Homonormativity, Homonationalism and the Other 'Other'

03/19/2015 04:39 pm ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016

There has been an incredible increase in the amount of media coverage of gay rights, specifically the pursuit of gay marriage equality in the United States, covered by both queer and non-queer media. Although a movement for equality in relation to "gay rights" is worthy of mobilization, media coverage and policy changes, it is the ways in which particular queer media outlets address the topics of gay marriage, gay rights and the "fight for equality" that must be called to attention.

In my observations of following multiple queer media outlets, the discourse of "gay marriage," and, thus, "gay rights," has been shaped by an extreme liberal discourse of (human) rights -- in which there is a constant push and demand that lesbians and gays have the right to marry, as it is a right any human should have. This is dangerous. This insidious heteronormativity that is seeping into the gay and lesbian community is what Lisa Duggan addresses in The New Homonormativity: The Sexual Politics of Neoliberalism as:

Homonormativity: a politics that does not contest dominant heteronormative assumptions and institutions -- such as marriage, and its call for monogamy and reproduction -- but upholds and sustains them while promising the possibility of a demobilized gay constituency and a privatized, depoliticized gay culture anchored in domesticity and consumption (179).

In the lesbian and gay "fight for equality" for a right to marry, there is a reproduction of heteronormativity through the institution of marriage. The important questions that must be raised in the production of homonormativity include: What kind of gays and lesbians are to be included in this "fight for equality" through marriage? By who are these ideal, respectable, homonationalist gay and lesbian subjects being sought by and for what purposes? These questions outline the significance of how, through the processes of inclusion, there are still gay and lesbian (or queer) subjects pushed to the margins for their differences. These others continue to be rendered invisible even within the gay and lesbian "fight for equality." These "other Others" are often racialized, or non-normative: those who refuse or reject homonormativity, or those who are refused by it (for example, because of race). This "fight for equality" outlines who, exactly, is allowed to participate in a (white) respectable, homonationalist project of "good gay" subject-making and becoming.

It is clear how those who identify as gay or lesbian are considered "outsiders," even within their own communities, so, how might we keep feminisms open to "other Others" in its very commitment to collect forms of struggle?

First, queer spaces, including online space(s), need to be continually interrogated and challenged -- especially if these spaces reproduce homonormative ideals. Second, alliance building must occur within our own communities. However, in order for this to occur, we must determine who are allies are.

If we seek allies in our own community who refuse to include others (sometimes ourselves) in their politics, how are we to stand in solidarity with one another and resolve the very real issue of exclusion? Third, in order for change to occur it must be tangible, graspable, not (highly) abstract and theoretical: People need to hear it, see it, feel it. If you are as privileged as I am to study and learn such concepts as "homonationalism" (a concept developed by Jasbir K. Puar in Terrorist Assemblages) and "homonormativity," you will also realize theoretical concepts can lead you straight into a brick wall: Their ability to create concrete change is lacking.

If feminism(s) is(/are) to create any real change, it must start with the interrogation of and already-existing oppressive reality: The oppressive system of discourse of a liberal fight for gay marriage and equality. By no means am I arguing against equality and/or gay marriage, but "equality" should not stop at gay marriage. There are many more inequalities to be addressed and (further) dealt with.

Lastly, as Michael Warner states in The Trouble With Normal: Sex, Politics, and the Ethics of Queer Life, "Pursuing marriage means abandoning the historical principles of the queer movement as an antiquated 'liberationism,'" (Warner 91). Although the (queer) media landscape in the United States is operating on the continual struggle for gay marriage and "equality," it is important to realize that by simply refusing the structure and institution of marriage, one refuses the hetero-and homonormative.

Refuse the system. Refuse what others cannot have, and will never have, because they will never be considered citizens; they will never be included in a homonationalist and homonormative project. By participating in "gay" marriage, by participating in the regulatory structure and institution of marriage, hetero (and, thus) homonormative desire is reproduced. Again, this is dangerous. An interrogation of and a resistance to a particular Western (U.S.-centric) liberal human rights discourse of gay marriage and equality must occur in an attempt to cease the reproduction of normative, heterosexual desire. As Sara Ahmed (2002) claims (and I agree) in "This other and other others," -- "There is a violence of seeking to assimilate difference back into the category of the same."

There are "non-normative" (and the reality is there is a normative) individuals that continue to be pushed to the margins of an already-marginalizing reality in which particular queer media continue to disseminate messaging (or an agenda) of an ideal "good gay." Gay and lesbian media (continue to) contribute to the production of a homonormative and homonationalist subject, allowing for the reproduction and exclusion of "the other Other," of the invisible, and, often, of the non-white: The bad queer subject that is not respected, nor is represented as a legitimate subject of the nation.

In order for change to occur in the real world, a greater activism must occur: We need collective activism. We must also recognize the state of ambivalence that we will experience. How might we be able to continually challenge interlocking systems of oppression while simultaneously advocating for gay marriage, gay rights, equality, and trans* rights and equality? We must also hold queer media accountable of reproducing a normative gayness: queer media need to take responsibility for pushing a dangerous liberal agenda that creates the "good gay" homonationalist citizen, and, as a result, continues to exclude others: those who refuse and reject (homo)normativity, or are refused and rejected by it: those who are not, and will never be, the "good gay" citizen. We must recognize that these are the limits of liberalism: pushing for an agenda of gay marriage, gay rights, and gay equality at the expense of those "other Others" who are themselves excluded from this particular discourse. The solution is simply to refuse: Fuck normativity.

Please use the comment section to add anything you would like clarified or expanded upon -- or to stress anything you would like to see happen in terms of action projects around this particular issue. How might we be able to fuck normativity?