Although there are some very real things to be lost for those who are privileged by systemic oppression, there is a great deal more to be gained through collective liberation. When we think of challenging heterosexism and heteronormativity (the assertion that being heterosexual is the only acceptable way to be), we think of the countless ways queer people are targeted, from patronizing comments that degrade our relationships to diminished access to healthcare and other social services, to the knowledge that every trip outside the house could end in physical violence. For all people, however, heteronormativity also serves to enforce and limit the roles we play in our lives. It creates rigid notions of “family” for everyone who is trying to figure out the best ways to be in intimate, caring relationships with each other or to access support around raising children. Heteronormativity throws up obstacles to the free development of emotionally healthy human relationships, the inability to show, express and engage emotions in a deep way is a common, debilitating problem in many intimate relationships between people of any gender(s). The resistance of our heteropatriarchal society to emotional intelligence as positive and important comes from its relationship to what is considered ‘feminized’ behavior.
Socially, there is an attempt to squash emotional richness in many people but it is particularly attacked in men (same-gender-loving or not, effeminate in their behavior or not).
Relatedly, we see the need for those of us organizing against the prison-industrial complex and war to also prioritize ending violence against women within our own organizations and communities. The joint statement issued back in 2001 as a collaboration by INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence and Critical Resistance on ‘Gender Violence and the Prison Industrial Complex’ is particularly illuminating around these connections.