Calling out homonormativity is harmful and damaging

Shows like "Modern Family" are criticized for encouraging homonormativity. (x)

Shows like “Modern Family” are criticized for encouraging homonormativity. (x)

It’s 2015 and progress for LGBT people continues. In April, the Supreme Court will decide whether same sex marriage should be legal in all 50 states. Our country is even beginning to focus on transgender people, a largely ignored portion of the LGBT community. While the fight for equality seems to be moving in a positive direction, there are those who are holding us back.

I recently learned of a term called homonormativity. It comes from the term heteronormativity, which is the belief that heterosexuality is the norm and anything outside of that isn’t. I certainly understand why heteronormativity is painful to those within the LGBT community. There have been several times I’ve met new people and they’ve asked me what kind of girls I like. This assumption that I’m straight would be an example of heteronormativity.

However, it’s important to understand that heteronormativity doesn’t always coexist with hatred. We must learn to pick our battles. If we have to correct someone and tell them we prefer the same sex, it’s not because they believe we’re abnormal. It just never occurred to them. This is not an example of homophobia. We are a minority group after all. The problem lies with society in general, not the people who make false assumptions.

Homonormativity, on the other hand, isn’t the assumption that everybody is gay. However, it refers to gay people who live a lifestyle equal to what is perceived as mainstream heterosexual culture. A white gay male couple married with children living in suburbia would be an example of homonormativity. It criticizes the fact that in mainstream media, the only depictions of LGBT people are those that make heterosexuals feel safe.

While I agree that society in general should be more accepting of various races, lifestyles, and gender identities within the LGBT community, I can’t help but feel like we’re making progress. Laverne Cox, a black transgender woman, stars in the hit series, “Orange Is The New Black.” Last year, Cox became the first openly transgender person to make the cover of Time magazine. The hit television series, “How To Get Away With Murder,” even featured gay male sex scenes. These are examples of recent non-homonormative representation in mainstream media.

I also think it would be completely remiss to act like those who fit the homonormative picture don’t have their own struggles. Those who criticize homonormativity also criticize the fight for marriage equality, even though gay married parents are frequently bashed. They are accused of destroying the institution of marriage and denied adoption rights because they aren’t seen as fit parents. Bigoted people insist that it’s no kind of “lifestyle” for a young child to be brought up in. Not to mention the fact that family friendly shows like “Modern Family” are often accused of having a “gay agenda.”

This shows the problem with calling out people’s privilege. I’m not denying that privilege exists, but I never hear it used in a positive way. I never hear it used with the intention of uniting people. When people are told to check their privilege, they’re told to stay out of it because they don’t know what it’s like. How do you expect to make progress when you treat others that way? In the case of homonormativity, certain gay people are made to feel less worthy of fighting for their rights because they have white cisgender male privilege. Calling out homonormativity will not help anybody in the long run.

I believe mainstream LGBT representation should be more diverse. However, there are ways to go about it without creating divisiveness within our community. When the film “Bruno” came out, it was criticized by LGBT rights groups for reinforcing stereotypes. Those people claim that if we want equality, we must behave ourselves. If you ask me, that attitude is no better than the attitude coming from those who criticize homonormativity.

Creating a new term and throwing it around in this way will only separate those within the LGBT community. What we should be doing is uniting. We need to come together and recognize that we all bleed the same color. We’re not going to get anywhere if we continue to encourage a divide between the minority and the majority. And if we encourage a divide within the minority itself, it will only make things worse.

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