I stumbled on the below meme a while ago at the LGBT media monitor and I was pretty dejected about its message. To my surprise, it was originally shared by Helem. Following a simple inspection, it turned out to have passed unchecked to reach the Facebook page of the organization and later on shared by some individuals on their personal profiles.
Now the problem and the reason that I wrote this post up is that although the image was taken down, the debate that followed it and the attempts to justify this meme-picture were flimsy and ill-suited. And I believe it is very important that we address the whole normal/non-normal (natural/unnatural) argument practically.
The meme shows two important messages. In the first (mid picture in the bottom row) it assumes that the media has moved from a portrayal of shame to that of objective support. In the second, it portrays “gays” and “lesbian” to be normal people and in that sense not to be effeminate (top left pic), into parties (top mid pic) or a bunch of girls with bad make up taking a selfie (top right pic).
The basics: what is gay assimilation
Gay assimilation is based on making [queer] people seem average and similar to the general population. Assimilation based strategies are based on normalizing gay men and women into the sphere of everyday life. Assimilation in western movements are based on the 4M’s; Marriage equality, Military enlisting, Media visibility and Making money (of these, we have locally capitalized on the latter two). In many assimilation rhetoric, bisexuals and Trans* people are usually left out as well as queers who intersect with other disenfranchised groups (refugees, foreign workers, women, elderly, etc…). This lack of inclusion might be because they usually can not fit into the (hetero/homo)normative system and expectations of the general society.
We should not “normalize” Trans*sexuality and/or Homosexuality
Queers that have long been outside the sphere of general society. We have been able to see what a sexist, racist, agist, and able-focused society that we live in (among many other lousy ists). We have witnessed the ease by which people are ostracized from their communities once they do not conform to this system.
So the reasons why we don’t want to normalize our bodies and our sexualities are three folds (at least as how I perceive them)
- The system is flawed. It is oppressive and unfair. To want to get back into it and assimilate into it means that we approve of such flaws and are ready to allow them to be practiced on other groups as long as they are not us, the normal people who obey and have become docile.
- Every inclusion is reciprocated by an exclusion. We only define the in-group by identifying the out-group. By normalizing trans*sexuality, we categorize the rules and regulations for trans* people to follow and those who do not adhere to these rules remain outside. For example, a trans* person can only apply to change the gender on their ID cards when they have underwent all the surgeries to achieve an appearance of the other sex which reflects a extremist binary perception of gender and those who don’t fall on these two extremes are left out of this inclusion.
Normalization opens the way to “othering” those who do not conform to this new normal.
- By assimilating into a system, we feed it and it grows. We provide it with the needed legitimacy to uphold its position and its flaws in the face of other disenfranchised groups. It also makes it harder for these groups to penetrate the system and to dismantle as we all should be doing.
It is not a joke. It is not about being politically correct.
It would be very childish to brush off the meme as a joke and humor. Jokes that do not challenge existing oppressive systems but rather supports them and enrich them are damaging as they “normalize” the problem at hand.
Advocating for assimilation is a serious and grave matter. Assimilation is a lousy business that supports and gives rise to homonormative concepts that parallel the oppressive heteronormative system. Homonormativity assumes that queers want to be just like heteronormative people and follow similar rules as they do.
HOMONORMATIVITY: “A politics that does not contest 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”
So No. When we say that we do not want to be normal or nomalized, it means that we reject the idea to make docile bodies out of ours. It means that we reject the concept that we can say who is normal and who is not, who is illegal and who is legal and so on. Rejecting assimilationist politics means that we agree that we can not move forward by leaving other groups behind.
Basically assimilation sucks because it is always done along predictable lines of middle class, [Lebanese], male, able-bodied, straight privilege. So what is “normal” is usually very strongly associated with these meanings. Which then leaves out those of us who can’t be Lebanese, who can’t appear cis-gender because we don’t have the money to look cis-gender and probably never will, etc. It’s normalizing a certain ideal without actually admitting it’s a very narrow ideal that is inaccessible to many many many of us in the queer community. That’s why it’s not funny: it’s leaving so many of us out.
–Dree, a friend