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Gender & Society


Heteronormativity and Homonormativity as Practical and Moral Resources : The Case of Lesbian and Gay Elders
Dana Rosenfeld Gender & Society 2009 23: 617 originally published online 29 July 2009 DOI: 10.1177/0891243209341357 The online version of this article can be found at: http://gas.sagepub.com/content/23/5/617

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DANA ROSENFELD The Center for Social Gerontology and the Research Institute for Life Course Research, Keele University
Studies of heteronormativity have emphasized its normative content and repressive functions, but few have considered the strategic use of heteronormative and homonormative precepts to shape sexual selves, public identities, and social relations. Adopting an interactionist approach, this article analyzes interviews with homosexual elders to uncover their use of heteronormative premises (specifically, the presumption of heterosexuality, and the gender binary) to pass as heterosexual. Informants also used homonormative precepts, grounded in a postwar, pre-gay liberation assimilationist homosexual politics they adopted in their early years and maintained in later life, to justify passing and to frame their understanding and evaluation of past and present homosexual practices. Viewed through a homonormative lens, heteronormativity provided the tools for personal survival in a hostile society and for the collective production of a respectable homosexual culture. Informants strategic use of heteronormativity can help explain heteronormativitys survival despite the incoherence and fragility of its content.

tudies of heteronormativity have rightly emphasized both its insidious force . . . as a fundamental organizing principle throughout the social order (Green [2002, 521], quoted in Gamson and Moon [2004, 48]see also Fuss [1991]; Ingraham [1994]; Butler [1990]; Seidman [1996, 1997]; Stein and Plummer [1994]) and the fluidity, incoherence,

AUTHORS NOTE: The research on which this article is based was funded by the University of CaliforniaLos Angeles Center on Aging. I thank Dr. Darin Weinberg, Dr. Jane Parish, and the reviewers and editors at Gender & Society for their helpful insights and comments.
GENDER & SOCIETY, Vol. 23 No. 5, October 2009 617-638 DOI: 10.1177/0891243209341357 2009 Sociologists for Women in Society

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and instability of its constitutive sexual and gender categories (see, e.g., Nagel [2000]). These categories are incoherent because they reify complex processes,1 and unstable because they are vulnerable to historical change and to personal and collective reinvention and transgression. In seeking to understand how heteronormativity survives, given its incoherence and instability, however, scholars have tended to grant unmerited determinacy to taxonomies and norms.2 Indeed, just as queer theory has been criticized for foregrounding heteronormativitys normative and discursive structure (Green 2002, 521) over the ensemble of social institutions that organize and promote it (Bryant and Vidal-Ortiz 2007, 756), it can also be critiqued for having generally elided the strategic use of heteronormative and homonormative precepts to produce sexual selves and manage relations (for some strong exceptions, see Brekhus [2003]; Kane [2006]; Kitzinger [2005]). Rather than, or at least in addition to, focusing on heteronormativitys normative content, discursive properties, and repressive functions, a more ethnomethodologically informed approach (Garfinkel 1967; Kessler and Mckenna 1978; Stokoe 2006) points us toward the ways ordinary actors invoke and apply this normative and discursive content to shape sexual subjectivities and public identities. Symbolic interactionist and other work on self and identity (e.g., Charmaz [1993]; Goffman [1963, 1959]; Holstein and Gubrium [2000]; Mead [1934]; Snow and Anderson [1987]; Strauss [1997]) is particularly apposite, as it uncovers and theorizes the strategic, reflexive work in which actors engage to fashion valuable self-concepts and public personae. But actors identity work (Einwohner 2006; Rosenfeld 1999; Storrs 1999) not only uses this normative contentit also variously elaborates, reproduces and alters it and the structures it supports. In Heritages (1984, 180) words, in maintaining, elaborating, or transforming their circumstances by their actions, the actors are also simultaneously reproducing, developing, or modifying the institutional realities which envelop those actions. Viewed in this way, heteronormativity emerges not only as a symbolic field informing social action and interpretation, but as their very product; indeed, heteronormativity becomes not only an organizing principle, discourse, or set of norms but an organized, concerted activity in itselfthe mundane production of heterosexuality as the normal, natural, taken-for-granted sexuality (Kitzinger 2005, 477). The challenge is to capture the interactive coproduction of heteronormativity and the sexual self while mapping out the complexities, contradictions and tensions that constitute the actual, lived terrain of experience (OBrien 2007, 508). This interactive coproduction can be traced through a range of empirical studies, but takes on added complexity when examined
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in the context of homosexual3 lives, particularly of those committed to passing as heterosexual. As with transgendered persons (see, e.g., Dozier [2005]), self and identity may be fashioned with a more heightened awareness, or dramaturgical consciousness (Plummer 1975, 176), a point most famously made by Garfinkels (1967) study of the preoperative transsexual Agnes, who treated sexed persons as cultural events that members make happen and was self-consciously equipped to treat the natural facts of life of socially recognized, socially managed sexuality as a managed production (Garfinkel 1967, 180-81). Agnes project was not, however, entirely equivalent to the homosexual passing project, as this is pursued within the confines of heteronormative standards and expectations and, since the late 1960s, the gay-liberationist mandate to live openly as a homosexual. In the context of these competing normative systems, passing demands moral reflection and justification. Considering the experiences, actions, and reflections of actors who pass can help us to capture both the creative use and negotiation of heteronormativity and its justification in light of new moral and political demands. To that end, this article extends my previous research into the identity careers and identity work of lesbian and gay elders (Pollner and Rosenfeld 2000; Rosenfeld 1999, 2003a and b, 2009) to uncover these elders use of heteronormative premises (specifically, the presumption of heterosexuality, and the gender binary) to pass as heterosexual, and of homonormative ones to justify doing so in the past and to frame their understanding and evaluation of past and present homosexual practices.4 THE PASSING PROJECT AND/IN HISTORICAL CONTEXT Impression Management, Teamwork, and the Passing Project Passing and impression management more generally have been well documented and theorized, primarily by a symbolic interactionist literature grounded in Goffmans works on the presentation of self (1959) and on stigma (1963) (for recent work in this vein, see Marvasti [2005]; Renfrow [2004]; Roschelle and Kaufman [2004]). To Goffman (1959), impression management is an ongoing information game in which the actor presents only that information consonant with the desired impression and conceals information contradicting it. The actor engages in this impression management before specific audiences, can thus present a different front in different contexts, and indeed must keep contradictory claims separate from particular audiences.
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The performances success partly depends on actors approaching each interaction having tacitly agreed to accept the claims other actors make about themselvesunless disconfirming information leaks outin exchange for the same consideration being granted to them (Goffman 1967). Because disconfirming information can release the audience from this obligation, this trust, and our communicated identities, are provisional; while all actors assume the individuals social identity to be untainted, this imagined virtual social identity may conflict with the attributes she does in fact embody, or her actual social identity (Goffman 1963). While the actor can control information about herself with relative ease, she relies as well on teamwork, wherein members of an interactive team, linked by reciprocal dependence . . . and reciprocal familiarity, work to sustain a given definition of the situation, including the nature of a particular group (Goffman [1959, 83]see also Plummer [1975, 177]). Just as the utility and vulnerability of virtual identities are applicable to all cases of passing, so is the intricate and delicate connection between passing and impression management. But the symbolic material out of which successful passing is partly fashioned is deeply connected to the particular virtual identity the passing person seeks to sustain. In heteronormative contexts, a virtual identity is, among other things, a heterosexual one; the presumption of heterosexuality is the presumption of a virtual heterosexual identity.5 As with all virtual identities, a presumed heterosexuality provides a ready-made platform for the maintenance of a heterosexual front, a point made by Ponse as early as 1976. Ponse (1976, 316-17) defined her lesbian informants virtual identity [as] the straight mask presented to some audiences by the gay actor and passing [as] the accomplishment of a virtual straight identity among straight persons, and declared that the heterosexual assumption is obviously functional for covert lesbians. Similarly, the information on whose control by other members of an interactive team the passing person relies shifts according to the desired/virtual identity: In the case of homosexuals, this is information about, inter alia, their sexual desire, behaviors, and contacts. But given the mutually-informing nature of associates (Goffman 1963, 47), whereby the audience may draw conclusions about one actors identity on the basis of the actions of other members of her perceived team, information that may threaten an actors virtual (heterosexual) identity includes that which team members communicate about themselves. Thus the protection that impression management resources, if appropriately used, provide may be threatened by the actions of members of the passing persons own team.

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Heteronormative Binaries, Homonormativity, and the Politics of Homosexual Identity The practices and politics of passing as heterosexual are firmly grounded in three key shifts in the construction of homosexuality that occurred over the twentieth century. The first was the development of heteronormative binaries. As Chauncey (1994) has shown, by the early 1940s the defining characteristic of homosexuality had shifted from gender inversion, expressed in sex-opposite appearances and behaviors, to sexual object choice; those engaging in same-sex sexual encounters were defined as homosexual regardless of their gendered practices, identities, and appearances. This established two clear heteronormative binaries heterosexuality/homosexuality, and gender/sexuality. The heterosexual homosexual binary served as the trope of difference structuring social knowledge throughout the twentieth and into the twenty-first centuries . . . Normal and abnormal, secrecy and disclosure, public and privatethese became the derivative tropes of the homosexual/heterosexual binary (Valocchi 2005, 753-54). The gender/sexuality binary permitted the emergence (and normative privileging) of a gender-conforming homosexual, a category of person that postwar assimilationist lesbian and gay organizations embraced, and thus of an early homonormative gulf between gender-transgressive and gender-conforming homosexuals. This emergence of a postwar assimilationist politics, which constituted the second shift in the twentieth-century construction of homosexuality, provided a postwar homonormativity centered on the construction of an acceptable homosexuality based on its adherence to heteronormativity, specifically, gender conformity and a public privileging of heterosexuality that demands that homosexuals pass as heterosexual. This distinguishes it from the new, neoliberal homonormativity identified by Duggan (2003) that privileges consumption, privacy, and domesticity over radical social change or a critique of heter onormativity (Decena [2008, 405]; see also Seidman [2002]). Assimilationist groups posited homosexuality as a benign yet stigmatized condition that, particularly in a national climate of hostility and repression . . . encouraged role segmentation and a public reticence about ones sexuality (Valocchi 2005, 760). While this movements leaders publicly identified themselves as homosexual for the purposes of political organizing, the rest of the homosexual community was advised to pass. Related closet practices (Seidman, Meeks, and Traschen 1999, 11) were

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a response to repressive strategies aimed at maintaining a norm of heterosexuality by excluding homosexuality from public life. This strategy (roughly inaugurated in the 1940s but intensified in the 1950s and 1960s) created the conditions of the closeta concept of homosexuality as a distinct sexual identity and a double life. The latter involved intensive and extensive strategies of sexual self-management. (Seidman Meeks, and Traschen 1999, 11-12)

These strategies included adopting gender-conforming behaviors and appearances. [A]imed at securing privilege for gender-normative gays and lesbians based on adherence to dominant cultural constructions of gender (Stryker 2008, 146-47), the assimilationist approach (and organizations) crafted a respectable homosexuality consonant with extant sexual and gender mores. Thus Stryker (2008, 150-51) locates homonormativitys origins in the homophile movements public politics of respectability in the 1950s and early 1960s, reflected in lesbians class-based criticisms of butch-femme roles and in the gay male
condemnation of the hypermasculine styles found in the leather, motorcycle, and cowboy subcultures, as well as in the femininity of swish styles and public female impersonation . . . Thus from the outset of the postWorld War II gay rights movement, transgender practices and identities marked communal boundaries between the normative and the transgressive.

The third shift was gay liberation, which, sparked by the 1969 Stonewall uprising (Adam 1987; DEmilio 1983; Duberman 1983), refashioned homosexuality from a private matter to be enacted within a private arena into an essentially political matter to be enacted in a public one. Gay liberation redefined coming out from the development of a homosexual identity to its declaration by others, particularly heterosexuals. Activists claimed that the voluntary, public disclosure of homosexual desire would undermine heterosexual societys grip on homosexuals, which centered on fear of discovery. This constituted perhaps the most crucial shift from pre-gay-liberationist sexual politics: While leading members of the assimilationist movement publicly identified themselves as homosexual through their political work, most did not suggest that other gay men and women do the same since they saw their own public identification as a politically, but not personally, beneficial practice (DEmilio 1983, 235). Bridging the gap between the personal and the political, gay liberation placed the moral mandate to disclose ones homosexuality to heterosexuals on the shoulders of all homosexuals, and this

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became a central plank of lesbian and gay activism over the next 20 years. In the words of Seidman, Meeks, and Traschen (1999, 12-13), between the mid-1980s and the late 1990s, the framing of gay life in terms of the closet and coming out became pervasive. In this article, I analyze interviews with 28 homosexual elders to uncover their passing practices as deeply embedded both within impression management more generally, and within the shifting homosexual politics of the twentieth century. Given informants adherence to a postwar homonormativity, which endured despite the emergence of gay liberation, passing implicated relations with other lesbians and gay men. In addition to managing their own embodiment, passing entailed condemning and avoiding gender nonconformists and those who disclosed or flaunted their homosexuality. While passing offered personal protection, it also reproduced heteronormative constructs and prescriptions. METHOD The 28 interviews14 with men, 14 with womenanalyzed here are part of a larger set of 35 interviews I conducted in 1995 with self-identified lesbians and gay men aged 65 and above (one informant was a few months shy of 65) living in the greater Los Angeles area. I recruited informants from lesbian and gay senior organizations and events. A small number of those I approached declined to be interviewed, stating that they were not out, but others who had declared themselves equally closeted agreed once I assured them that their identities would be kept private. I thus learned before I conducted the actual interviews that, despite their membership in these gay groups, most of my informants were heterosexually passing outside of gay spaces and networks. I snowballed (Bailey 2007) from these initial contacts, actively seeking a diverse sample by asking informants to refer me to those of their peers whose life circumstances and/or attitudes were different from their own. This yielded a range of informants aged 64 to 89 (the average age was 72.5, with almost half aged 75+ and 13 percent aged 80+) whose annual incomes ranged from $10,000 to over $100,000. Ten informants had been heterosexually married; two were African American, four were Latino/a, and the rest were white. In the interviews, I asked for basic demographic information (e.g., birth year, income, occupation, religion, and race/ethnicity), then asked informants to describe their typical days, social relations (with, e.g., friends and family), coming out histories, problems and concerns, relations with

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and attitudes toward the lesbian and gay communities, and the impact of homosexuality on their lives. I explained to informants that these interviews were guided conversations and that they should feel free to decline to answer particular questions, raise issues and concerns of their own, and/ or revisit previous themes. Through this open-ended approach, questions signaled general themes to be engaged rather than closed questions to be answered, and the two- to three-hour-long interviews produced both rich narratives about self, identity, sexuality, and relations with heterosexuals and homosexuals over the course of informants lives, and new themes that I pursued in subsequent interviews. Interviews were transcribed verbatim, then subjected to an inductive grounded-theory method of analysis (Charmaz 2006; Glaser 1978; Glaser and Strauss 1965) wherein data collection and analysis occur in tandem and data collection is shaped by analytic interpretations and discoveries (Charmaz 1983, 100) as they unfold. With continuous reference to transcribed data, I explored and tested emergent findings on an as-needed basis in subsequent interviews, thus elaborating and confirming the validity of categories that emerged during analysis when the analysts present data do not exhaust the theoretical category the researcher is developing (Charmaz 1983, 125). This grounded theory approach freed me from an analytic reliance on such traditional variables as sex, race, and age to explain variations in how informants understood and managed their homosexuality. As a result, the link between these varied understandings and practices and the era in which informants identified as homosexual became evident. The two constructions of homosexuality that appeared over the twentieth century comprised the discursive backdrops through which lesbian and gay elders passed as they moved from youth to middle and then old age, and through whose prescriptions and assumptions they constructed and managed their own homosexual identities. My 35 informants varied in their personal relationship to each of these discourses of homosexuality. The 28 informants whose accounts I analyze here identified as homosexual before the advent of gay liberation, and thus through the discursive properties of the homonormative discourse of homosexuality, centered on gender conformity and passing as heterosexual. This distinguished them from the seven informants whose accounts I do not consider here (for an analysis of this smaller groups identity work and social relations, see Rosenfeld [2003a and b], [1999]); these identified as homosexual after 1969, through the discursive properties of gay liberation.6

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HETERONORMATIVE PRECEPTS AS STRATEGIC RESOURCES Managing Gendered Appearances While all informants were committed to passing as heterosexual in the presence of heterosexuals, only some mentioned having engaged in gendered impression-management techniques. Many described the work involved in keeping biographical information (e.g., same-sex relationships) from heterosexuals, but did not describe having actively worked to produce gender-appropriate appearances. These informants simply did not experience their behaviors or desires as gender-transgressive and felt that they naturally fit their particular gender categories. For them, passing as heterosexual was a biographical, relational matter rather than one of gender performance. Without using these terms, these informants understood their homosexuality as a matter of sexual object choice rather than of gender transgression. But some informants mentioned the specter of being seen as homosexual because of perceived gender transgression, however subtle. This speaks to the vulnerability of public impressions, even those produced by gender-conforming homosexuals, to scrutiny for failures to successfully embody and thus uphold the heteronormative gender binary. Some informants described managing their mannerisms and/or dress to produce appropriately gendered fronts. In his youth, for example, George (75)7 had striven to break an old habit of keeping his hands slack and loose, and Julius (89) worked to hold himself and to move in a masculine style:
Kids always liked me, and two or three of them would be walking down the street with me and they would say Julius, take longer steps, and these would be kids that were twelve, thirteen years old. And one of them would say, Julius, be careful, you use your hands quite a bit, you should not do that . . . I think that they sensed that I was gay, but they didnt want me to show it. It made a lot of changes with me, because I took it seriously when they would say these things. So I learned to take longer steps.

Interestingly, women did not describe managing their bodily positions or movements; for them, it was appropriate or inappropriate dress that required the most delicate management. Again, the goal was to pass as heterosexual when in the presence of heterosexuals in publicin short, in any context that was not exclusively and assuredly homosexual. In describing her middle years in New York in the 1950s, Val (74) explained that although she could dress in mens clothes at gay friends homes,

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nowhere else could I dress that way, nor could I travel back and forth that way. Similarly, Patricia (77) explained that
all my life, I had to cover. I had to play the two roles. I had a few friends who were gay and we would have our little private parties but when it was outside we were the nicest ladies you every saw. Wed dress up to kill: high heels, hose, silk hose, beautiful dresses, gloves, the hat. I didnt mind dressing but I never enjoyed anything so much as having our little parties where I could wear my pants.

This regionalization is key to passing and to impression management (Goffman 1959), and also applies to disembodied biographical information. The discrete deployment of gender transgression in particular spaces signifies the centrality of gender conformity to passing as heterosexual, and an awareness of the ability of others to scrutinize gender performance and appearance and to interpret any sign of gender transgression as evidence of sexual difference (Dozier 2005; Lucal 1999). Managing Gendered Associations In the view of my informants, gender nonconformists could threaten the passing project. First, they could advertise homosexuality and compromise the desired respectable status of the homosexual world. Second, because recognizably homosexual, their copresence with, or even proximity to, gender-conforming homosexuals could lead observers to conclude that the latter was homosexual as well.8 Informants spoke of limiting their visible associations with homosexuals to those who were genderconforming; George explained that he would not have a nelly person as a roommate because the neighbors pick up on it, and Lillian (69) stated, I dont like to be around a woman who looks gay. I dont want to be walking down the street per se with someone thatsyou know what I mean? I dont want anyone turning around and pointing their finger: Oh, look at those two. Avoiding obvious gender nonconformists was not, in itself, sufficient to pass as heterosexualinformants also described having to visibly associate with gender conformists, since the informing character of associations could, and had to be, used to ones own advantage. Thus, for example, Lillian would be seen in public with a gender-conforming woman. But passing homosexuals needed to be seen with gender-conforming members of the opposite sex as well. The presumption that mixed-sex interactions were heterosexual ones not only bolstered the implicit claim to heterosexuality that was being made, but blocked the potential conclusion
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that same-sex interactions were homosexual. Franz (81), for example, stated that many gay men avoided public same-sex interactions, even with gender-conforming men, because heterosexuals figure if they see three, four men together they must be gay. That is their mind of the gay people: When they get three men together, then here is a gay restaurant. In noting the steps she took to pass as heterosexual in public places, Patricia (77) described having patronized restaurants with her genderconforming male and female homosexual friends in the 1940s and 1950s. Marge (81), who had married a man and moved to New York in the 1930s to produce a heterosexual front and to cover for the fact that she had moved to that city to be with her woman lover, would have social gatherings at her and her husbands flat. These gatherings were comprised of Marges lover and their gay men and women friends, all of whom dressed and acted in gender-appropriate fashion: At first [my husband] didnt know what was going on, he thought we were just really good friends and although he didnt drink he used to buy alcohol for my friends who were mostly all gay, the guys were so manly. Here, we see the mutually constitutive nature of gender conformity and gender association, each of which are necessary, but not sufficient, to produce a convincing heterosexual front. Despite actively avoiding gender nonconformists in public, informants could encounter these actors while in the presence of heterosexuals. This also threatened the passing project, as it is not merely gender conformity or avoiding gender transgression that communicate ones own heterosexuality. Within these narratives emerges an understanding of heterosexuals as considering an acceptance of gender transgression to be evidence of, if not homosexuality per se, at least a tolerance of it that throws suspicion on the presumed heterosexuality of the person accepting it. Some informants shared in heterosexuals open ridicule or condemnation of homosexuals to claim allegiance to heteronormativity and thus membership in the heterosexual category (see also Ponse [1976, 318]). Marge described how, in the 1960s,
you had to hide yourself. You were around different people, you couldnt let them know how you felt about things. I mean I myself have talked about gay peoplewhen people made derogatory remarks or made fun of gay peopleyoure around a group of people, well, they would consider everybody straight and theyre making remarks.

Similarly, Ryan (81) recalled how, in the 1940s and 1950s, he would participate in his supermarket coworkers ridicule of feminine men: When some real nelly thing [would] come in the store, wed all laugh at him
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when he went out. I didnt want to be that type of a person. I didnt want people laughing at me. So I stayed away from it. To these informants, even in the absence of any expression of same-sex interest, the presumption of heterosexuality could be unsettled by the blurring of the gender binary, or association with this blurring, or even the failure to condemn it. This blurring demanded that actors engage in a range of actions to retain their virtual heterosexual identities. First, gender conformity had to be accomplished on an embodied level: Ones own bodily deportment, movement, and appearance needed to clearly, unequivocally, and convincingly conform to dominant gender norms, and any deviation from that contained within specific, designated regions that were clearly homosexual and blocked from heterosexual view. Second, the presumption of heterosexuality needed to be bolstered by selective associationgender nonconformists had to be avoided outside of these designated spaces. Finally, gender conformity needed to be oriented to as a moral imperative: When in the company of heterosexuals, observed gender nonconformists were to be ridiculed and/or condemned. Each of these practices of management, avoidance, and condemnation communicated, to heterosexuals, both a disassociation from gender transgression and the homosexuality that it signaled and an essentially heterosexual identity that was biographically and ideologically grounded. Achieving a convincing heterosexual front entailed embodying and professing heteronormative precepts when in the presence of people who visibly deviated from them. Heteronormativity also provided recipes for performing these actions: (a) precluding the appearance of gender transgression in ones own public life, and (b) condemning it if it did appear there. This sustained the presumption of heterosexuality, and reproduced normative distinctions between gender-conformists and the gender-transgressive, and between homosexual and heterosexuals, and thus heterosexual/homosexual and gender binaries themselves. In contrast to scholarship that places undue emphasis on the normative content of a repressive heteronormative system, these practices demonstrate heteronormativitys provision of resources that actors can creatively use to manage their public identities according to heteronormative expectations and thus avoid negative sanctions. HOMONORMATIVE PRECEPTS AS EVALUATIVE RESOURCES Those whose accounts figure here identified as homosexual through the properties of the stigmatizing, homonormative discourse of homosexuality
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well before the advent of gay liberation. They lived as homosexual through the precepts of this discourse throughout their middle years and into later life. Through the lens of their previous identification, they viewed gay liberation, with its call for public disclosure of homosexuality, as unreasonable and dangerous. Their commitment to passing in the interest of personal and collective survival remained robust and impervious to continuous pressures from the modern gay communities. Both in the course of describing their past and present lives, and in response to specific questions about their feelings toward the contemporary gay community, informants displayed an understanding of their own and others past and present passing practices as reasonable, and of others failure or refusal to pass as damaging to self and to the homosexual collective seeking public acceptance through the presentation of a public homosexual respectability. Throughout their descriptions of their past and present lives, these informants presented a consistently postwar homonormative approach to the management of homosexual biographies and interactions. They viewed passing as both eminently rational given heteronormative sanctions of sexual deviance and as upholding a basic homonormative respectability that disclosing, or coming out, undermined. Informants condemned those who failed or refused to pass as inept, incapable of recognizing the personal and political dangers of disclosing their own homosexuality to heterosexuals; accepting the unmerited personal and political dangers of coming out in the interests of a misguided gay liberationist agenda; and reproducing negative stereotypes of homosexuals as licentious, gendertransgressive, and generally unrespectable. Informants described three ways of disclosing ones homosexuality, each of which posed its own danger. The first was to engage in gender transgression, which subjected them to such negative sanctions as ridicule and harassment. Rhoda (89), for example, characterized as stupid some people, the butch people especially, who continued to display their homosexuality despite the poor treatment they received:
It was so stupid of them, because the majority of the society didnt accept it, especially the ones that were butch looking. It might be what they wanted and yetthey would want it and be that way and endure the ridicule.

But this did not only endanger the disclosing person; it endangered passing homosexuals as well, by (a) introducing the possibility that copresent others were homosexual as well, and (b) forcing these others to avoid gender nonconformists and to disassociate themselves from them if they
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encountered them. The practices of one (type of) homosexual could thus threaten the success of others passing practices; neither welcome nor invited, this threat constituted a nonconsensual intrusion into the passing homosexuals autonomy and culture. While informants did not explicitly condemn the gender-transgressive as threatening the passing project, their positive and negative gender associations in the interests of passing, and their complicity in heterosexuals open ridicule or condemnation of homosexuals, speak to the tacit reliance on the judicious application of information management on the part of homosexuals as a whole, and to the resultant tenuous nature of the passing project. Second, informants condemned the practice of voluntarily disclosing ones homosexuality in the classic coming out scenario, conducted by those who had been successfully passing. In addition to treating an essentially private (sexual) matter as a public one, this belied the presumption of heterosexuality and sparked expulsion from the family, community, or group. Lillian was astounded that some kids tell their bosses that theyre gay and then in the next breath they wonder why theyre fired and Ryan noted that, while some family members would accept another members disclosure of homosexuality, it was more likely that they would explode and kick him out and disown him. Although others coming out did not technically undermine the success of ones own passing, each negative instance fed a growing expectation that this was the best way to enact ones homosexuality. To Gabrielle (78), coming out had become a rigid prescription, something that all homosexuals should do, and she felt it cast those who passed as driven by shame and fear. Informants both tacitly and explicitly contrasted their passing with others disclosure, stating that they had not come out to their family members because it was not relevant (Rosenfeld 1999, 2003). Finally, people could flaunt their homosexuality, usually in gay pride marches, and often in gender-transgressive ways. When asked about their feelings about the contemporary gay community, informants condemned flaunting for encouraging heterosexuals to view all homosexuals as embodying such stereotypical characteristics as gender-transgression, hypersexuality, and a general lack of social decorum. Rodney (75) saw such groups as Dykes on Bikes as extremes [that] give the whole community a bad name; Gabrielle and her lover avoided any gay things, gay parades because the media picks out the worst images to depict in its coverage and Julius explained that gay parades and marching depict all homosexuals as transvestites and floozies at odds with the straight gay image he seeks to display. As Patricia stated,

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some of them go around and push their lesbianism or homosexuality down everybodys throats. When you have your gay parades and the men grab their balls and say Hey, hey, were gay! I dont feel thats necessary. If they could only learn to be gentlemen and ladies people would accept us much more easily. They can go do their parades and dress up normally. What we do behind closed doors is up to us, we dont have to flaunt it.

Here, too, the actions of unrespectable homosexuals posed a danger to postwar homonormative ones. To my informants, flaunting homosexuality, by reproducing what they saw as negative, sexualized images, undermined the desired public, homonormative image of homosexuals and made it less likely that homosexuals would be accepted by heterosexuals. The organized gay community, by allowing its public image to be formed by flaunting homosexuals, deprived passing homosexuals of their right to acceptance, tolerance, and respecta classic homonormative stance. Thus Henri (67) noted that all the open people are the ones that shouldnt be open, and all the ones that should be open are not. Henri did not blame the ones who are not open, because I feel the same waythat being open subjected even the respectable homosexual to the assumption of homosexuals sexual licentiousness, gender transgression, etc., so evident in gay pride events. CONCLUSION Queer theory operates within a distinctive understanding of power where sexual and gender subjectivities are fashioned from the signifying systems of the dominant sexual and gender taxonomies. These taxonomies, in turn, regulate subjectivity and social life in general (Valocchi 2005, 751). While identifying the source of (self) regulation in the actors use of cultural material, this Foucauldian understanding, best represented by Butlers (1990) work on the performance of gender, emphasizes the constraints imposed by regulative discourses at the expense of strategic action. In detailing the interactive coproduction of sexual normativities on the one hand, and self and identity on the other, this article uncovers both discursive and social constraints and their strategic use. These data thus activate the connection between normative content and the sexual self, showing the production of the latter to be both agentic and constrained. For those embracing the postwar homonormative approach, such as the informants whose accounts figure here, heteronormativity not only constitutes antihomosexual bias, but also provides useful resources for succeeding in a heterosexual society. The presumption of heterosexuality, for

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which a core criterion is gender conformity, is a useful baseline from which to approach all public interactions. If social action is successfully executed by reference to this baseline, then the core goals of passingsequestering homosexual identities and associations within a protected, private space to avoid negative sanctions, and achieving acceptance of homosexuality by heterosexuals by presenting a respectable collective frontare achieved. But the passing project is a delicate one, because the presumption of heterosexuality is provisional; like all virtual identities, once granted, it does not survive unscathed regardless of circumstance or behavior. Rather, it must be continuously reproduced within interaction, and is difficult to sustain in the face of continuous challenges. For example, to ensure successful passing, visible gender conformity must be augmented by gender-appropriate associations, and may require the condemnation of observed gender transgression, or at least apparent collusion with such condemnation. Doing the work necessary to meet these challenges is, to the homonormative approach, worthwhile given the benefits of passing in a society that punishes the discovery or open display of homosexuality. The actions of homosexuals who do not adhere to homonormative precepts are neither reasonable nor acceptable, however. This points to the personal and collective goals of passing. To these informants, gender nonconformists and those who disclose or flaunt their homosexuality threaten the ability of homosexuals to pass. In doing so, they undermine both individual homosexuals rights to pass and the more general project of securing tolerance for the homosexual community by presenting a collective image of homosexuals as self-restrained, gender conforming, and the like. Here gay liberations construction of passing as personally and politically damaging is flipped: The failure or refusal to pass, and the celebration of this refusal, damages gay individuals and the gay collective. Just as a regime of compulsory disclosure is one in which subjects who avoid coming out become a threat to mainstream U.S. society (Decena 2008, 405), to these informants, out homosexuals threaten the fragile balance that homonormative homosexuals have achieved between heterosexual demands and personal action, and between public and private personae. They do not, in short, act as members of the same interactive team. Among the complexities, tensions and contradictions that OBrien (2007, 508) exhorts us to capture are homosexuals who complicate and endanger the homonormative project. In a social world that accepts the visibility of unrespectable homosexuals and the invisibility of respectable ones, the presumption of heterosexuality becomes the presumption of respectability itself, defined in heteronormative terms: sexual self-control, curtailing of sexuality
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within private spaces, and honoring, and personally investing in, the public/private divide. Visible within these narratives are the use and reproduction of the derivative tropes of the homosexual/heterosexual binary identified by Valocchi (2005, 753-54)distinctions between normal and abnormal, secrecy and disclosure, public and privateembraced as moral precepts and personal and political goals. By justifying the use of heteronormative precepts to pass and condemning those who do not pass, these accounts construct and condemn homosexual deviance from postwar homonormativity on personal and political grounds and provide empirical evidence for Strykers (2008, 155) depiction of homonormativity as an operation at the micropolitical level, [aligning] gay interests with dominant constructions of knowledge and power. In strategically engaging the presumption of heterosexuality and the gender binary in the interests of personal safety and collective gain, these informants reproduce them as logical and valid for members of all sexual groups. These findings extend our understanding of heteronormativity in several ways. First, they complicate our understanding of heteronormativity as enduring by virtue of normative persuasion to point to its enduring by virtue of the strategic use of its core premises to produce particular selves and identities. Here, the social actor becomes an active, reflexive and artful one, rather than the judgmental dope (Garfinkel 1967) that an overly normative focus produces. Second, they uncover heteronormative premises and taxonomies not only as repressive forces, but as resources for the creative fashioning of personal lives, social standing, and social relations; the focus is on opportunities that normative systems provide, rather than on restrictions on personal expression that they impose. This is not to deny the constraints that heteronormative systems impose, but to uncover their concomitant creative use in the pursuit of impression management and a distinctive homonormative politics. Third, and critically, they signal the interface between sexual (hetero and homo) normativities; as lesbian and gay elders invoke homonormative precepts to justify using heteronormative resources for personal and political gain. Put simply, how to do being gay (Sacks 1984, Weinberg 1978) is intimately tied to how to do being straight, and this signals deep connections between hetero- and homonormativity. Finally, these findings may help explain heteronormativitys endurance despite the incoherence and instability of the sexual and gender categories on which it so heavily depends; as informants personal investment in heteronormative precepts mesh the biographical with the ideological. Thus personal action reproduces heteronormative categories, constructs, and prescriptions as equally applicable to all social actors, including the self.
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In conclusion, heteronormativity is a rich and complex field out of which sexual subjectivities are fashioned, but also out of which moral claims, and social connections and divisions, are crafted. But this hete ronormative field is, in the case of those whose accounts I have considered here, in deep conversation with a distinctive homonormativity. Heteronormativity, while a distinctive normative system, does not impose itself unilaterally, but interacts with other normative systems to shape self, identity, social action, and moral evaluation. Rather than ask how hete ronormativity works in everyday lives, we might better ask how actors work heteronormativity into their everyday lives, and work to sustain its core precepts as features of their impression management, on the one hand, and of the socialmoral order, on the other. NOTES
1. To queer theory, heteronormative binaries incompletely or imperfectly represent a broad range of complicated social processes surrounding the meaning of bodies and social cues, practices, and subjectivities associated with gender and sexuality (Valocchi 2005, 753). 2. Bryant and Vidal-Ortiz (2007, 756) write that norms that make heterosexuality seem natural or right and that organize homosexuality as its binary opposite . . . maintain the dominance of heterosexuality by preventing homosexuality from being a form of sexuality that can be taken for granted or go unmarked or seem right in the way heterosexuality can. 3. I use the term homosexual rather than lesbians and/or gay men not to erase the various differences that their social position introduces to their identities and daily lives, but to stress the similarity in their uses of hetero- and homonormativity to produce sexual selves and identities that emerged in the data. For more on these and other similarities, see Rosenfeld (2003, 185-86). 4. My goal is not to document every passing device that informants used (thus such strategies as heterosexual dating and/or marriage are not considered here for literature on these and other passing devices, see, e.g., Goffman (1963), Plummer (1975), Ponse (1976), Rosenfeld (2003b). Nor is it my intention to suggest that every one of my informants used any or all of these devices (although they all did rely on the presumption of heterosexuality) or that, if they did, they all described doing so. Rather, my goal is to highlight those instances of passing strategy that demonstrate the status of heteronormative premises as impression management resources whose use implicates practical and moral relations with other homosexuals.

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5. The terms the presumption of heterosexuality and passing are not interchangeable. Passing is both a process and the outcome of that process; the presumption of heterosexuality is an interactional starting-point, an assumption on the part of the audience that the performer is heterosexual, which passing practices must sustain. Successful passing proves the presumption of heterosexuality, which can also be disproved by inadequate passing practices. 6. Members of the accredited (two M, five F, all white) and discreditable (14 M, 14 F) identity cohorts were of similar ages and had similar incomes and educational backgrounds. 7. Original names have been altered, and the age of each informant at the time of the interview appears in parentheses the first time his or her fictional name appears in the text. 8. See also Ponse (1976, 332), who wrote that since it is likely that gayness could be imputed on the basis of association alone, a very secretive lesbian would avoid being seen with obviously gay friends. 9. To these informants, coming out meant entering the homosexual world rather than declaring or expressing ones homosexuality to heterosexuals. See Rosenfeld (2003, 142).

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Dana Rosenfeld is a sociologist researching aging and the life course; health, identity and embodiment; and gender and sexuality. She has published on lesbian and gay aging, the medicalization of masculinity, and the illness experience, and serves on the editorial boards of Social Theory and Health and the Journal of Aging Studies.

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