Recently, I was having a discussion with a friend of mine about gay culture in the ’80s, and I referenced straight men as “normal”, and didn’t even realise I had done it until he called me out on it. I had this idea that the worlds population was mostly straight, and in a split second decision had related majority to normality. Wanting to be accepted as normal is crucial to people of many minorities, especially where sexual orientation and gender identity are concerned. Wait… What? Read that again.
When I read what I had just wrote I saw a major flaw. I wanted to edit the sentence so it read differently, but it was perfectly ignorant enough to further this discussion. In an effort to advocate for these communities, I made a statement that widened the gap between us. Wanting to be accepted as normal is an issue of being human, not just of those who are underprivileged, overlooked, or sideways glanced at.
The absurdity of even thinking normal exists will probably be a later discussion of its own, but to link the word to the people I relate to most, or to the group I believe makes up the largest demographic is bad enough. We are so uniquely and amazingly complex. There are a million things different about you and I. There are another million things the same. Where is my focus? What is my attitude?
Once our words reach the ears of another person, we can’t unsay them. We can’t go back and proofread our day. But we can move forward, making positive changes based on the education our days give us. My friend probably forgave me for saying he wasn’t normal, but what’s more important is I’ve accepted I have old ideas and bad habits. If we are open to criticism of our words and actions, and humble enough to receive it, we can rewire our brains. One issue at a time, we can open our ears, open our eyes, and open our hearts. We can take the time to understand our differences, bond over our similarities, and celebrate both. We can reflect on our mistakes, forgive ourselves, tolerate others, and start to proofread the ignorance out of our lives.
We are exceedingly conscious of what everyone else is saying and doing, and whether or not they are justified in their beliefs and actions. We are quick to point fingers, and clarify the mistakes of others so that we can feel like we are on a higher plane of existence, that we aren’t as “stupid” as that guy. We like to pontificate on social issues, and everyone’s ignorant “isms”, as we sip coffee and craft beer. We generally choose a side and construct our entire conversation on what we think we are supposed to believe about that topic, based on what we judge is the popular “politically correct” consensus.
For example: a group begins to talk about racism and tensions between whites and blacks. A girl could choose to lie to herself and the rest of the group, to show how progressive her ideals are, and say she doesn’t see color, or, she could be honest with herself, and admit that on the street she is more nervous about an approaching black man than an approaching white man of the same build. If she chose the second option, the conversation could be about why she and many white men and women feel that way, and where to go from there, rather than a conversation where she proves she is clear of blame because she has black friends that she accepts into her community.
It’s hard to be transparent. Can a man be straightforward about how much of a distraction attractive women are to him and still be a supporter of gender equality, or will we say it’s men like him that are the problem? Can a woman share her experience with abortion and also stand up for what she believes in, or will we label her a slut and make her feel ashamed? Can someone who has never struggled with their weight be allowed to give their opinions on the importance of diet and exercise, or will we just “know” they hate fat people? Can a guy tell his friend about the gay dream he had without being called a faggot? Can religious members share their beliefs without being ridiculed? Can anyone listen to your story without judging you? Can you tell it without being afraid of just that?
What if we could suspend our judgements long enough to take in more of a person than the out of context sentences we label them by? What if I could trust that you would treat me as an equal, if I gave you the same courtesy? What if we could be strong enough, to reach a state of being vulnerable enough, to open up to our fellows and start conversations about sensitive issues without raising the temperature of the room to a boiling point?
These are ideas I want to explore.