Yep defines heteronormativity simply as the assumption that heterosexuality is the norm and everything else is, by default, deviant. This includes assumptions like straight people are normal while gay people are abnormal or queer. Examples of heteronormativity can be seen in institutions such as marriage because institutionalized monogamy expects heterosexuality. Heteronormativity also does violence to LGBTQI+ communities who often feel pressured to pursue heteronormative relationships because they are not valued as much by society even though they have equal rights when it comes to having relationships with whoever they choose (Yep,15).
Love and friendship may begin to undo the harms of heteronormativity by making diversity more visible and celebrated. Other people who are not heterosexual may see that love is possible for them, which would allow them to feel more comfortable with their sexuality and may encourage them to come out to others. By being aware of the existence of diversity, it “forces” individuals to recognize they do not know anything about these people’s lives, which can inspire curiosity, empathy, and compassion (Yep, 18).
Anzaldúa’s critique of the term lesbian suggests that she feels the term only speaks to white, cisgender lesbians and excludes those of different races or genders. She suggests that there should be a new word created in addition to lesbian, one which will speak to other experiences of sexuality. Anzaldúa uses her own experience as an example of what this word could be: a boricua/latina lesbian looking for meaning and purpose within her identity while also trying to navigate a largely white, heteronormative world. Anzaldúa shares how she became invested in Latinidad as part of her search for meaning and purpose, an identity which is still under construction but includes many facets such as race gender and class interactions (Anzaldúa, 264).
She explains that this oftentimes leads to women coming together solely because they are both women and then withdrawing from men, rather than creating a space where men can also be involved in their cause. Anzaldúa suggests that these polarizations are a product of white American feminists moving away from their own identities while they attempt to erase others differences or mark them as negative. Anzaldúa names herself a survival tactic, in the face of colonization and neo-colonization, in the way she explores her own identity and how she navigates Latinidad, sexuality and race. She also describes how these intersections of identity affect not only her, but all women who exist within a heteronormative society (Anzaldúa, 268).
She says that race gender and class interact in queerness in a way which, like patriarchy, limits their ability to be themselves. Anzaldúa explores the experience of queerness in relation to race and class within her personal experience, as well as in a more theoretical way. Anzaldúa uses her own life to put forward how queerness can be analyzed by race and class theory in order to analyze not only the experiences of queer women but also those of lesbians and gays who are outside of this community (Anzaldúa, 271).
Anzaldúa, Gloria. “To (o) Queer the Writer—Loca, escritora y chicana.” Living chicana theory (1991): 263-76.
Yep, G. A. (2003). The violence of heteronormativity in communication studies: Notes on injury, healing, and queer world-making. Journal of homosexuality, 45(2-4), 11-59.