Telling Your Story: Reclaiming the Norm
March 8, 2022
When it comes to the idea of ‘normal’, we’ve been sold a lie. In truth, the concept of ‘normal’ and its moralization are an illusion of privilege. People in charge – and those in the cultural majority – can pretend their reality is ‘the norm’, and that the experiences and identities of others which differ from that ‘norm’ are abnormal, undesirable, deviant. They can (and do) use their power and privilege, sometimes unconsciously, to reinforce this idea that their ‘norm’ is the natural, good, proper one. This means the very idea of ‘normal’ is an oppressive concept in society. Referring to what is ‘normal’ implies that everything and everyone who falls outside of those bounds is on their own, isolated by their abnormality. It helps to weaken marginalized persons by persuading them they are anomalies and convincing them they lack power. It offers an easy excuse for the dismissal of concerns raised by those who don’t fit ‘the norm’. So long as Trans* people wanting access to gender-affirming treatment doesn’t fit within ‘the norm’, it can more easily be ignored. So long as queer topics aren’t part of ‘the norm’, those in power can keep pretending there’s no need to discuss these things in schools. In fact, even discussing things that fall outside the bounds of ‘normal’ is often claimed to be dangerous or harmful.
The situation can seem bleak. How can Trans* voices and concerns be heard when Trans* identities and people themselves are so quickly dismissed as abnormal and therefore unworthy of audience? Speculation began early in the year that 2022 ‘could be [the] most anti-Trans legislative year in history’ in the USA[i]. Yet when it comes to a battle for the culture, for simply the right to exist, Trans* people are the ones gaining ground. Every anti-Trans bill introduced faces fierce resistance, and not just from Trans* folks themselves. That Trans* related issues and controversies are covered so extensively in the media can be frustrating – particularly in terms of the tone of that coverage – but it is a victory. There exist more platforms than ever which can be used to tell your story, to raise your concerns, to add your voice to a collective – and the collective Trans* voice is louder than ever.
Every time an ‘abnormal’ story is told, it chips away at the very concept of ‘normal’, stretches and weakens those boundaries that exist to divide us all. When your identity, your very existence, has been deemed irregular, telling your story becomes a powerful political act, a way of reclaiming the idea of ‘normal’ for yourself – by destroying the very definition of ‘normal’ and ridding it of its moralizing. There is no right or wrong way to be yourself. And you are never as alone as you might think. Every Trans* voice raised is a Trans* voice heard, a reminder that someone else has the same ‘normal’ as you. Not everyone is in a position to tell their story, or perhaps can only tell it anonymously. No one is ever obligated to tell their story – but every Trans* person who does tell their story is giving the world a gift. Offering themselves up as evidence that there is a lot more to people than what is considered ‘normal’. Offering other Trans* people a chance to see that they are not alone in their supposed ‘abnormality’. Claiming a space for Trans* people in ‘the norm’.