The Week of 6/11/2006
Witty one liner: Why be normal when you can be yourself?
Quote of the week: Cut out
Offbeat oddity (courtesy of the planner): An octopus has three hearts
I think the witty one liner for this week has been my guiding principle in life. There have been many many times where I have wished I was someone else or not as awkward and for a time between ages 18-24 there were times were I might have wondered what was wrong with me, but I don’t think I ever wanted to be normal. I somehow understood that “normal” was boring and not really normal. It was solidified in undergrad when I pursuing my LGTBQ minor, here is an excerpt from a paper for one of my QSX classes:
“I just want to be normal” is a lament voiced by most adolescents. The majority of adults strive for the same state of normality, in both their public and private lives. But what does it mean to be normal? Is there one overarching paradigm that all people aspire to? While the concept of normal is invoked constantly, its definition is eternally shifting and eluding capture. No one is normal, and no one can ever be fully normal. Thus, if no one can really be normal, why do so many people want to be normal and what are the ramifications of this pursuit of normality? These questions can only be answered through a critical questioning of how normal came into existence and how it is imposed on society.
Michael Warner, in his essay “What’s Wrong With Normal?,” gives a comprehensive history of how the concept of normality came to be. Warner locates the genesis of normality with the rise of statistics in the nineteenth century and uses Georges Canguilhen’s work The Normal and the Pathological as a lens to evaluate this theory. Canguilhen, according to Warner, “argues that modern medicine has been based on a confusion about the normal, ever since it first began using statistics” (56). The evolution of statistics started with religion and the idea that averages constitute a regularity which is indicative of divine law. Statistics were then adopted by science to formulate natural laws and create what was the average and thus “normal” for humans. Initially normality circulated around the body, trying to document what body temperature or blood pressure was normal for a “right, proper, healthy” person and from there was translated into sexuality (Warner 57). Thus the pattern of religion to science to state can be seen here and will be reflected later in Riki Wilchin’s text.
Warner is adamantly opposed to the application of statistics to comprise any notion of what is healthy or normal in any context because “Health requires variation, not a pregiven norm” (58). Using Canguilhen and his own interpretation, Warner comes to the conclusion that the world is not black and white; a person is not simply normal or abnormal. Desperately ascribing to ideals of normality in regards to sexuality, especially within the LGBTQ community, is tantamount to betrayal, not just of yourself and your own identity, but your community. This is seen as betrayal because sex and sexuality, especially non-normative sex and sexuality, are key elements in the LGBTQ identity and denying them is a direct denial of self.
The paper goes on for another few pages, but that whole class in general was very eye-opening for me and understanding myself. Since bitchy 16 year old me cut out this week’s quote, here is one from another paper in that class:
“We have been raised to fear the yes within ourselves, our deepest cravings…. The fear of our desires keeps them suspect and indiscriminately powerful, for to suppress any truth is to give it strength beyond any endurance. The fear that we cannot grow beyond whatever distortions we may find within ourselves keeps us docile and loyal…” – Audre Lorde “Uses of the Erotic”
As I say in my paper “It struck me hard. I am docile. I deny what I want because I feel it is wrong and shameful.” That was 20 year old Michelle and 26 year old Michelle has come a very long way. I ask for what I want, it’s hard and it takes me a while sometimes, but my friends, family, and The Boyfriend always wait patiently for me to sort out my brain and then word vomit it out. I am actually happy. I am still scared stiff about some of the things I want and I have more anxiety than I would ever wish on anyone, but I am learning to grow beyond the “distortions” I find within myself.
I have never really thought that much about octopi until I started reading fanfiction because in pretty much every story there is one person who cuddles “like an octopus” and so now it is seared on my brain and I happily imagine myself wrapping around someone like an octopus to smother them with love. But now it makes sense why they hug/squeeze/smother people to death – they have three hearts = too much love to give out.
Alright, everyone take a deep breath in.
I am super proud of all of you!