A lot of recent debate about queer rights (or probably more specifically, gay and lesbian rights) seems to be based on the idea that we deserve rights as we are ‘normal’ or ‘just like everyone else’. The aim seems to be to get rid of the idea that queers are radical and scary. It is an approach I cannot stand.
To investigate this argument, I am going to start at an unusual place – looking directly at how our ‘oppressors’ or the straight community pictures us. Looking at literature, politics, religion and even medicine, heteros have actively tried to find ways to frame us as abnormal and strange. Because of this we are therefore not worthy of the same rights and freedoms.
Of course, much of that debate has been extremely destructive. But in other ways, the discourse is quite instructive.
In framing queers this way the heteros community has declared what ‘mainstream’ and ‘normal’ culture is. They have decided that straight, monogamous, ‘vanilla’ relationships are ‘normal’ and everything else is ‘strange’, and deserves to be shunned. Of course, we queers fit into that ‘strange’ category, but so do a lot of heteros as well. These are people who don’t fit the mould of how society tells us to have sex or do a relationship, and therefore in their own way are ‘queer’.
And this is where queer identity, and politics, becomes really important. The thing about queer identity is that in a heteronormative society it is inherently ‘strange’. It is an identity based in being ‘not normal’. When we try to fit into a ‘normal’ mould therefore, we are directly denying our own identity.
Now, you may say that doing this will just let our oppressors define us. The problem though is that if, and when we do ‘fight to be normal’, we buy into oppressive society, rather than fighting against it. There is nothing wrong with straight, monogamous, vanilla relationships, but the idea that we all have to live and do relationships this way is oppressive.
But unfortunately that is what a lot of queer movements are doing right now. Much of the same-sex marriage campaign in particular is focusing around the idea of normalcy; that we live ‘normal’ lives, have ‘normal’ relationships, and have ‘normal’ sex (even if we have same genitals). In doing so, we are just campaigning for those who fit that mould to gain access to this sense of normalcy, whilst pushing the rest, whether LGBTI, or straight, out the door.
We shouldn’t be fighting for normalcy. We should instead be fighting for diversity and the break down of the idea of normal in the first place. That is the true path to queer liberation.