Let us remember that heterosexuality which seeks to differentiate itself from homosexuality by imposing boundaries between it and the homosexual-other is heteronormativity. Now, let us explore in greater detail the contents of this ocean.
For the sake of the arguments to follow, we will use the term “homosexuals” vis-à-vis discussions concerning heterosexuals. With this assumption, we will act as if conversation does not include bi or trans individuals. This is because we will adopt another assumption: that bi and trans sexualities are incomprehensible within a heteronormative paradigm. The heteronormative paradigm comprehends its self-perception vis-à-vis its perception of the homosexual. From the heteronormative perspective, there is only the homosexual as the other.
Perhaps it is this way we can reclaim a particular definition of heteronormativity through contextual morphology, or, language. An irony of the concept of heteronormativity is that it can only be understood within the context of the heterosexual/homosexual dialectic. Literally, heteronormative would be ‘other-normative’, derived from the Greek adjective ἕτερος: ‘another,’ ‘different’. Only in a certain cultural context does the hetero in heteronormative correlate to the hetero in heterosexual.
But does this mean that one cannot understand the hetero in heteronormative without understanding the hetero in heterosexual? Perhaps not; perhaps it is that one cannot understand the contextual hetero (as in heterosexual and its contextual cognate heteronormative) without understanding the morphological and etymological hetero of what I propose as the core of the heteronormative paradigm. This proposal is as follows.
In the heteronormative paradigm:
- The heterosexual person views the homosexual person as other, and proceeds to evaluate the homosexual person as other-against-self.
- In this system, the self is the seat of normativity, or, the self-as-norm.
- This implies that the other (which is not the self) is not the norm.
- The self-as-norm defines itself as much by distinguishing itself from the other as by its own perceived standards of itself. Thus, heteronormativity’s focus is on the other but only in so far as it is the other-against-self; the antithesis to the
The self-as-norm becomes such through the conflict of other-against-self. In this, either the self must triumph over the other to become the norm, or the self triumphs over the other to become the norm by virtue of itself. In other words, the self must either actively overcome the other to assert its normativity, or it must assert its normativity prior to the declaration of overcoming the other.
Correlatively, the self-as-norm becomes such through its own power to name the other, wherein the self-as-norm subjugates the other by naming it not the norm, or, abnormal. The ability of heteronormativity to name the other as abnormal is demonstrative of the power it exercises from its majority status. In another manner of speaking, the power to name the other as abnormal is actualized in and through majority status. However, where this argument may demonstrate the validity of the clichéd ‘power in numbers,’ this is only one facet of the dynamics of these power relations.