My partner and I wanted to move in together. But, we were told that since we are not married, society will never “accept” us. Why is it that whenever it is a man and a woman, society has to draw a vivid picture of attraction, romance and lust? Firstly, nobody should be in a position of command over people’s lives. On a different but equally important note, why does society not paint a similar vivid picture of romance, when two people of the same gender identity are seen together? This essential heteronormative method of processing our thoughts has, in fact, been affecting the lives of millions of heterosexual as well as queer couples. Furthermore, even single people are not spared the sheer horror.
Heteronormativity is the assertion of heterosexual norms, based on the binary opposition that states the existence of two dominant gender identities. ‘Modern’ Indian society has been riding the patriarchal horse of heteronormativity ever since its inception. Society lays down the rules that we must abide by. This strict heteronormative society was built on the notions of ‘pure’ blood-lines, caste-consciousness and functional patriarchy.
Heteronormativity exists and functions too well, all over society, because sex for the sake of pleasure, sex as a form of bodily desire and sex without the motive to conceive are shunned by patriarchal institutions in the country. Heteronormativity does not even take homosexuality into account. It is interesting to note that as much as heteronormativity shames homosexuality, it also defies the existence of and practice of the same. This is evident in the everyday acts of people, when they naturally end up suspecting some romantic entanglement between men and women. Most people tend to ignore potential undertones of a same-sex relationship.
This strict heteronormative society was built on the notions of ‘pure’ blood-lines, caste-consciousness and functional patriarchy.
It is a common sight to see property owners in India strictly stating that only married couples will be allowed to stay. By stating this, they essentially defy the existence of married queer couples and simply focus on the patriarchal form of the Indian family structure. The same property owners will not question much further, if they meet two women or two men expressing their wish to move in together. This is because it is taken for granted that a relationship is either heterosexual or it does not have any dimension whatsoever!
This social condition affects the situation of same-sex partners who wish to take their relationship to the next level. Unless one enters their private space or notices any homosexual act in public, they do not seem to suspect that a prospective relationship might be in the making. However, this does not make their lives any better because they need to hide their true selves from the eyes of social institutions. The constant denial of their very existence is the worst kind of ostracism that one can possibly face.
Further, even the socially “accepted” people, in terms of sexuality and sexual preferences, are not at great comfort, due to the constant nagging of heteronormative institutions. Remember those college days, during which you tried to get your friends hitched, just because they were not of the same gender identity? Have we ever done the same thing to two friends of the same gender identity? Did we ever imagine that they were probably in love? That is exactly how heteronormativity works. We were raised in such a way that made us ignorant to the fact that queer sexuality exists.
It is a common sight to see property owners in India strictly stating that only married couples will be allowed to stay.
Another vital point to discuss is the universal conclusion that a man and a woman can never be friends. Why is it necessary for larger society to assume that men and women cannot be friends? This is the ultimate normalisation of heterosexual relations. The society holds it as a mundane factor that every man and woman, while interacting, must be romantically or sexually attracted towards each other. This is a rather aggressive method of turning people’s minds, into making them believe that the only ‘pure’ form of a relationship is that of a heterosexual married couple.
Have we ever thought of asking our friends who are single, about their sexual orientation, before advising them to go on dates? “Come, let’s find you a handsome man”, “Come, let’s find you a beautiful woman” – such statements might come across as absolutely pointless. We ourselves do not realise the harm that can be caused. Moreover, it is not necessary for us to set up dates. We can simply let single people enjoy their lives the way they think is fit for them. This constant requirement to get our acquaintances hitched is a result of heteronormative thinking. The thought that one must have a heterosexual partner, get married and have children is a deeply entrenched form of patriarchy and heteronormativity.
Let us comprehend the fact that love can stem from anywhere and it does not have to be limited to gender identities and all the other divisive factors promoted by make-belief social institutions. Heteronormativity affects us all in ways more than we can imagine.
Featured image used for representational purpose only. Image source: YouTube