Compulsory Heteronormativity

In today’s world, as humankind is still in progress, we have a much more liberated world compared to past. In terms of politics, we learned discrimination is not a honourable case to be involved in and we tried to minimize constraints reflected on “other” races, “other” nationalities, in short all of the others that are not similar to “us”. “Us” is, without doubt, white, Western man. Despite all the back-drawed prejudices of others in the name of liberation, respect and equality, it does not seem to be the situation for non-heteronormatives to live in a peaceful environment.

Since I came to Amsterdam as an exchange student this term, I had the opportunity to experience daily-life with all the people from different sexes, genders not considered “normal” which is rarely the case in Turkey. Amsterdam made me face non-heterosexual world and I realized that these people do suffer from unequal rights mostly in other parts of the world. I questioned myself as being far away from that topic in the past and it really made sense to me to investigate about supremacy of heterosexuals.

In my opinion, only after we learn to respect all kinds of differences out of majority we are able to have liberal minds, which makes the world a better place to live for all people. That is the reason I decided to write my paper on compulsory heterosexuality. To come to main idea, my arguement will be dominantly on heteronormativity. I will try to prove that both heteronormativity and gender are social constructs, which means that they are all learned behaviours by society through culture, tradition and religion.

I will show a world where any norms and taboos exist, to turn our origins of nature. I will support my arguement by the works of writers and researchers on that topic. My whole effort will be on to claim that there is nothing called heteronormativity by nature, it can not be. We can not rule out the genes and instinct behaviour of people. It is just a coverage, to live in a reproductive and moral society. My final idea would be to accept all forms of non-heterosexuality as being “normal” , just like heterosexuality, by ignoring all social constructs to open our mind to a brighter world.

Review There is quite extensive research on studies of lesbians and gays and the compulsory heteronormativity. One major researcher is Adrienne Rich. She studied exactly what I tried to do in my own paper, the compulsory heterosexuality. Her arguement starts with the normality of lesbian sexualism. She points out that, men have some methods to have power on women that maintain their control, otherwise, like lesbians do, women would not be drawn to men.

They would attach to other women as sexual partners also, which she sees as more natural because it is the same bound between mother-daughter that continues with another female partner. She claims the reason why women need children is the fact that their male partners are not enough emotional,satisfying and caregiving for them, so they make children to built up stronger bounds. According to Rich, heterosexuality should be studied as a political institution, including power relations in terms of economics and human relations.

On the other hand, in compulsory heterosexuality, girls in their adolescent stages are bombarded with men superiority, helping them to ignore female bodies around them. Just like gender, heterosexuality is a learned behaviour in the light of Rich’s study. One other researcher on the area is Risman, who concentrated mostly on gender. We see the parallel lines in her and Rich’s article that, women have always been the underestimated ones both in society in public and in private sphere. The arguement goes on the same line as heterosexuality as a learned behaviour.

I took her gender article as the central work while discussing about gender inequalities. Like Rich, she insisted on repeating the constructed men dominated world. She also has some theories to get out of this power world . She does not only show ways but also show empirical studies done on males and females such as parenting behaviour in males and different results in different social environment. By drawing clear results of her theories, she opens another door to equality of males and females, followingly challenging gender roles and given individual shapes.

From inequalities of sex and gender, my next stop is citizenship. On citizenship, there are many supported strong arguements, all stating the difficulties of living as a homosexual. Richardson and Johnson, by their articles enlightened my way down to the citizenship. There are lots of many other writers on that topic of half citizenship, mostly arguing the same elements in their works. In short, the case in citizenship is that, homosexuals can not enjoy the same range of rights as heterosexuals do.

Because compulsory heteronormativity is dominant in societies and most of the institutions, in most part of the world today, homosexuals can not marry, have children, get certain jobs ( as school teachers). Examples can be multiplied. Taboos are all standing against to homosexual’s activities. Studies show that, homosexuals are forced to live in their closets as long as they choose not to hide their homosexuality. The fact is so visible that we can see it directly in law. This inequality of citizenship is in speeches of famous leaders ruling out the world.

There are mostly studies based on passing, homosexuals who pretend as heterosexuals just to live their own lives without restrictions. It is both institutions and public pressure that takes citizenship rights of homosexuals away. Despite the fact that compulsory heterosexuality is the central issue of homosexual arguements, there is limited work specifically concentrated on heteronormativity. Majority of the articles are about gay & lesbian rights and inequalities in terms of citizenship rights. However, almost every article reflects the normality of homosexuality contradictory to heteronormative theory.

All of them lay natural causes and reasons down on the table and accuse heteronormativity of being reproduction obsessed. Paper In this paper, my main arguement is to reject the superiority of the normal heterosexual and to equalize the non-heterosexual. So here is the question; what is normal? Who defines it? We have evidence that in the past, a long time ago, from the start of the first civilization, sex was a primary issue.

Putting aside people’s active sexual lives, homosexuality is known to be very common in Sumerians, Ancient Greek and Romans . Heterosexuality). I do not mean to say that homosexuality was common than heterosexuality but even in story of Gilgamesh the hero is said to be in love with the man he needed to fight with. One other thing claiming the normality of non-heterosexualism is the invention of terms . It was only 19th century the term homosexuality was invented, then followed by “heterosexuality” (Heterosexuality) . “Bisexuality” came later in 20th century to define people who do not have dominant choices for a sex partner. As it is seen even the terms are brand new in the history.

Before 19th century people did not have special names to refer to non-heterosexuals. Indirectly, they were not situated as the “other”. It is well discerned heterosexuality is a social construct and adopted as an identity (just like homosexuality) only since the middle of the nineteenth century. Adrienne Rich states this problem from a lesbian point of view claiming that with industrial revolution women are made to stay at home and held responsible for children by capital industrial economy and went under the control of men.

To keep the structure of the atomic family alive, we only need two, one male, one female, people, and then they may have children . Thereby, the female one can take care of the children and do the housework with the help of super-practical industrial machines, while the husband earns the money to buy them, where there is no space for homosexuality. “In a world in which so many television series from Brookside and Breakers to ER have featured at least one lesbian kiss; in which mainstream advertisements an have queer subtexts; and significant numbers of British cabinet ministers and MPs are now openly gay; in a world in which the British Prime Minister opposes Section 28, speaks in favour of social, including sexual, diversity (The Times, 3 May 1999) and supports equalization of the homosexual and heterosexual age of consent; where the British Sport Minister calls for gay footballers to come out to help combat homophobia in sport (Evening Mail, 15 May 1999) and where Michael Portillo has asserted (admittedly before losing the leadership competition) that the Conservative Party is inclusive of gays (Portillo, 2000), it may seem a bit odd to argue that citizenship is still being constructed in a heteronormative way. ” ( Johnson, p. 1)

It is true that we live in a heteronormative world, where most institutions and most part of the society is still in ignorent attitude for non-heteros. Johnson, later in her article continues to give examples of important world leaders as standing not very close to non-heterosexual world. They play tricky games , an example is Clinton, inviting homosexuals to White House and signing blocking agreements which does not create a space to live for the homosexuals.

Many of them says Johnson, do not attack on non-heterosexuals like Bush did, but they speak bitter also by stating that no one should judge someone only because of his/her non-heterosexuality as long as her/his homosexuality is in private sphere. What does that mean? It seems, homosexuals have right to do whatever they like in private life, but when it comes to public sphere, they ought to pretend like heterosexuals, which is called “passing”. As Diane Richardson (2000) points out in Johnsons article, there is now a considerable body of literature which analyses the ways in which ideas of citizenship are based upon certain assumptions about sexuality, in particular hegemonic heterosexuality’ (p. 257). These ideas an influence a wide range of citizen rights and entitlements, from issues involving welfare, superannuation, adoption, fostering, censorship, to those involving wills, death benefits and medical access/decision-making by partners.

It seems that lesbians and gays are not considered as full citizens because of the fact that they are not protected or supported as the nuclear heteronormal family is done in their public lives. On one hand there are low taxes or more welfare for heterosexual family, on the other hand there is the passing, hiding identities from the public. It is unequal to be forbidden if a kiss is not addressed to socially approved opposite sex but to a same-sex partner on the street.

It is unjust not being able to marry in same-sex conditions. There are only a few places where lesbians and gays live out of their closets and enjoy full rights of citizenship and it is very recently. Only in places such as Netherlands, London, New York you feel like a real human in public sphere. Other places condemns your homosexuality. You can not be promoted if you are a homosexual, nor you can enter politics, nor you can fight for your own rights. People feel enough sensitive just because they let you experience your sexual desires, but they all become judges and guardians if you be yourself in public. They accuse you of having mental disease, being psychologically infected or lacking ethics.

In my opinion, they can not bare to see lesbians or gays hand in hand in the streets because of the fact that they were taught to prevent holding hands with same sex when they were a child. Being a homosexual was something his/her parents avoided him/her to become and this homosexual word was filled full of hatred and pity. ” Gorton is more or less explicitly saying that it is OK to be gay as long as you pass as heterosexual in public – in this case as heterosexual friends, rather than same-sex lovers. You quite literally must not touch in public” (Johnson, p. 4). After addressing the visible troubles a homosexual has to deal with in daily life, we may ask; Is it worth to put pressure on homosexuals?

Now let me open the definition of “heteronormativity”; These include the belief that human beings fall into two distinct and complementary categories, male and female; that sexual and marital relations are normal only when between two people of different genders; and that each gender has certain natural roles in life heterosexuality is considered to be the only normal sexual orientation” (Heterosexuality) It is kind of an invented term that guarantees approval of certain types of sexual activity which is between two opposite sexes and abandonment of the same-sex, so we only have permission to have sex with the opposite sex partner ignoring other possible sexual interactions in the name of the society and institutions. Internet encyclopedia says; “It is used to describe, and, frequently, to criticize how many social institutions and social policies are seen to reinforce certain beliefs. ” In this point, we can not exclude gender from our topic anymore.

If we are dealing with constructed social norms, it would help much to talk about gender. To distinguish between sex and gender, in short we can reflect biology on sex and “given social role” on gender. It is so typical to dress a boy in blues and a girl in pinks. Why do we do that? For sure, we consciously or habitually try to give some roles to different sexes. It would be so easy if there were only two sexes and two genders in the world. Then we would have males as men and females as women. However, there are lots of variations spinning on sex and gender. It comes to me that, it is because we tend to simplify sexual courses in society that we emphasize heteronormativity that much.

To ignore all other non-reproductive courses, we gave certain roles to different genders, so no one would interfere with other’s work. To follow the classical Darwinian perspective in psychology, we assume that kinship and mating behaviours are for reproduction. Sex is one of the strongest drives in the organism for the continuation of the genes to next generations. In this perspective, it is believed that , we live to reproduce, so when it comes to mating, we choose strong, powerful, rich males ;which are better to take care of the self and children; as females or shiny haired, big breasted, not skinny, beautiful females ;which are more likely to give birth to a healthy child ; as males.

The aim of reproduction makes sense up to a point, where homosexuality is dismissed out of the club. However, especially with birth control technologies, sex is today not only for reproduction, it is for pleasure. People does not care about having children anymore. In addition, it is possible to have a child without sexual intercourse. Even the ideal female body size had changed and women also have freedom of their economies, they compete with men at work. They hire baby-sitters to look after their children while they make money. In short, people look for more flavour instead of reproduction on sex. In terms of sexuality and erotics, we seem to have left the Darwinian view behind.

To sum up, homosexuality is no longer a threat to further generations in the name of humankind, either homosexuality is by nature or nurture. There have been endless arguments if homosexuality is something that was already there in our nature, or it happens after we are given birth. According to some biologists, we acquire sexual essence before birth and that it unfolds as we grow and develop. To some theorists of American Psychiatric Association (APA), homosexuality is dependent on all environment, cognitive and biological factors. Genetic factors are strongly influencial on sexual orietation , which is neither chosen nor can be changed later on.

Heteronormativity)On the contrary, in the light of Money and his colleagues’ studies, hormones, gonads and chromosomes do not automatically determine the child’s gender role. This is to say; sexual behaviour and orientation are not innate, instinctive as male or female. (Fausto-Sterling p. 46) Nature matter hardly at all, there is no total biological basis in the categories of male and female. To put it clearly, people are not meant to have sex with only opposite-sex and it is not necessary to be born as a homosexual to practice homosexuality. If this is so, we can put the mask of any gender identity on a body. What can be done medically to encourage women to be engineers?

Are gays more suited to feminine jobs such as hairdressing or fashion stylist? Are there certain special behaviours or jobs for different genders? If our capacity is determinant on our gender more than sex, women can be as good as men in mathematics if they were not discouraged in school. Supporting this idea, it is found out by some psychologists that men and women use their brains differently. It means, if it is the gender roles that tells us which parts of our brain we should use , it is possible to separate gender from sex and regard homosexuality as normal. (Fausto-Sterling, p. 118) Homosexuality has a historical past. Diana’s humorous drawing is a good explanation. (in Sexing the Body, p. 1)

In Ancient Greece there were neither hetero nor homosexuals. By the end of middle ages only reproductive sex was good. Then sex and gender divorced and male male-lovers emerged. In the 19th century, females also have two different choices. Now we have six types as scientists know; heterosexual male and female, gays and lesbians, bisexual male and female. Last but not least, we have also transsexuals and transgender people. Different types of sexual orientation in different time and space can not be due to frequent DNA changes. So it is strong evidence that homosexuality have always been with us and what we call heteronormativity is just a social, cultural, political term.

To Risman, it is appearant that as long as women and men see themselves as different kinds of people, women would not be able to get the same life quality as men. ” There in lies the power of gender. In a world where sexual anatomy is used to dichotomize human beings into types, the differentiation itself diffuses both claims to and expectations for gender equality. ” ( Risman, p. 9 ) Internet Encyclopedia points out; “Heteronormativity is often strongly associated with, and sometimes even confused with patriarchy. However, a patriarchal system does not necessarily have a binary gender system, and vice versa it merely privileges the masculine gender over all others regardless of the number of others.

Still, heteronormativity is often seen as one of the pillars of a patriarchal society: the traditional role of men is reinforced and perpetuated through heteronormative values, rules, and even laws that distinguish between individuals based upon their apparent sex, or based on their refusal to conform to gender roles that are normal to their society. ” How do men control so much power over women? Risman claims they do it politely, by opening the doors, taking girl friends to their home at the end of the night. If women stop and think for a minute, it is not difficult to realize all of our need to be protected by masculinity lies in the roots of sex-role learning in childhood, beginning with vulnerable pink as opposed to strong blue.

Risman also found out that divorced fathers with a child see themselves more child-loving, parental oriented than those with a partner who also has at least one child. It appears that we are choosing our gender roles, or we are given these gender roles. If the environment changes and puts on our shoulders other genders jobs, we can again deal with that perfectly. Consider working women, who work all day and continue to work at home such as household and taking care of the children or a father living with his child. They both do double gender work, without any difficulty on other gender’s although career and children can be problematic at the same time.

Parenting is again mentioned by Rich, if parenting is increased among men, antagonism would decline and equalization between male and female power would balance. By gender, we choose roles , identities that would affect our chances, possibilities of life conditions. Gender has very strict lines of female and male such that a secretary or a nurse is a female but a doctor is not. Unless we break walls of gender in society, we can not reach equality neither in terms of women and men nor heterosexuality and homosexuality. In my opinion, gender is a cornerstone in studying heteronormativity. Because gender roles are not working in non-heteronormals, society and institutions are tended to push them away.

Non-heteros are unpredictable on their behaviours, sex-partner choices to heteronormals which creates come kind of fear of mystery. To sum up, as Risman mentions in her article, gender has to be defined in terms of social structure. There is nothing as gender in the nature. We choose, or make people choose gender. It is a framework that limits behaviours, life styles. In addition to Risman’s words, I say, as long as gender is a tool defining and predicting sexual courses, physical appearance and all other kinds of what we are, homosexuals would not get the same chances of life as heterosexuals. By gender, there is the system of roles, divided between females and males.

Non-heterosexuals are not in the picture because they do not fit certain roles and it is a reason to exclude them which is the miserable end. One more reason why homosexuality is labeled to be absurd comes from science. Many historians mark the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as periods of great change in our concepts of sex and sexuality During this period a notion of legal equality replaced the feudal exercise of arbitrary and violent power given by divine right. (Fausto-Sterling, p. 7) According to Fausto-Sterling, discussing Foucault’s ideas in her book “Sexing the Body”, society still needed to be controlled legal equality is given to people with the replacement by feudal regimes in term of sexual discourses.

To adjust the economy of population ( control ) and to come up with an academic body of knowledge of science, we are made to believe that there are only two sexes, followed by two genders, which is to create “a society of normalization” in Foucault’s term. Thereby, all the researches done and the scientific facts that are accepted as absolute truths by biologist, embryologists, physicians have found could be supported by their attempt to control the gender of the body. For instance; Testosterone is have more testosterone than estrogen in their bodies. This kind of a normalization and standardization contributes to humanist science that expecting the same behaviors, motives and capacity from males and females.

The controversy is that, science is really “true”, or we shape our lives to have devotion on scientific findings and not to upset doctor with their medical disciplines. We can conclude that positive science also works as a blockage in normalizing sexuality in different types other than heteronormal sex. (Fausto-Sterling) Conclusion I tried to emphasize how heteronormativity excludes minority of world population and kick gays and lesbians out of the game although it is something we invented socially. There always had been gays and lesbians throughout the history. However, accepting heteronormativity, meaning that there is a “normal” way for doing sex, referring the sex with opposite sex, we tend to ignore other possibilities of having sexual pleassure.

Society and institutions label homosexuality as “bad” while promoting heterosexuality. There is one point heteronormativity misses. In fact, there is nothing called heteronormativity by nature, it is self-deceiving to believe it since it is totally a social construct such as gender (as the prior problem). People set limits and defined what is normal or not. You take others beliefs as granted in the social context and choose the easy way to follow what they have taught you. If that is the case, in my opinion we have nothing to say but to respect all kinds of hetero or non-hetero sexual orientations, denying “normal” taboos of erotics and gender.


Hi there, would you like to get such a paper? How about receiving a customized one? Check it out