Smashing heteronormativity 101: disrupting children’s sexual intuitions

Sep 20, 2019 by

by Belinda Brown, MercatorNet:

The theoretical assumptions and practices of the No Outsiders project are outlined in numerous academic papers and reports.

Firstly, they explain that the forces which preserve heteronormativity can also disrupt it:

“These popular discourses comprise a web of perceptions and histories that serve to support heteronormativity, but which also hold the potential to disrupt it. It is this potential that we have tried to exploit in the most recent implementation phase of our research”. (DePalma and Atkinson, 2010; p.1672)

This is because heteronormativity is sustained by belief which requires constant reconstruction:

“….rather like a religious system, the heterosexual matrix is sustained by belief. We consider the notion … of the matrix as a ‘sacred order’ which is inherently unstable: it requires constant maintenance; the sacred order is constantly at risk of violation.” (p.17 here)

And “…it can’t exist once we withdraw consent.” (p.18 here)

They propose to disorganise consent through a process of “queering consensual heterornormativity”:

“In our current research, a collaborative action research project…, we have noticed the ways in which the introduction of unintelligible genders and sexualities in the form of, for example gay teachers and princes who are married (to each other) create crucial moments of degrounding. These momentary degroundings have the potential to disorganise consent…” (Atkinson & DePalma p.21)

They give many examples. A well-respected teacher comes out as gay and refuses to allow the child to normalise this, as in the well-known comedy sketch “the only gay in the village”.  Another teacher comes out as a lesbian while in the role of an alternative Cinderella, and so on. They see these “micro-incidents” as part of a process of transformation which leads to a new paradigm (Atkinson & DePalma pp .22-23).

However, when it comes to challenging heteronormativity I think they underestimate what they have achieved.

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