I was reading an article in my local newspaper about why some gay men are choosing not to get married, even though it is legal to do so now in the District of Columbia (Washington, DC.) Since DC adjoins my home state of Maryland, and since our state Attorney General issued an opinion a couple weeks ago that said that same-sex marriages should be recognized by our state, even though they cannot be conducted here, it makes the issue more “close-to-home.”

One reason that one couple interviewed for this newspaper article said that they did not want to marry was that they considered marriage as being heteronormative.

I thought for a minute, and while I intuitively knew what the word meant, it was a new word to me. So I looked it up, and found that the word was first used in 1991, and means this:

a pervasive and institutionalized ideological system that naturalizes heterosexuality as universal; it must continually reproduce itself to maintain hegemony over other non-normative sexualities and ways of identity construction.

It refers to marriage, traditional family values, values of organized Christian religion, suburbia, and the ‘the American Dream’.

Hmmm… this caused quite a discussion in our household. Are we “heteronormative?” Well, it did not take long for either my partner or myself to answer, “yes we are.” My partner and I have traditional values in that we believe in personal integrity, financial responsibility, and monogamity. We live in the greater snoburbs of our nation’s capital, but not in the city itself. We both do not like city life.

We have a single family home in a nice neighborhood. We have good jobs. Between us, we own three vehicles (my Harley being one of them.) In essence, we are living the American Dream.

There are only things that were not stated: 1) we do not owe money on credit cards or car payments, which is unfortunately typical of American Dreamers; and 2) we do not go along with the hypocrisy of organized Christian religion, though my partner is a practicing Catholic. Yet we violate his religion’s tenets, but I will not explain why. You can figure that out.

Is there anything wrong with being heteronormative? That is, because we are gay, does that mean that we must reject all things considered to be values and lifestyles of heterosexual couples? Is that a reason not to get married?

I don’t think any of these things are true. We value living a good, decent life, taking care of ourselves and our loved-ones, doing the right thing, and affirming our commitment to one another. The only things we have deliberately chosen not to do is to adopt children and to spend money we don’t have. Otherwise, we’re as heteronormative as they come.

We are still discussing this … your thoughts?

Life is short: live normally, however that’s defined.

2 thoughts on “Heteronormative

  1. My understanding of the term is that it implies a set of core assumptions about sex, gender and sexual orientation. More broadly, those assumptions overlap with others about culture, religion and lifestyle.

    You ask if there's anything wrong with heteronormativity. Arguably, anything suffixed with -normativity is potentially "wrong" in the sense that, in universalising one set of ways of being, it can marginalise/stigmatise those minorities who do not fit within that set.

    I'm not sure that anyone's claiming that being gay means having to reject all things considered to be the values/lifestyles of heterosexual couples. It's not an either/or situation. What is worth doing, in my opinion, is questioning the labelling of certain qualities "heterosexual" and some "homosexual".

    I have been with my partner for 15 years, the last four of which have been in a civil partnership. I tend to say (and think) "in a civil partnership" rather than "married" because I see a distinction between the cultural assumptions around my relationship and the the cultural assumptions around the relationships of my married siblings. I like to think myself and my partner have been able to mix 'n' match elements associated with hetero and homo as suits us.

    We're not heteronormative but I wouldn't say we're homonormative either. We're just us.

  2. A society that doesn't foster values that ensure its preservation (e.g. honesty, hard work, thrift, family formation) by incentivizing these things is probably doomed. I am quite dismayed nowadays at how bad behavior is being rewarded or ignored by our social institutions. Things that are ultimately destructive (e.g. consumerism, promiscuity, intolerance) are glamorized, moral failings are being "medicalized" (e.g. addiction), and time and again our leaders are proving to be men of very low integrity.

    I liked this post, and one of the things I like about your blog is that (for lack of a better word) you are a good citizen. Prudent, responsible, self-sufficient.

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