What is Homonormativity? Why is it Toxic?

Last semester, I took my first Women and Gender Studies course. It was an intro to LGBTQ+ studies and, while I didn’t expect to learn anything I didn’t already know from the internet, it helped me become more aware of certain topics.

My class studied a variety of terms. Some were familiar and others were outdated but there were a few new ones. Including the term “homonormative” (not to be confused with heteronormative). 

“Heteronormativity” was brought to my attention when I took a class on British drama. Heteronormative is the belief that heterosexuality and cis-gender identity is the norm. Basically, boy and girl. Man and wife.

It makes the assumption that everyone is straight and exists in a strict gender binary. There are instances that feel very heteronormative. Including “having a white picket fence with the woman in the kitchen and a man who works a 9-to-5 while having two kids.” I’m not saying that is wrong. If you live this sort of life and have a healthy relationship with it, fine. You-do-you, boo. But when this becomes the preferred “normal” and anything outside it is preposterous, then we may need to do some reflecting. 

 

Homonormativity works in a similar fashion.

 

It takes what is considered “heteronormative” and projects those ideals onto the LGBTQ+ community. For instance, if you are a gay man, homonormativity would be saying you are “not like other gay men,” and dismissing the diversity that is present throughout various communities. If you insist on not being like “other gay men,” then you are implicating heterosexual ideals into the queer community.

An article on pride.com describes homonormativity as: “a set of rules used to decide which people in the queer community are the best.”

This creates a lot of problems, including internalized homophobia, because it’s implying that if you are queer, you can only be an “acceptable” queer. Aka, the most straight queer person you can be. Believing in these ideas is demeaning and mentally exhausting–it shows that if you want to be “different” you still have to follow certain set-guidelines in order to be socially accepted. 

Homonormativity comes in many different forms and oftentimes goes unnoticed. For instance, I recently came across a meme that was stating heterosexual love and queer love are the same. When, actually, they’re not. I know what the meme was trying to say–that love is love! But if we look a little deeper, queer relationships and heterosexual relationships are not the same, and implying that they are is saying that queer relationships are only valid if they are like heterosexual relationships. 

The meme is an example of homonormativity being implemented into our society. It is hidden by something that doesn’t appear to be explicitly homophobic when it’s actually working on the same ideas presented by heteronormativity.

 

And what can we do to stop this?

In order to dismantle the ideas that are implemented into our society, we have to recognize them.