- Further Notes on Healing from “The Violence of Heteronormativity in Communication Studies”
As someone who inhabits and negotiates multiple and intersecting transnational social locations based on local and global conceptions of race, class, gender, sexuality, and the body, I wanted to make sense of the individual and collective suffering produced by nonnormativity.1 The pain and anguish I witnessed range from deep feelings of isolation, worthlessness, and shame to diminished access to opportunities, decreased life chances, and multiple forms of death. A firm believer of “theory as liberatory practice,”2 I wanted to understand some of the fundamental mechanisms through which such suffering and pain are normalized and widely accepted in society. I turned to my discipline—communication—for answers and found that it simultaneously perpetuated the normalization of suffering of nonnormative others (e.g., sexual others, racial others) as well as providing insights into its healing, which prompted me to write “The Violence of Heteronormativity in Communication Studies” in 2003.3 Presented as a radical critique of the communication discipline, I also explored ways of healing and queer worldmaking. Since then, heteronormativity has become—based on the articles in this Forum as well as in various publication outlets—more widely recognized, at least in some areas of the discipline (e.g., communication and critical/cultural studies, interpersonal communication, performance studies). In this article, I offer, using a “thick” intersectional approach,4 further reflections into healing, based on the articles collected here as well as my own ongoing [End Page 115] thinking on the subject, to explore potentially productive avenues for future research. Although the following three sections are interconnected, I attend to the cognitive, affective, and bodily aspects of healing, respectively, with the hope that taken together, an individual and the social body can reintegrate and maintain wholeness in a heteronormative world.5
Continuing to Unpack Multiple Normativities
As I noted elsewhere, heteronormativity refers to the process through which heterosexuality becomes “the standard for legitimate, authentic, prescriptive, and ruling social, cultural, and sexual arrangements” in a given society at a particular sociohistorical and geopolitical moment.6 Although there have been gestures and attempts, nationally and globally, to include sexual minorities in recent years, the underlying social structures and foundations remain profoundly heteronormative. In this section, I explore several normativities—cisnormativity, homonormativity, body normativity, transnormativity, and Western cultural normativity—that are directly and less directly derived from heteronormativity.
Cisnormativity refers to the normalization of cisgender bodies (i.e., the apparent match between an individual’s gender assignment, presentation, performance, and identity) and cisgenderism (i.e., the privileging of cisgender bodies and identities) in society, which LeMaster adroitly unpacks in this Forum. Like heteronormativity, cisnormativity is everywhere—ubiquitous in all spheres of social life and largely invisible to most members of society.7 A closer look at cisnormativity reveals its relationship to heteronormativity and the “heterosexual matrix,” which according to Butler, is based on a set of idealized relations between sex, gender, and desire.8 In this schema, gender is conceptualized as naturally following sex (conceived as a natural substance) and desire is conceptualized as naturally following gender (where maleness entails masculinity and masculinity is expressed through sexual desire for the “opposite” sex [i.e., a woman] and femaleness entails femininity, which is expressed through sexual desire for its “opposite” [i.e., a man]).9 To maintain the coherence and continuity of sex, gender, and desire—the three components of the matrix that sustain and perpetuate heterosexuality and its normalization in the cultural domain through heteronormativity—the regulation and disciplining of gender through its rigid binary system (i.e., male/female) is required. In this sense, cisnormativity is an invisible force that upholds heteronormativity in society.10
Although there are multiple manifestations of homonormativity11 in various social and historical contexts, its more recent version, coined by Duggan as “the new homonormativity,” refers to “a politics that does not contest [End Page 116] dominant heteronormative assumptions and institutions, but upholds and sustains them, while promising the possibility of a demobilized gay constituency and a privatized, depoliticized gay culture anchored in domesticity and consumption.”12 As such, the current version of homonormativity—with its accompanying and mutually constituting...