Heteronormativity

Heteronormativity is a term that has recently surfaced within the last 20-25 years which is coincidental in the notion of this term continuously playing a huge role within society many years beyond that. It has created the set binary that society has formed relating to gender roles and lifestyles. This term has created a hierarchy within sexuality, and anything that falls outside of these set patriarchal molds becomes a minority, mostly in relation to the LGBTI community, but also including other racial and class communities.

In the late 19th century heteronormativity was strongly challenged when a large of white males migrated to Northern California for the Gold rush. In Clare Sears’ article “All That Glitters,” Sears states that over 95 percent of the migrants were men and this led to, “[…] thousands of young men struggl[ing] to organize their social, sexual, and domestic lives in the virtual absence of women” (383). The marginalized family structure that these men had left to find gold created a space of emerging practices that fell outside of the perpetuated role that they had carried before. This led to habits of cross-dressing, dancing, and household chores which shaped gender relations and what it meant to be a working class male during this time. However, with the white succeeding male that fell on top of the social ladder creating these alternate gender norms for men, led to pushing away the minorities even more so, especially the Chinese immigrants who were now sanctioned as “indistinct.”

In more recent times on the other side of the world in Iran, transexuals and transsexuality became more popular within society and more accepted. In Afsaneh Najmabadi’s article, “Transing and Transpassing across Sex-Gender Walls in Iran,” the idea of government approval of gender confirmation surgery links to the set notion of maintaing heteronormativity. Najmabadi states, “[…] the religio-legal prohibition of same-sex practices does contribute to pressures on gays and lesbians to consider transsexuality as a religiously sanctioned legal alternative…” and following that a citizen of Iran states, “Once I was diagnosed as TS (transsexual), I started having sex with my girlfriend without feeling guilty” (25). The set binary of heterosexual relationships enforced within Iran has set this idea that being diagnosed as TS is a cure to becoming officially apart of the norm within society’s standards of relationships. These expectations and demands enforced upon the Iranian citizens to be heteronormative has produced this sense of an answer, however,  these surgeries are just a “fix” to the so called problems that the government sees within this community. Within this country there is little acceptance of falling between the scale of male and female, and many are forced to choose between one or the other.

The idea that society has created this set concept of needing gender dependent roles has influenced cultures around the world to build lines sanctioning off what is “normal.” Heteronormativity has always been a leading standard of normatively surrounding gender and what is expected from individuals. Many cultures and communities have come up with what they feel is a solution, but in reality is it?

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One thought on “Heteronormativity

  1. Heteronormativity was the term I almost did for my first blog post. It’s a term, like many of the others from the list we created in class, that is incredibly subjective and is more than likely defined by culture. It’s a social definition that forces individuals to fall into two distinct gender roles, male or female, and leaves no room for ambiguity or misinterpretation. This has huge ramifications for the LBGTQ community in that it forces everyone to be put into a box that probably doesn’t define you. Empirically speaking, I am at odds with this for a number of reasons. I think it’s easy to pidgin hole this term and attach negative meaning to it entirely. But, take a homosexual male or female for example. If a woman, who is assigned a woman at birth and identifies as such acts, dresses, talks, walks, jokes, works, (etc.) like the societal definition of what a woman should, (thus defining her as heteronormative) but she happens to be a lesbian, does this suggest she is not living honestly? Can someone fall into the heteronormative category outwardly in every regard but still identify as gay? Its certainly a provoking thought. It just goes to show how far reaching these social constructs of identity are. Do you have to conform to societal definitions of what it means to be a trans or homosexual individual? Is there a “homonormativity” or a “transnormativity”? I think that everyone makes judgements, we do it every day to everyone and everything around us; these social constructions are built into our heads at a very early age. And as you grow you begin to look at people and make all of these dimensional distinctions about what you see or judge them to be. I’m talking things like… Male or female? Black or white? Old or young? Gay or straight? This is all subconscious, but eventually it will get so deep that we begin to treat people differently in all of the ways we perceive them to be different. Rather than seeing everyone under a single judgement: a human being. That sounds altruistic and far-reaching but it’s ultimately the truest label we all have in common.

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