There are people in the world — young boys and girls, teenagers, full grown adults — who are emotionally and physically abused and beaten for not fitting into the heteronormative standards society has placed upon them, us…the human race. For no apparent reason, a homosexual man was recently beaten and almost run over by the CEO of an oil company in Texas. Transwomen — particularly those of color — are being murdered…the narrative of their legacies being tucked away by media who would rather portray trans-lives as a commodity meant for consumption. Last week, a man with whom I had every intention of fucking became abruptly enraged (while lying naked in my bed) by the fact that I wasn’t “sexually fluid enough to bottom for him.” The fluidity with which I carry myself by painting my nails, wearing “women’s” clothes, etc, branded me a tease who shouldn’t “lead people on.”
Hetero-normativity, in a nutshell, states that every human being is born either a man (penis, macho, breadwinner, pussy penetrator) or a woman (vagina, feminine, kitchen-guru, dick storage). Additionally, it suggests that heterosexuality is the only “normal” means to establish a human connection. Similarly, in the case of my effeminate-top–shaming friend, homo-normativity suggests that masculine women are butch, scissoring dykes, and effeminate men are bottoms who are just a Drag Race episode away from turning into a queen. Hetero-normativity — this concept that cultivates centuries-old ideologies that define everything by “this or that” (black/white, gay/straight, rich/poor, etc.) — isn’t anything new. Politicians and activists such as Hillary Clinton and Jon Stewart attempt to disrupt this narrative by promoting marriage equality and denouncing racist and homophobic statements by their counterparts. What is new, or, what isn’t yet being discussed, is the frightening realization that this homo-normative dialogue being promoted within the homosexual community is more powerful and degrading than hetero-normativity AND continues to fuel that narrative.
If you’re a man, you should be straight. If you aren’t, though, it’s acceptable if and only if you play the part you’re supposed to play, based on your skin color, the tone of your voice, how you dress, and your physique.
I have fallen victim to this stereotyping on multiple occasions. Once while on a date, my counterpart asked, “So, what initially prompted you to dress like a woman?” While I am in no way uptight enough to take complete offense to such a statement, I couldn’t help but assume this man met with me for my physical appearance alone — to perhaps fulfill some sort of fantasy that only an “effeminate man” can fulfill. A prominent Chicago drag queen once shared a story on his Facebook timeline describing an encounter he had with another man he met on Grindr. After they entered said queen’s apartment, the man noticed all of the dresses and quickly asked, “Are you a drag queen?” When the man answered, “yes”, the visitor abruptly grabbed his stuff and walked out of the apartment without saying a word.
The judgement and rejection we feel from peers after acting against “normal” human behavior (which, if you’re a gay man, is just being yourself) places all of us out of touch. You really want to compliment and start a conversation with the beautiful, fit guy who’s wearing the same shoes as you on the train, for example — but you don’t. You remain silent. You’re afraid the glares and telepathic hisses from commuters make you think your kindness is outside the scope of what normal people should do. On top of that, you’re afraid that the person catching your attention will think the same thing and ignore you, or, say something hurtful. As a gay man, speaking out in public (while without the company of at least one other friend for support) doesn’t happen as much as it should, if at all, as the fear of judgement and rejection in the form of verbal or physical abuse is always, ALWAYS lingering in the forefront of my mind.
This country is notorious for waiting until a horrific or generationally damaging event for a positive change to occur. It took the highly publicized killing of multiple black men by white police officers for this country to realize and accept the notion that racism is alive and well in the United States. It took one young terrorist’s attack on a church in Charleston, resulting in the murders of nine people, to determine that it isn’t in our country’s best interest to sell or display the Confederate flag — a historical symbol of oppression and hatred. In a world where technology is becoming easier to communicate with and trust than people, where social anxiety and depression are more prevalent than ever, choosing to ignore or condemn another man before getting to know him — his soul — will ultimately lead to the degradation of the freedom and acceptance for which our (gay) allies are fighting.
Lately, I have made a conscious effort to say what I mean as I’m thinking it. To friends, to strangers –– to anyone. Just the other day, while visiting a restaurant on the north side of town, I told the server to give negative feedback to the chef about my meal. As minuscule as that output of energy seems, the reality that I had to make a conscious effort to muster up the courage to say anything at all is utterly a result of the rejection and oppression I have endured by the hetero and homo-normative actions of society. The next time you meet someone new, or see someone on the ‘L’ train you can imagine in your bed (or at the altar), consider listening to him before you listen to your brain. The worst expectations you can create for yourself (and allow to alter your presentness) are those that lack experience, understanding, or a simple introduction.