Homonormativity

Imagine the perfect gay couple. They live together. They are not criticized by the public. They are not marginalized. They are accepted by their family. They are able to adopt not one, but maybe even two children. While most of the LGBT community would dub this scenario as a “too good to be true” dream, ABC’s Modern Family depicts this “perfect gay” couple. While I never paid attention to the standards the television show sets upon gay people, I started to look more into the show after I received an email from Montclair University’s LGBT community inviting me for the season premiere of the show. At first, I was a bit confused, and I could not clearly make the connection as two why the LGBT club would be sponsoring the show. It was not until I was sitting in the Rath, when my homosexual friend mentioned, “If only I could find someone like Cam.” That is when it clicked. Cam, who is a successful, homosexual lawyer in the show, is the dedicated boyfriend to his partner. I immediately burst with enthusiasm, “So that’s why they are showing the premiere tonight!”

On the way home, I kept thinking about the concept of the perfect gay couple. Most television personalities who have become open to the public have also brought with them a dedicated lover: Ellen DeGeneres, Jim Parson, Rosie O’Donnell, etc. While I am not denying the fact that perhaps even more single gay celebrities (I am including lesbians in my usage of the term “gay”) have “come-out” in recent years, I am particularly focused on this concept of dedicated homosexual lovers. In the show for example, Mitch and Cam, two of the main characters, are shown to define the modern, conventional family. However, sometimes these characters are too ideal. They fight and make up, they raise their daughter like any normal couple, and they share the same respect for one another. While I do like the portrayal of a gay couple as a “normal” couple, after learning the concept of “heteronormative,” I now wonder if there is also such a thing as “homonormative.”

By “homonormative” I mean the gay man or the lesbian woman who comes out to their family early in life, who brings home a single, devoted lover, who plans on getting married to his partner, and who eventually raises a family. In expecting the homosexual community to perform in such an ideal way, are we not creating a marginalized group within a preexisting marginalization? In expecting this normalcy in the homosexual couples, we tend to ignore the possibility of transsexual, transgender, and even people who are still questioning their sexuality. Is the model portrayal of gay individuals in Modern Family not defining a structure for the entire LGBT community? As I have mentioned many times before, particularly because it is an idea that bothers me immensely, do all homosexuals have to place marriage at the top of their priorities? And even if not that, do all of them have to conform into societies expectations and maybe even get married themselves?

Mitchell and Cam’s relationship in Modern Family reminds me of Mcruer’s argument about liberal reformists tradition emphasize on “sameness.” Mcruer mentions in his article Composing Queerness and Disability that some liberal reformists go by the catch phrase, “gays and lesbians are just like everyone else” (163). This can become extremely problematic because it strips the LGBT community from the idea of individualism. If some people start accepting the idea that being homosexual is ok as long as these individuals continue to “act like everyone else,” then the idea of “normativity” still has not left society. People will continue to expect certain qualities from the gay community, and instead of following the “heternormative” structure, society will begin to impose a new standard on the LGBT community: one which I would like to refer are “homonormativity.” 

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2 Responses to Homonormativity

  1. cdadas says:

    Great application of what we’re learning to a cultural context (Modern Family). I do watch the show and enjoy it quite a bit–but I am bothered at times by the way Mitchell and Cam are portrayed. All the stereotypes are there. Additionally, they fall into Sullivan’s view of gayness: wanting to be “just like” straight couples. What would Warner say about the show? It’s hard to find a gay character in the media who does not conform to some notion of “normalcy.” And the ones who don’t are often exaggerations or comic relief (think The Birdcage). I hope you continue to keep an eye out for the way LGBT people are represented in the media.

    • fatimam1 says:

      Yea…And after reading Oranges, I saw that Mitchell especially tries to change his gender (I believe that’s the rigth term) to appear more “girlish.” But Winterson says that being gay or lesbian does not mean you have to be the opposite sex. I liked that idea.

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