Category: heteronormativity

What Is Heteronormativity?

What Is Heteronormativity?

This is how it’s defined by wiki:

Heteronormativity is the body of lifestyle norms that hold that people fall into distinct and complementary genders (man and woman) with natural roles in life. It presumes that heterosexuality is the only sexual orientation or only norm, and states that sexual and marital relations are most (or only) fitting between people of opposite sexes. Consequently, a “heteronormative” view is one that involves alignment of biological sex, sexuality, gender identity, and gender roles. Heteronormativity is linked to heterosexism and homophobia.

This is from Civil Liberties Blog:

Definition: Heteronormativity is the cultural bias in favor of opposite-sex relationships of a sexual nature, and against same-sex relationships of a sexual nature. Because the former are viewed as normal and the latter are not, lesbian and gay relationships are subject to a heteronormative bias.

Two similar definitions, no argument with either of them. But if you take all this to another level, and talk about heteronormativity in a different context outside of its classic meaning, it’s gets interesting.

I ran across a post earlier today that talked about heteronormativity and owning the American Dream…in this case it was home ownership and laws. The post talked about LGBT home ownership and how it seems to be promoted through the concept of heteronormativity, and I didn’t find anything fundamentally wrong with it on the surface. The only issue I had was that it didn’t go into anything more than text book details, and clearly was not written by an LGBT person who has had any personal experience within the LGBT community. In other words, the extent to which the issue of LGBT home ownership and things like taxes went into only touched the surface and the author has no idea how complicated it can get. This is especially true with same-sex marriage not being legal in some states, where same-sex couples are required to pay inheritance taxes when one partner passes…unlike heteronormative couples.

To give two examples of how complicated this can get:

I knew a lesbian couple who were together for forty years. When one passed away the other avoided paying federal and state inheritance taxes because the one who passed away willed the property to a local museum as charity. She also made a provision in the will that the surviving partner would be able to live out the rest of her days in their home. Upon the surviving partner’s death, the home then goes to the museum. This is perfectly legal to do.

I knew a gay couple who did something I can’t repeat in writing here. They had friends in the county courthouse; the surviving partner did not pay inheritance taxes.

And the heteronormativity concept, or how the government and society promotes this with laws, is not just about inheritance taxes and tax benefits, because this comes into play:

When gay couples purchase a home and they are not married (and I would assume this is the same thing for straight couples who don’t marry, too…a growing trend in our society), it’s not always a 50-50 ownership as it is with heteronormative couples. In many cases I’ve known gay couples who have an agreement where it’s an 80-20 partnership, or whatever arrangement they’ve worked out. This means one of the people in this same-sex relationship owns more than the other, or, in most cases one has more control over the other…control being the key word here. This happens a great deal in gay culture, where one is more powerful than the other. And because so many gay men are held back and kept down all their lives, they are willing to suffer through anything to get that stability…even abuse from a controlling partner. In some cases there are gay couples in long term relationship and one of them never knows what it’s like to own anything tangible. He or she lives with the fear of losing everything every day of his or her life. So the way in which gay couples have been dealing with home ownership and finances has varied throughout the years, and now that gay marriage is legal in so many places I think that’s going to change and evolve into a more heteronormative lifestyle, which is this case comes down to protection and security that are promoted by these heteronormative laws.

And with that change comes a certain amount of heteronormativity. In this case it goes far beyond the proverbial American Dream and that proverbial white picket fence. In this case both partners in a same-sex relationship will be held to the same standards and laws as any married straight couple, if the same-sex couple is allowed to marry legally. And that will make them equals in a way many gay men and women haven’t been equals in the history of this country within their own gay culture, and yes, even those who have been in long term relationship because they didn’t know what else to do to survive. I don’t think I’ve seen this portrayed any better than in the recent HBO film about Liberace, Behind the Candelabra. If Liberace had been married to his younger partner, you can be damn certain he would have been paying alimony and the partner would have received some kind of property. But in that case, Liberace held all the power, as many wealthy gay men and women without his notoriety do all over the country. And those who do not hold that power usually wind up with nothing in the end, despite anything they put into the relationship.

I know many won’t understand this at a glance, and I’m NOT promoting heteronormativity by any means. I’m just stating examples of how sometimes heteronormativity in a convoluted way helps gay couples, and here’s an example I think is something most of us have either experienced or seen. I have a family member, a male, who bought his home with money he’d saved working while he was single. When he met a woman and married, she came to the marriage with nothing of financial worth (no tangible assets). Nothing wrong with that. Many couples start out that way, and these two were both still very young. As time passed, they had kids, they both worked hard, and dreamed of HEA. However, at one point in the marriage the wife decided she wanted a divorce. Of course it was more complicated than that, but I want to keep this simple. And when she divorced the man she received half of everything he owned, including his property and his pension, which is how this works in the state of New Jersey. If this had been a gay relationship and the same-sex couple had not been legally married, the partner who came to the relationship with nothing tangible would not have received anything…unless he was particularly litigious. Most of the time they still get nothing in the end.

There is this concept out there that all gay couples are these perfect people incapable of any wrongdoing. When the fact is that there are just as many sleazy abusive gay men and women as straight men and women. And one thing legalizing same-sex marriage will do for many vulnerable gay people is to protect them and give them the same rights as straight couples. And in this case, the concept of heteronormativity isn’t necessarily a bad thing at all. I always see the argument that heteronormativity is a negative thing, and that it’s promoting an agenda that may or may not be fair to everyone. But the fact is that gay and straight couples are not all that different by nature, especially when it comes to anything that involves finances and property…or gender power. And even though all gay couples work out various arrangements just like straight couples (pre-nups), it’s virtually impossible for them to keep their finances separate if they remain together for a long period of time.

So this notion of heteronormativity can get more involved than what’s just on the surface. I try not to get into things that are this text book technical in fiction, but here on the blog I think it’s important to talk about these things sometimes no matter how complicated they are, because there are many gray areas that people who aren’t gay don’t realize. And while I despise the general concept of heteronormativity in the classic sense because it promotes this image of what we are all supposed to be like, there are times I think it’s important to have laws and rules that also protect gay people in the heteronormative sense from some of the issues that have been in gay culture for a long, long time.

I actually know gay men who will state that they will not even entertain the idea of taking a partner unless he can come to the relationship with his own money and pay his own expenses…or half of the expenses. You don’t hear that often in the heteronormative world, especially now with changing roles where women are starting to earn more money than men.