Big Question: What is Freedom?

This NYT opinion piece describes the “coming out” of slews of Republicans who have recently decided to support gay marriage, or the “freedom to marry.” Marriage equality has recently attained nothing short of momentous bipartisan support, a feat that speaks to great progressive shifts in public perception of gays and lesbians

Yet Samuel A. Chambers notes that members of the LGBTQ community are accepted only so long as they adhere to standards of heteronormativity (Chambers, 94). Such standards involve “narratives of straight romance,” and often necessitate gendered relationship roles and marriage to legitimate homosexual relationships (Chambers, 94). Additionally, such standards do not extend to public displays of homosexual desire, as they may threaten norms of sexual behavior (Chambers, 93).  The freedom to marry does not indicate that one has freedom of gender and sexual desire. One must still conform.

The freedom to marry normalizes only certain lifestyles with the LGBTQ community, privileging the wants and desires of some groups over others (Wan-Hsiu, 12). The creation of norms within the community may perpetuate an internal system of stratification, marginalizing some and and curtailing their freedom to express gender and sexual desire in ways more subversive to heteronormativity (Wan-Hsiu, 12).

Because freedom operates within preexisting social structures, freedom is conditional and often comes at a price.

Bruni, Frank. “The Tumbling Boundaries of Gay Rights.” The New York Times, 2 Nov. 2013. Web.

Chambers, Samuel A. “Heteronormativity and the L Word: From a Politics of Representation to a Politics of Norms.” Reading The L Word: Outing Contemporary Television. By Kim Akass. Ed. Janet McCabe. London: I.B. Tauris, 2006. 81-98. Print.

Wan-Hsiu Sunny Tsai. “Assimilating the Queers: Representations of Lesbians, Gay Men, Bisexual, and Transgender People in Mainstream Advertising.” Advertising & Society Review 11, no. 1 (2010) (accessed July 31, 2012).


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