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Maynooth Philosophical Papers

Volume 8, 2016

Declan Kavanagh
Pages 73-82

Beyond Toleration: Queer Theory and Heteronormativity

The recent widespread transformation in the conjugal rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people across much of the globe may seem to suggest that, at long last, the history of heterosexism has reached its terminus. In Ireland, the Equal Marriage Referendum in May 2015 offered the opportunity for the citizens of the Republic to extend the same rights, permissions, and privileges to same-sex couples that married heterosexual couples freely enjoy. The passing of that referendum and the extension of these rights to same-sex couples denotes a move beyond societal tolera6tion toward societal acceptance, yet it remains to be seen whether or not the affordance of conjugal rights to LGBT people will necessarily mean that all queer subjects will be given the same acceptance. This article examines equal marriage and its potential engendering of binary divisions between queer subjects who adhere to the logic of cultural heteronormativity and those who transgress its structuring forces. It aims to historicise the discourse that surrounds gay marriage by tracing these debates back to the Enlightenment's production of the companionate marriage. The works of Edmund Burke, his aesthetic writings and political speeches, provide the textual basis for an examination of 'normative desire' in the eighteenth century. The article contends that assessing the eighteenth century's regime of heteronormativity will allow us to see the provisional nature of our own heterosexist cultural formations.

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