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Gender-subversive fan fiction


In the New Inquiry, Owen Parry examines fan fiction by teenage girls, especially featuring boy bands like One Direction. Parry suggests that teen-girl fan fiction has the potential to subvert not only heterosexual norms, but also the emerging system of “homonormativity”:

“Welcome to a new world order! Coming soon to a mainstream near you.” This is where Lisa Duggan leaves us in her 2002 essay “The New Homonormativity: The Sexual Politics of Neoliberalism,” which examines an emerging politics after “gay liberation.” Instead of contesting dominant heteronormative ideologies and institutions, this new homonormativity upholds and sustains them. Duggan’s examples include the work of lesbian and gay organizations in the 90s such as the Independent Gay Forum (IGF) and writers like Andrew Sullivan, author of Virtually Normal, who argued that marriage is “the highest form of human happiness,” “a profoundly humanizing, traditionalizing step” and “ultimately the only reform that truly matters.” Duggan’s discourse focuses on showing how homonormativity abandons earlier political commitments to economic redistribution and protection of sexual freedoms by marginalizing those who challenge serial monogamy and those who feel oppressed by a binary gender or sex system – including transgender, bisexual, pansexual, and intersex people.

Since then, much of the discussion on homonormativity surveys the ways in which it intersects with white privilege, capitalism, sexism, transmisogyny, and cissexism by veering for acceptance within economic and political systems in its quest for equality. Now, well over a decade after this “new world order” and since legal endorsements of gay marriage in the mainstream, the normative and family-oriented political agendas of the IGF are easily reinforced in domestic partnerships, adoption, and gender-normative social roles. And while homonormativity is reproduced and consumed through a growing number of commercial television series, its incorporation (by mostly teenage girls) into the sub-genres of fan art and fan fiction might offer opportunities for its simultaneous assimilation and sublimation.

Illustration by Karukara, via The New Inquiry