Chrononormativity

Chrononormativity: The term ‘chrononormativity’ refers to the way in which our experiences follow patterns over time in conformity with normative frameworks, the use of time to organize individual human bodies toward maximum productivity. Found in, Time Binds: Queer Temporalities, Queer Histories by Elizabeth Freeman.

Theory 1, Part 2 “I can decide to simply be who I am (remove pretense and fakery) and learn to believe that I am Good.”
Overlay: Chrononormativity

The algorithm we’re looking at is: Debt Free, Steady Income > Arbitrary Undefined* Number = Good, Happy Adult, Deserves a Partner

*Undefined because I never took the time to figure out how much money I’d need to make to feel like a “good” adult.

To find out where an overlay like “chrononormativity” would go, we look at the first part – “Debt Free, Steady Income.” How does one achieve being debt free and have a steady income? How does a person know how to do that?

Chrononormativity is simply the chronological expectations we have on the average human in our particular society. It changes depending on where we grow up based on our cultural frameworks, including our family.

An example of chrononormativity is a kid growing up as a member of the Mormon (LDS) community would be expected to either go on a mission at the age of 18/19 or get married and start a family. And once married, you’re expected to have a lot of kids aged about 2 years apart. Everyone in the Mormon church, no matter where they live, is expected to get married young and have lots of kids. 

In the United States we expect and have systems set up to get teens a driver’s license around age 16. It’s “normal” for us all to become drivers. If you look at milestone birthdays, it’s the same thing. There are expectations around age built into everything. 

What happens if you aren’t “normal?” Your culture will try to get you in line. The society around you will try to “help” you by getting you back in line with “normal.” It’s meant as kindness, because in your culture, you’re missing important things that make you normal, and that’s what you want to be, right? Your friend’s parents won’t even check in with your parents. They know what the rules are for you at your house. “Your mom would be so ashamed of you right now. She raised you better than that.” Your peers will start asking questions. “You aren’t married yet?” “When will you be having your next baby?” “You don’t drive? How weird.”

Many times, maybe even most of the time, parents put pressure on their kids to conform because they worry about them being bullied and their future success. It’s fair, as a parent, to worry about your kids and their likability by their peers and society. How cool would it be, though, if instead parents instilled in their kids that it doesn’t matter how they are perceived and instead to be true to themselves, that there is room in this world for everyone? Built them up with other strategies for success? Because keeping every next generation in line just keeps perpetuating the same issues. 

Inside those questions above, it’s the meaning we’ve assigned to those experiences that hold the shaming and judgement and guilt. And, as a parent in these cultures, it reflects back on you if your kids aren’t “normal.” 

“You aren’t married yet?” = “What’s wrong with you? Isn’t God blessing you to find your mate? Didn’t your parents teach you right?” 

“When will you be having your next baby?” = “Don’t you want to be righteous and bring down all the spirits from heaven like we’ve been instructed to do by God?” 

“You don’t drive? How weird.” = “Don’t you want to be a grown-up?

“You didn’t go to college?” = “You must not be very smart or dedicated and now you’re never going to succeed at life. How sad for your parents.

“You’re single and graduated from college?” = “You’re a female and you should have been married and started having kids by now. You’re not righteous.

There are literally hundreds, maybe thousands, of chrononormative assumptions from your childhood that you might not even realize exist, that came from your family and your community. 

So. For me as a queer person, the stakes get a little higher. In a conversation with my friend, Genevieve, the other day, we talked about how being a queer person in a community where it’s not accepted exacerbates the shame around chrononormativity. You’re forced into hitting benchmarks to express “normal” to fit in, for yourself and how your parents might be perceived, even though some of those benchmarks are things you might never choose to do. You’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. 

Back to the equation we’re working on: 

Debt Free, Steady Income > Arbitrary Undefined* Number = Good, Happy Adult, Deserves a Partner

becomes

Debt Free, Steady Income (chrononormativity) > Arbitrary Undefined* Number = Good, Happy Adult, Deserves a Partner [where we solve to find out how the overlay of chrononormativity affected my ability to understand how to be debt free and have a steady income]. 

Once we explore the ways chrononormativity affected things, we could swap out other overlays (American self-sufficiency theories, a “woman’s place,” religious culture, family stories, and childhood trauma etc.). 

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