One of the projects of queer theorists is the re-evaluation of identity politics and the identity categories homosexual and heterosexual. Using Derrida's notions of copy, original, and imitation, Judith Butler questions the binary opposition of heterosexuality as original, and homosexuality as copy, thus establishing the limitations of both identity categories to capture the varied, fluid, unknowable and ultimately unnameable nature of human sexuality.
Butler sets out to destabilize the harmful notion of homosexuality as copy. She uses the concept of homosexuality not as copy, but as imitation. She starts of with the concept of compulsory heterosexuality as original, and homosexuality as copy. In this conception, heterosexuality is established as original and prior by distinguishing it from homosexuality. In this way, heterosexuality maintains its status through distinguishing itself from homosexuality as copy.
However, she asks, in this way, does heterosexuality not rely on homosexuality for its definition as original; for without a copy, there would be no original. Without homosexuality to act as copy and derivative, heterosexuality would just be; it would have no claim to originality or naturalness. In this way, perhaps, homosexuality can be seen as the original term, as it is the term in the binary which lends definition. However, this binary is also easily upset, for it is only as a copy of heterosexuality that homosexuality can have any claim to this status.
Through this flip-flopping, the heterosexual/homosexual binary and hierarchy is disrupted, and Butler introduces the concept of homosexuality as imitation, not copy. The distinction is that homosexuality is not a copy of a prior and original heterosexuality, but is an imitation which destabilizes the notion of copy and real, revealing all sexual identities to be performance, and heterosexuality to be a reiteration of certain idealized societal norms, rather than a natural, ideal sexuality. Homosexuality is another performance, rather than a copy of and a failed attempt at heterosexuality. By destabilizing the binary opposition of copy and origin, homosexuality and heterosexuality, with the concept of imitation or mime, Butler establishes all sexual identities as performance, and sexuality as that which cannot be known or named. Her treatment of this binary opposition is similar to the way Derrida destabilizes the binary opposition of absence and presence with the concept of differance.
Butler views this conception of sexuality, as something which cannot be known and cannot be contained, as a potential site of political resistance, and as a critique of certain aspects of identity politics. A term which explains her views on identity politics is "stumbling block."
Judith Butler's "Imitation and Gender Insubordination"