridiculous and at best a distraction which wastes our time.

Humans are who we are and how we identify ourselves is important and how we treat one another is also important, but to suggest that that way queer people mistreat one another is because Heterosexuals are forcing their norms and standards onto the queer community does not address the actual actions that take place within the community, and so if the idea is correct then we are complying with the will of the Hetero community by creating this misleading outrage.  So instead of arguing that we shouldn’t engage in Homonormativity we should be fighting for a society in which there is no conformity constraints whatsoever and for a society in which we can be whomever we want to be.

I accept that there is still a high level of Homophobia and this is something we need to tackle on every level and from ever quarter of society.  I have often found myself looking at members of the queer community and in particular those who could be called ‘gym bunnies’ and at no point have I ever thought that they want to be buff looking because that’s how Hetero’s want then to look.  I have always found that people like that tend to be very image conscious, for example I know people who define themselves as androgynous and as part of the definition they want to aspire to is perfect androgyny, so to suggest that someone who wants to look buff or aspires to perfection is only doing it to conform to Homonormativity.  As a species human being discriminate, we see things we like and things we don’t like, we find it hard to deal with things we don’t understand and this breads fear and loathing.

Jayson does conclude that we need to let queer people be queer people and stop enforcing moulds created by a heterosexual world that wants us to be less like us and more like them.  However I do not agree with the premise at the end of the statement other than to say that WE need to break down barriers in the world that define people, we are all people when is all said and done, we need to create a society that accepts understands and embraces difference and does not try to pigeon hole us and which lets us be ourselves.  

To me the idea that the queer community needs to fight against Homonormativity in order to break it is a waste of time and energy.  Part of Jayson’s argument that in order to get away from the concept of Homonormativity we first need to know and understand it and then fight against it seems to me to be the wrong argument, he himself indicates that as a concept it is not commonly found outside of elite intellectual text, so this is not a concept that is even well known in heterosexual circles so why do we even have to accept is a concept, why can we not just reject it as a concept and an argument if it is not a widely accepted concept and build a world where everyone is accepted for who they are, it therefore isn’t the big deal he is trying to make it.  To therefore say that people who act in a certain way are constrained by a concept that not many people accept, know or understand is a false assertion which therefore makes his argument naïve in the utmost and therefore it is consigned to the dustbin of history, and allows us to be who we are, even if that by being hetero like by our own choosing.


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