Homonormativity is defined as: norm that takes it for granted that everybody with any lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender connection is and acts as if they were homosexual. Homosexuals are commonly defined as: persons who are attracted to individuals of the same gender. Homonormativity is described as any person illustrating any homosexual norm or stereotype to be homosexual. Homonormativity creates an assimilation of sexual citizenship; it develops a label for a marginalized group of peoples that have a commonality: a difference from heterosexual orientation. A common counter to homonormativity is heteronormativity, where heterosexual orientation and behavior is marginalized, ignored or praised in society, whether that be practiced by beliefs or policies. Both homonormativity and heteronomativity create a normalcy for both communities in society. Normalcy is commonly defined as: the state or fact of being normal, the conforming to a type, standard or regular pattern. Creating a “norm” for individuals within a group can have consequences for the group and the individual. “Norms” become expected and/or stereotypes which can be detrimental emotionally and mentally to the individual who wants or expresses to expose difference.
Stereotypes of homosexuals
Stereotypes are generalizations or assumptions people make about all persons of a particular group. Most of stereotypes are based upon image or what people in a particular group look like.
Many times people “know” when someone is homosexual because of “cues” demonstrated to them by appearance, behavior, or movement. Those “cues” are stereotypes that are illustrated to the public through the media and word of mouth. Most Some of the most popular and relevant stereotypes can be seen on television shows, such as: Will and Grace, Queer Eye for the Straight Gay, The L Word, and The Ellen Show. Some of the major stereotypes are: the masculine or butch lesbian, the “lip-stick” or very feminine lesbian, the very feminine gay man, and the most prevalent in the media, the self-confident extroverted gay man. The perpetuated stereotypes in the media misrepresent the homosexual identity and create an individual identity for the entire group.
However, there are positive aspects of having homosexuals in the media. Media allows for acknowledgment of homosexuals and with more exposure to homosexuals and possible lifestyles they may have, stereotypical or not, may lead to more acceptance. The media that does have gay characters, generally, have positive characteristics and illustrate themselves in a fair light. The comedic approaches may enhance stereotypes but it also allows humor to enlighten and show positive aspects of homosexual individuals and sometimes it allows for stereotypes to be made fun of.
Examples of homonormativity
The use and word “partner” in the past meant a “significant other,” or the person who one was romantically or intimately involved with, but now “partner” is the used as the “significant other” for a homosexual couple (this is an example of a conversion of heteronormativity and homonormativity).
The male homosexual has a stereotype of being flamboyant, feminine and extroverted characteristics. The presence of an individual that is heterosexual, but may have qualities or gestures like a stereotypical gay male may have, may lead to others thinking or believing that he is homosexual. Also, if a male shows an extreme interest in fashion, products and spends a lot of time getting ready in the bathroom, then he may be mistaken for a homosexual. The same example goes for heterosexual women who may have qualities that are masculine or described as “butch” may be described homosexual or thought to be homosexual.
Homosexual Pride and Success Leading to Homonormativity
Although homosexuals have gone through and continue to go through discrimination, much like other minority groups in the United States, the success of the developing acceptance is growing, and homosexuals and homosexual activists have worked hard for the growing acceptance. Over the past couple of decades, homosexual pride has been organized through clubs, organizations and word of mouth. Homosexual pride has been demonstrated through parades, public gathering, rallies, protests, signs, internet postings and blogs, etc. Most of the demonstrations are in major cities where many people can participate. Homosexuality has been illustrated through rainbows and other symbols. Homosexuals and activists have been combating negative homosexual stereotypes and conservative beliefs about homosexuality, and have been gaining strength. Homosexuality has been gaining positive exposure through the media, political policy and studies. Throughout time, with the growing acceptance of homosexuality, more and more people have been able to “come out of the closet” and express their true selves as homosexuals. Although homosexuals are in the minority, homosexuality is now being accepted by the majority of Americans.
Homonormativity from the past to the future
The American society has been predominately heterosexual and very patriarchal. Many viewed the male being very masculine, or: protective and dominate, and the female being very feminine, or: gentle and sensitive. The family was provided for by the father and cared for my the mother. But now, with time, heterosexual normative is being challenged by homosexual activism. Because homosexuality is becoming more accepted and welcomed in our society, there are new viewpoints of the male and female characteristics and the nuclear family. Although the American society is not comfortable with full acceptance, the homosexual appearance and acceptance is growing and becoming a greater aspect of American culture. Slowly the American public is adapting to generalized homosexual norms. Although this is positive because homosexuals are being recognized and slowly accepted into American society, these norms are generalized stereotypes that are being characterized for all homosexuals. These norms create homonormativity in American culture and society.
How homonormativity is used in the public/media
Today the media and the majority of Americans embrace and acknowledge the new visions of equality for homosexuals. Such articulations of equality and identity in the media and public eye can be illustrations of how homosexuals are gaining greater social and political progress in the American society. However, the new found equality and acceptance extends to a multi-billion dollar market targeting homosexuals which marginalises gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender individuals into one category. Now, homosexuals are becoming another consumer group or “queer cosmopolitan” and “culture production” that is expanding. The expansion of this new consumer group drives the above stereotypes and homonormativity.
Negative aspect of homonormativity
Many find homonormativity to be extremely negative for homosexuals and what homosexuals have typically supported and believed in. Many find homonormativity to be new neoliberal strategies to undermine citizens’ rights and erase the historic alliance between radical politics and gay politics, the core concern being sexual freedom. Because homosexual activists and gay right organizations embrace acceptance into contemporary systems that endorse normative family social roles and serial monogamy, it is believed that homosexuals are surrendering and conforming to heteronormative behavior. Major examples of this is: the support and determination of gay marriage and gay adoption. The new acceptance of homosexuals, homosexuals have accepted homonormativity, a politic that is actually upholding and sustaining heteronormative norms and phenomenons.
Another criticism of homonormativity is that homosexuality is what heternormativity has given it; however the majority of the benefits of heterosexuality has is not been granted to homosexuals. It expresses and gives the ideology for ‘virtually normal’ homosexuals, and it gives all homosexuals one identity that conservative heterosexuals deems generally adequate or stereotypically correct.
Another criticism is how homosexuals are becoming another group of individuals to be capitalized upon by the media, capitalists, and consumption. Homosexuals are another group of individuals that can be generalized and targeted for consumption. Another group to capitalize on the homonormative or generalizations about homosexuals are politicians. A subgroup of the left, or liberals can be described by sexuality, or homosexuals. The ideology for equal rights for homosexuals also align with other beliefs that can lead to further stereotypes. It is stated, homonormativity, “the ways in which the gay and lesbian movement has increasingly come to align itself with neoliberalism in the cultural sphere; this is including: promoting militarization through its campaigns against discrimination in the armed forces, promoting the privatization of welfare and healthcare guarantees through its focus on marriage and a social cureall, and promoting the excesses of capitalist over development through its general infatuation with the free market and consumer society as the best way to ensure gay ‘visibility’ and equal participation in American society”.
Possible explanations of homonormativity
In the past, and still some parts or individuals, in the United States, homosexuality is still seen as immoral and simply wrong. However, in the past decades, homosexuality has been slowly being more and more accepted by Americans and institutions. Homosexuality is now described as a human rights issue, and institutions and individuals fight for equality for homosexuals. With new opinions and ideas concerning equality, discrimination, and rights for homosexuals, there have been an increase amount of exposure towards homosexuality through political police, media and university studies. Questions of sexuality through the policy, media and sexuality studies have increased interest and attitudes towards homosexuality with the general public. As homosexuality is beginning to become more discussed and accepted, there have been stereotypes and “norms” for homosexuals, just like heterosexuals, created with the new exposure. As these “norms” for homosexuals are being created, homonormativity, or the idea that any person illustrating any homosexual norm or stereotype to be homosexual, was happening.
Consequences of homonormativity
Stereotypes affect a person in many different ways. Because homonormativity perpetuates stereotypes or generalizations about all homosexuals, there is a set norm that is being distinguished by and for all homosexuals. If an individual may have a differing lifestyle or differing way of expressing him or her self that is different from the set norm it may lead to may negative consequences. It could lead to internal exclusion within the whole homosexual community and to questioning of one’s selves identity. Because of the nature of how stereotypes are perpetuated throughout many or all institutions this internal exclusion could lead to an individual’s displacement within the homosexual community, but also society itself. Overall, for the individual, the labeling or mislabeling can lead to extreme personal issues.
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