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What is homonormativity and how is its definition reinforced by society?

Drew Neumann

on 2 May 2013

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Transcript of Homonormativity

-Drew Neumann HOMONORMATIVITY To understand what "gay" means as an identity, we must first understand the concept of homonormativity, yet homonormativity is a relatively new and understudied concept... Homonormativity Looking at Google Trends, we can see that online searches for "homonormativity" and "homonormative" did not begin until sometime between 2010 and 2012 In comparison, searches for "heteronormativity" and "heteronormative" have been taking place for a longer amount of time and in greater numbers Two definitions of homonormativity have emerged within the research literature: "Homonormativity... does not challenge heterosexist institutions and values, but rather upholds, sustains, and seeks inclusion within them" - (Lisa Duggan 2003) "Homonormativity... was an attempt to articulate the double sense of marginalization and displacement experienced within transgender political and cultural activism" - (Susan Stryker 2008) To begin, let's start off with a quick exercise... Would you say that the young man in this picture is gay?

How about the next picture? What led you to your conclusions?
As you continue through the presentation, ask yourself a few questions:
What does "gay" mean?
What does "gay" look like?
What is normative for a gay identifying person? This picture from Google Trends reveals that the concept of homonormativity is mostly searched for in the United States... interesting These two scholarly definitions add to the more common understanding of homonormativity, which is defined on the LGBT Project Wikipedia page as a "norm that takes it for granted that everybody with any lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (homosexual) connection is and act as if they were homosexual" (Homonormativity). The scholarly definitions make this assumption, but add that actions described as "homonormative" are ones that are acceptable in a heteronormative society. Some more vocabulary, before we continue:

Heteronormativity: The institutionalized assumption that everyone is heterosexual and that heterosexuality is inherently superior and preferable to any orientations outside of heterosexuality (Michael Warner 1991)

Heterosexism: The form of oppression resulting from the ideology of heteronormativity (Sandra Jeppesen 2010)

Homosexual: A person that is sexually attracted to members of the same sex; A sexual orientation. The Question Now Becomes... What is "homonormative," and what does "gay" look like?
How does society reinforce these constructions? Researchers offer similar descriptions of what "homonormativity" looks like in Western society: "Homonormative gays and lesbians, by abandoning the radicalized mission of the original gay rights movement... 'have settled into a fairly bourgeoisie lifestyle-at the expense of those with less age, race, or class privileges, or for those whom this life does not fit'" -(Julie Tilsen) "Homonormativity-like heteronormativity-is an exclusionary process; inclusion is for select bodies-white, middle-class, consumerist, Western, and often gay male bodies who have access to the consumer 'freedoms' of the West and who have more to gain from respectable performances of gay masculinity" - (Dana Collins 2009) "A homonormative subject [supports] White, middle-class values such as consumerism, monogamy, and child rearing-a homonormative subject [does] not disrupt societal norms." - (Nathan Taylor 2012) Does society reinforce this concept? Do businesses and the entertainment industry buy into the descriptions that these scholars have put forth? Let's find out... Gays in television shows Gays in advertisements References Here's an interesting question: What happens when you perform a Google image search for "gay"? How do these images and videos reinforce the definitions and constructions of homonormativity that were earlier introduced?

Are most of the actors White, middle-class, monogamous and with children? Conclusions The scholarly definitions of homonormativity are indeed reinforced by US society in the mass imagery of gays and lesbians. This concept can be seen as limiting, as maintained by many scholars, but the implications of this are beyond the scope of this project.

Some future questions to consider would be:
What role does masculinity play in homonormativity?
What are the implications of the limiting definition of homormativity? Is it damaging?
What is homonormative in other countries?
Is "coming out" homonormative? What are the implications of this? Collins, Dana. “‘We’re There and Queer’ Homonormative Mobility and Lived Experience Among Gay Expatriates in Manila.” Gender & Society 23.4 (2009): 465–493. gas.sagepub.com. Web. 23 Apr. 2013.

“Homonormativity.” LGBT Info. Web. 25 Apr. 2013.

Jeppesen, Sandra. “Queer Anarchist Autonomous Zones and Publics: Direct Action Vomiting Against Homonormative Consumerism.” Sexualities 13.4 (2010): 463–478. sex.sagepub.com. Web. 23 Apr. 2013.

Lisa Duggan. The Twilight of Equality: Neoliberalism, Cultural Politics, and the Attack on Democracy. Boston: Beacon Press, 2003. Print.

Stryker, Susan. “Transgender History, Homonormativity, and Disciplinarity.” Radical History Review 2008.100 (2008): 145–157. rhr.dukejournals.org. Web. 23 Apr. 2013.

Taylor, Nathan. “U.S. Children’s Picture Books and the Homonormative Subject.” Journal of LGBT Youth 9.2 (2012): 136–152. Taylor and Francis+NEJM. Web. 23 Apr. 2013.

Tilsen, Julie. “Queer as Youth: Resisting the Homonormative of Identity Development.” n. pag. Print.

Warner, Michael. “Introduction: Fear of a Queer Planet.” Social Text 29 (1991): 3–17. JSTOR. Web. 23 Apr. 2013. And just because I like it so much, here's a video from Australia.
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