On “Transcendent,” one of the gals is thinking about “bottom surgery,” although if she gets it, they will have to make it big, because she is a bit of a size queen. Man-made vaginas have serious limitations, though.
Her therapist asks her how she sees herself. She says that even after so much cosmetic work that it maxes out her credit cards, she still sees herself as a boy.
“Surgery won’t change who you know yourself to be,” says the therapist. “Every woman knows where their body isn’t perfect, but changing that body won’t change their mind.”
“I just want to be normal,” the gal tells her therapist, starting to understand that maybe, that’s not going to be possible for her.
I am normal, somewhere on the bell curve of how humans are. I’m not abnormal; people like me have always existed in the population of humans.
But I am far from normative, far from someone other humans consider smack dab average.
Normative is all about the expectations we have for people we meet, the assumptions we make about what a regular “normal” human is. What do they look like, what do they believe, what do they love, how do they respond, what choices do they make.
“There was a time when being a Christian was normal,” one pastor starts a message to his flock about a new sermon series examining the life of David for lessons about how to be the only Christian in the room.
In a country where 70% of people identify as Christian, how abnormal is it to be Christian now? And what are the odds you will be the only Christian in any room?
This pastor longs for a day when church membership was at the top of people’s identity list, a day when it was normative to think of your religion as a primary identifier. The social pressure towards normative membership in that day would make it easier for him to plant a church, letting the community do the work with their expectations.
Normativity is about expectations which create social pressure to fit in, to be compliant and average. And by calling the normative “normal,” we add to that pressure, allowing others to be shocked and upset when we apparently just refuse to “act normal.”
That gal in “Transcendent” just wants to fit in better, wants to not have to negotiate queerness every time she meets a new attractive man.
Her therapist, though, makes the point that changing your body won’t really change who you know yourself to be. Your history and biology won’t change at all.
The only thing you can really change are your choices, and that involves changing your mind, letting the miracle of seeing the world in a new way allow you to become new and better.
As a transwoman, I live in the space between normal and normative.
I am not abnormal, sick, perverted, broken, degraded, or otherwise less than human.
I am also not normative, not easily fitting into social expectations of how proper humans should act to be respectable. I don’t fit easily into groupings, don’t find it simple to just be one of the gang, can’t just be tame and compliant
My sister has known me longer than anyone else on earth, so I asked her the simple question “Am I being contrary and ornery to piss off the world, or is who I am just who I have always been?”
There is a construction in the trans world that somehow, there is one “real me” who needs to be released and embodied. This is a follow on notion from Virginia Prince’s notion, taken from Jung, that there are two “real me” a masculine and a feminine one in everybody.
The first time I met The Prince, she chided me for not accepting my feminine side. I chided her for not accepting all the sides that humans have in the world, the whole range of normal. FPE/SSS worked hard to define what was “normal” for transpeople, denying queerness in the process.
My reality is normal but far from normative, claiming space away from social pressure to fit into some group identity by doing only what others expect of you. Using the denial of “Normal” as a threat just never worked to keep me banal and compliant.
I am who I am. I am not now and never have been two people, but I have always a wide range of viewpoints and concerns inside me.
The real me is complex, nuanced, and maybe even contradictory, holding divergent needs in an active tension.
My authenticity does not come from some kind of external consistency, some way that I am easily pinnable and therefore “real.” My authenticity comes from the textured diffraction of a lively human mind which experienced many pulls in the course of a human life.
People who want me to put all that shit down and just “act normal” have no idea of the true diversity and value of the beautiful human nature that we, as species share. What is normal for humans is an amazing range of cultures, fashions, tastes, beliefs, and choices. We are an astoundingly adaptable species.
What they really want is for me to “act normative,” making the choices which they believe other people are “supposed” to make in order to be respected, valued and accepted. They want me to fit in better, doing what they would do, making them comfortable and confirming that they make the right choices when they choose to assimilate and fit in.
I understand the desire to fit in, to be seen as normative, without having to explain every difference and face the fear, scorn and disdain that “normal” people reserve for those whose choices they find weird and wrong.
Normal, in the way that it is casually used, is fake and bullshit. Lines like “And when the doctor said I had cancer, I knew that nothing would ever be normal again” ignores the fact that having cancer is a terrifically normal thing to happen to humans. Live long enough and almost everyone has some kind of cancer.
Our understanding of what is usual, conventional, expected and normative changes all the time, but change doesn’t ever redefine the range of what what is normal for humans.
I’ve been well in the range of normal for a human since I was born, even on the days when other people told me I was not “normal” and that I should “act normal” or I would deserve whatever shit I got from other people.
Trying to fit into someone else’s “normal,” well, that seems to ask us to lose part of our beautiful, diverse normal humanity to fit into what other people define as normative.
And it’s something that I could never really do, anyway.