Re: Are Some Homosexuals Heterosexist?

Subject: Re: Are Some Homosexuals Heterosexist?
Date: Sat 11 Oct 1997 - 14:54:09 BST

In a message dated 97-10-10 21:55:25 EDT, writes:

>I don't understand what this means. Honestly. I was trying to ask how
>come homosexuals, who by definition *should* not be heterosexist, still
>hold very gender fundamentalist beliefs which translate into transphobia?
>non-trans queers are in violation of hetrosexist gender norms, then why is
>that many of them still hold very essentialist beliefs about bodies and
>identities which are used to exclude trans ppl from their organizations (and
>erotic lives)?

Yes, many gays & lesbians, and even feminists, also hold ideas of
reproductive determinism, the notion that you can and probably should
separate people by their reproductive organs, which is the basis of

These people have been raised in a pervasive sea of heterosexist thought,
from enforced urinary segregation to reasonably fixed gender roles. Even the
mircro gender roles of gay men and lesbians are reasonably fixed -- ask any
femme who has a hard time being accepted into the lesbian community and who
has experienced homonormative pressure because of it.

This is a big question in the G&L community: shouldn't we be just like them?
 Get married, have a home and a Lexus, good jobs, and only committ sodomy on
Saturday nights? Should we just add a little twist to family values and base
heterosexism so that it includes us, or should we find some new way to live
that reinvents desire?

This is the key question for G&L people today: How queer is too queer, how
assimilated is too assimilated? It is played out in every G&L political
group, with for example, the HRC coming down firmly for assimilation, and the
NG&LTF coming down for transgression. You can see it, as Lea DeaLaria notes,
when some vanilla dyke stands on a pride march platform saying "We are just
like you!" and then she is followed by a 7" drag queen in a skintight red
sequined dress.

Daniel Harris, in "The Rise And Fall Of Gay Culture" takes on this issue
directly, talking about how what gays have traditionally valued has already
been eaten away by assimilation. Harris makes the point that the cost of
acceptance by the dominant culture is subcultural suicide, and that includes
embracing dominiant beliefs, including heterosexism -- although gays take it
with a twist. As Will Roscoe said "You are shaped by peer pressure whether
you resist it or conform to it. That's why a certain amount of traditional
masculine/feminine mythology remains compelling to people and remains valid."

To me, the challenge for each one of us is to find our own balance of
assimilation and transgression, of queer and normative, of individual and
social, of tame and wild. We each have to play by the rules to get what we
need from culture, and break the rules to get what we need for ourselves.
 Tame is comfortable, Wild is free, and the balance is hard for each one of
us, at the core of how we construct our lives.

In any case, that requires that we play along with the dominant reproductive
determinism (what you & The Prince might call "gender fundamentalism") on
some level, that we have some level of internalized heterosexism.

How that plays out is interesting. Does this mean, for example, as The
Prince might agrue, that transsexuals who change their genitals are acting
out of beliefs of reproductive determinism, heterosexism, because they
believe that they must be "male" to act like a man, or are they simply trying
to achieve their own comfort? Does it mean that gay activists who argue for
marriage are simply trying to act out limiting heterosexist sterotypes about
the need to couple to become full people, or do they simply want the comfort
of marriage?

In both these cases, the issue is drawing a line between supporting, say,
open body modification or honoring pair-bonds and the social pressure to be
normative. Where do we simply be ourselves, and where do we sell out?

I look at the line between gay & lesbian activists and queer activists,
between the ones who are arguing for assimilation and those agruing for more
room for transgression, and see the issue being how we can keep a stable and
comfortable system, that happens to be heterosexist, and how we can promote
individual freedom.

Gabriel Rotello, in the 12/12/96 Advocate wrote an essay where he asserted
his transgender nature, simply as a queer white boy, and argued that in the
long run, he thinks that the G&L movement will become the Trans movement. He
was making the point that transgressive politics, queer/transgender, focused
against the heterosexist gender system was the real point, not simply the
urge to assimilate.

Are queers heterosexist? To some degree, but they are fighting the good
fight to have people seen as individuals, to firmly state that "Biology Is
Not Destiny."

Are all homosexuals queer? Not by a long shot. Many of them like the
separations of reproductive determinism, and are more than willing to cut off
the transgressive edges if they just expand the gender role definition of man
to include those who sleep with men, women to include those who sleep with

I love asking TriEss people who have got the rap and claim that sex and
gender are separate if they are heterosexual or heterogenderous. Are they
attracted to women or to females? If they demand both, doesn't that mean
that sex and gender are the same thing in their mind (a very heterosexist
notion, to be sure.) Lots of people want the freedom of transgression, want
to transcend heterosexism, but when they see how identity props and
separations are threatened by this, they get a little queasy.

The hard part in life is not giving up the walls and illusions of separation
that oppress us, it's is giving up the maya that comforts us -- and they are
the same illusions. In 1996, I asked a women's studies scholar if we
shouldn't just delete sex from driver's liscences, to move beyond
heterosexist separations that assume that M and F are fundamentally
different. She replied: "Until women are not oppressed, I will not give up
my identification that clearly shows I am female." How do we not oppress
women until we realize that it is the separations that we hold that foster
and promote that oppression, that facilitiate predjudice for discirimination
or for priviledge?

Essentialst beliefs about bodies and the fundamental differences between the
penised and the non-penised are at the heart of heterosexism. I believe that
no one can grow up in this culture without some measure of internalized
heterosexism, and that working to clear that by dropping the mental barriers
we hold between penised and un-penised person is the the hard work that must
be done. We need to pick the pieces apart, look at cultural and biological
influences, and take people as individuals, judging them on the content of
their character rather than the color of their skin or the shape of their

Are all homosexuals and feminists ready to do that work? No, they are not.
 And when when they are ready, it is very hard work, as we all know, bringing
up all sorts of emotional issues about our own personal identity and
internalized oppressions.

I do believe that homosexuals who believe in reproductive determinism are
heterosexist, if they want to be or not.



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