Queer and Heteronormativity

The core of ‘Queer Theory’ is questioning the norms. Queer is related to what we perceive as normal in our society and is directly linked to power and status quo.

Queer theory provides tools for questioning concepts that are seen as truth in society, such as what is natural, irrespective of whether they involve sexuality, gender or some other form of normality.

The term ‘queer’ can denote many concepts: everything from crazy and deviant to a theory, a description of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people, and sometimes also those who fall outside norms. Since the term was originated through a homosexual movement, most studies in queer theory focus on the breach with sexual norms, structures and identities.

The division between sex and gender, or biology and culture, is often criticised in queer theory. The intention to highlight the influence of culture; however, it involves the risk of recreating notions that are natural or reinforce the masculine and feminine attributes. The concepts are often associated with a particular kind of sexuality: heterosexuality.

The image of a ‘natural sex’ cannot be seen as a neutral truth. Rather, it should be seen as a norm system or coercive prohibition. It is a set of rules that  not only prescribes how to be a man or woman but also indicates that one should fit the binary mold and be either a man or woman.

The categories of ‘man’ and ‘woman’ exist within a heterosexualised framework of understanding — the heterosexual matrix — in which two separate genders are presented as the only possible identities. Within this framework, the only offered positions are woman and man. They are juxtaposed in both physical and behavioural terms, and the two sexes are also expected to attract and desire each other. Appearing as a woman therefore requires, first, having a body that is categorised as a female body. Second, it requires behaving (walking, standing, dressing, etc) in a commonly accepted feminine manner. Thirdly, manifesting the right kind of desire, i.e. heterosexual (and the heterosexuality, in turn, must be practised in a manner defined in advance).

Although sexuality is the focus, there is an enhanced will to examine how norms of sexuality coincide with notions of class, ethnicity, place, disability etc. Queer theory can thus be used for thinking about normality, normalisation processes and power in general.

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