Please note: This is me thinking out loud.

Having come to the realisation that compulsory heterosexuality relies on an underlying level of violence has helped me understand my own oppression a lot more. It seems that just like patriarchy requires rape and sexual violence for its maintenance, so too does queer oppression require instances of physical and psychological violence. And just as the police work to maintain capitalist relations primarily through the threat of violence, so too is patriarchy and queer oppression maintained by the threat and fear of violence. I hadn’t understood many womyn’s sometimes all-encompassing fear of rape until I made this association with my own fear of queer bashing.

I suppose this violence flies in the face of those who dismiss queer oppression as “merely cultural.”

So I guess the next question is where does this come from? The traditional class model originally used to describe capitalism is sometimes also applied to ethnicity, patriarchy and queer oppression. However, I believe this simply does not work. Economic classes (at least according to Marx, not, eg., Weber) are defined from a priori notions of domination and exploitation. But ethnicity, gender and sexuality can’t be treated like this. Ethnicity, gender and sexuality are not defined based on exploitation, rather they are firstly social categories and only secondly roughly correspond to categories of oppression and exploitation. To be clear, heterosexuals do not, as a class, oppress queers.

Only a minority of heterosexuals will actually engage in violence against queers (much like the police force as a percentage of the general population, I guess). A majority will likely engage in some level of psychological violence. But the question remains: where does this come from? What legitimates this violence, both physical and psychological?

And at this point it seems necessary to drag out Foucault, in particular his notions of discourse and institutions. Keeping things really simple, discourse is essentially a specific way of understanding, interpreting and engaging with the world. It is filter through which we make the complexity of the world in which we live intelligible. Think of it as a more nuanced form of ideology.

Of course, discourses don’t come from thin air, and are intimately linked to power, constructed through our engagement with the various institutions of our lives: the family, school, work, specific public and private spheres, etc. What makes discourses socially prolific or hegemonic is the way they are overdetermined (to borrow this from Althusser); that is, each institution broadcasts and reinforces the same discourse.

I think I just butchered Gramsci, Althusser and Foucault. Apologies.

So, clearly, queer oppression is linked strongly with these institutions — in my experience especially the family, school and work — and the particular discourses they inscribe on the social fabric with regards to compulsory heterosexuality and heteronormativity (and a whole host of linked patriarchal discourses). In turn this creates and legitimates the use of psychological and physical violence against queers, which in turn feeds back into the originating institutions.

The next and final question, then, is how do we resist this? Unfortunately, Foucault was never very helpful here. Is it enough to focus on the violence or do we have to oppose the institutions and hetero-hating discourses? If we must also do the latter, how do we do this? Does this require the rise of new homo-friendly hegemonic discourses, or does it require an anti-hegemonic strategy? What the fuck would that look like?

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