The Disregarding of Heteronormativity: Emphasizing a Happy Queer Adulthood and Localizing Anti-Queer Violence to Adolescent Schools

Abstract

This article focuses on how lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) adults in 159 “It Gets Better” videos used happiness discourse to provide advice for an assumed adolescent viewer experiencing anti-queer bullying. Employing a grounded theory approach to analyze the videos and building on sociological analyses of changing sexuality norms, the author develops the concept of “disregarding heteronormativity” to account for processes that draw attention away from the widespread privileging and normalizing of heterosexuality. Indeed, findings reveal that makers of the videos not only localized anti-LGBTQ violence and harassment to adolescent schools, emphasizing the decline or disappearance of discriminatory events into adulthood, but also emphasized happiness and positivity more than power relations and structural constraints. At times, this emphasis included suggestions that bullied LGBTQ youth could improve their lives by adopting a more positive outlook or ignoring the negative opinions of other people. Thus, makers of the videos generally positioned violence against queer youth as primarily solvable through emotional management, contributing to the individualizing and depoliticizing of this social problem. In contrast, the author argues for analyses that resist the disregarding of heteronormativity and instead position unequal power relations as enduring and widespread structural features of US society.

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Acknowledgements

The author would like to thank Alberto McKelligan Hernández and Kara Van Cleaf, as well as three anonymous reviewers, for their helpful feedback on earlier versions of this article.

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Correspondence to Doug Meyer.

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This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors. All procedures performed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. For this type of study, formal consent is not required.

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Meyer, D. The Disregarding of Heteronormativity: Emphasizing a Happy Queer Adulthood and Localizing Anti-Queer Violence to Adolescent Schools. Sex Res Soc Policy 14, 331–344 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13178-016-0272-7

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Keywords

  • It Gets Better
  • Post-gay
  • Age
  • Positive thinking
  • Sexual fluidity
  • Sociology
  • Bullying