Posted by: turtlebella | 22 April 2006

Blogging against heteronormativity

Hosted by Blac (k) ademic

So, I’m not a queer theory type. Heteronormativity is the only word like it that will show up in this piece. In college, I nearly fainted from the strain when I read Sedgwick’s “The Epistemology of the Closet” (what are all those words she uses?!). This makes me a little shy about participating in this day. But then I think, the way I have always approached the political is through the personal (check out Bitch Ph.D.’s amazing recent post on this topic). And so I shouldn’t feel inhibited, dammit! Not that anyone has made me feel that way, it’s completely my own inner conflict and angst. I’m pretty good at marginalizing myself all by myself. Right. Having dealt with that, let’s get to the good stuff.

I decided that it would be interesting to explore the intersection of heteronormativity and passing (the latter of which has come up recently over at the excellent Woman of Color blog). I am a queer woman in a straight relationship. I am a light-skinned Chicana who passes unless she says something about it. It makes me incredibly uneasy to exist in this strange place, being of multiple realities simultaneously.

I don’t want to pass as a straight white woman. And then I think, why the hell not?! Everyone who knows me just a bit knows my identity, in all its wondrous complexity and utter whackiness. But the random stranger on the street? The prospective employer? Anyone I don’t know but who might have power over me? Basically, unless I was male, there’s no way I could get closer to being the dominant. All that privilege, mine. Granted, it’s not like white, straight women have had it all that great and not to get into a pissing contest about who is more victimized, blah blah blah. But it could be worse. But I guess that I love who I am too much to let it all go. I’ve always been bisexual. So how come it’s only relevant when I’m with a woman? I’ve always been half-Mexican, always will be, and to just let that part of my history, and the history of La Raza, float away from me? I think not. I’ve known many immigrant parents who would like this to happen to their children. My Deer Mami was never like that, even if she didn’t speak to me in Spanish as much as she might have. It would just feel like a betrayal – of myself – of my brothers and sisters, mis hermanas y hermanos to be anyone but someone who is proud of who I am.

But, you know, it takes work. I’m always watching out to see if I slip into heteronormativity behaviors. Does what I do or say somehow validate heteronormativity? Shit, does walking down the street holding the sqvirrel’s hand reinforce the heterosexist nature of our (present) society? I once mentioned to the sqvirrel (my sweetie and husband-to-be) that I was a little upset that it would seem obvious to people that I am a straight woman. Being the peach that he is, he said he thought he should get one of those t-shirts (that were so popular when I was in college) that says, “I’m not gay but my girlfriend is.” Maybe I could make him wear it every day. Or just every time I want to hold his hand in public!

One of the freakiest places heteronormativity raises its ugly head is weddings. And oh my god, what am I doing but planning a wedding?! There was a second when I once thought that getting married was bourgeois and that no one should belong to someone else if we were going to have a revolution that overthrew capitalism. But that didn’t last long (still working on over-throwing capitalism though!) I tried open relationships, I totally sucked at them. I was completely miserable and decided it would take too much to change something like that about me, even if it was a culturally-imposed trait. I got too many other fights to fight, I thought. OK, so that leaves me here, with the person I want to spend my life with. Phew! I found him/her! But, weddings are really weird things. I’ve been to so many that just depressed me. The whole validating that a man and a woman are meant to be together, somehow mandated by god or society or whoever. This was especially emphasized at a wedding between a friend of a friend’s and his used-to-identify-as-a-lesbian wife, which I thought was hideously ironic. I don’t know her so I don’t know really how she identifies but you’d think that they would have requested that be left out. It’s interesting (in a horrifying way) that weddings are essentially heteronormative and sexist. Father giving bride away (could it be more obvious?). Maids of honor. Bridesmaids. Everyone pairing off in boy-girl partners, even though often the two don’t even know each other. Our relationship being mandated by the state because I am biologically female and the sqvirrel is biologically male. ICK. Never mind making our queer friends uncomfortable, I’d run out of my own wedding if I thought it would be like that. The sqvirrel and I talked about this stuff early on and so I think it’s going to be okay. Our parents think we’re pretty loony and I had a big fight my Deer Mami about whether if my dad were alive he’d be walking me down the aisle. (No one can fight like my family can- we even make up things to fight about!) I maintain no. I’m a thirty-one year old woman. No one is giving me to anyone else.

But a lot of people, regardless of their strong sense of feminism or how ever many gay friends they have, go tripping lightly into the wedding matrix and never look back. So I’m constantly worried this is going to suddenly happen to me. That the heteronormative trolls will catch me off-guard and lead me down that terrible path. But honestly, I don’t think it will happen. I’m too much me. Being queer AND Chicana and rather loud about it. Making my own little difference in my own little way. Constantly questioning. Always trying to create alternate ways of living life, sharing those spaces with my loved ones. … and blogging against heteronormativity.


Responses

  1. Hi turtlebella – nice post. I am also a bisexual woman with a straight partner, and we planned “the big party” last year. :) If you are interested in conversations about the intersections of queer lives and straight traditions & perceptions, feel free to e-mail me! There’s also http://www.indiebride.com, which is a very welcoming site for people planning non-traditional weddings/commitment ceremonies of all types.

  2. My sister got married last year in the most extravagant traditional wedding imaginable. It didn’t bother me too much as there was nothing hypocritical about it. However, when my father gave his speech my heart sank. He said it was the proudest day of his life. There is no favouritism; he would have said the same for me, I’m sure.

    However, both my sister and I have worked so hard, feeling that only the highest academic success would satisfy him. But there; turns out all either of us needed to do was put on a frilly white dress.

    I put this to a friend and was reassured that this is just what fathers are supposed to say and perhaps it is. But that somehow makes the whole thing more of a silly game than it already was.

    Goodness me, how I hate weddings! However, I am yet to have experienced one which truly deviated from traditional expectations. I am quite sure yours will be great and wish you the best of luck with it.

  3. This was especially emphasized at a wedding between a friend of a friend’s and his used-to-identify-as-a-lesbian wife, which I thought was hideously ironic.

    Oh I been there too. I think a lot of these emphasis things depend a lot on who’s officiating. Are you havin a church wedding?

  4. Until recently I’ve taken the hard line and refused to do weddings unless they’re very alternative. But now that we’ve got civil partnerships in the UK a lot of my gay friends are getting “married.” It seems really mean spirited not to go when it’s so important to them, so I might have to compromise! Still, the thought of a gay wedding which imitates all the heteronormative rituals (as most of them probably will) makes me shudder. Alternative wedding which questions all the norms are pretty cool.

  5. hee hee (evil laugh) maybe we should have a blog against weddings day! seriously though, they are pretty scary sometimes.

    We are having a pretty alternative ceremony deal – as Tex says, how alternative the ceremony is can often be due to who’s officiating and a friend of ours is marrying us (I like saying it that way cos then it sounds like three of us are getting married…I.just.can’t.help.being.a.little.subversive). She’s a Methodist priest but since the sqvirrel and I are both atheists there’s no god aspect (she’s totally fine with that. She’s quite the lefty type). Which actually takes care of a good bit of the marriage is between a man and a woman barfola. All of the people working with us are totally into our whacky ideas, which makes it helpful. And we’re paying for it, which helps with the parental expectations thing a bit.

    Winter- I know, the whole gay wedding patterning on heteronormative rituals is kinda weird. So much you can do that’s different. Although I was reading about some of the restrictions of weddings in the UK that I thought were pretty weird- like there has to be some structure that is ordained (so not the right word, it’s late here in France) as somewhere you can get married…is that right? Or am I mis-remembering… or just making it up out of whole cloth…

    Goldfish- I am sure your dad said that just ‘cos it’s one of the required things, like your friend said. But still, ouch. I know that my mom (Deer Mami) is pretty psyched that I’m marrying a man. Which, sigh, makes me kinda sad. But not sad enough not to want to be with the sqvirrel. That would take a lot.

    Lythande- thanks for the link! I’ll check it out.

    whew. I’m rambling. it’s late, i should sleep, I gotta work tomorrow. later, kids.


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