My ‘normal’ will never be the same with your ‘normal’, so what is normal?

Posted by Anca Gliga

Only a few days ago, I attended an event celebrating the UN International Day of Family. It aimed at pointing out how we should live in a world of understanding and peace. How we are all the same* and love, family** and education*** should be at the core of everything.

(*except for gay people, **’did you see the leaflets encouraging this scandalous new notion of a family, lobbying for same sex people to live in civil partnerships and to be able to adopt children? It’s the greatest insult for this sacred institution of marriage!’ ***’I home-school my kids, the current educational system is not appropriate, with this trend for same sex couples acceptance’).

Apparently, there are limits to this need for global ‘understanding and peace’. All the speakers reaffirmed the general idea – the world needs love and families at the root of society. A world with broken families leads to alienation of the individual and can have – has already – serious effects over the society as a whole. The speeches started from the theme of the importance of the family and the extended one. How our parents, brothers, aunts, cousins, even neighbours, give us that sense of belonging and community. How we should love each other. Still, we need family, but not just any family. As the atmosphere relaxed, the speakers also mentioned how they do not see the family (*see the mentions above). It seems that we live in societies that have clear definitions of genders and their roles and purposes.

This experience comes two weeks after our training on ‘Mainstreaming gender education in youth work’. Being in the room and hearing what was said made me wonder – how would I have perceived these speeches in my mind set of 3 weeks ago, before the training? Because there is a before and an after this training. The before reaction would have been, probably, a lack of opinion, because I knew too little. I would not have challenged the idea of a ‘normal’ family, the one made out of a mother and father, female and male. That is how my ‘normal’ family was and I never interacted with same sex families, so I had no clear viewpoint. I had no opinion on homosexuality simply because I had no opinion on heterosexuality. I was aware that homosexuality existed and it was one of those sensitive issues that we hide under the rug as societies – what is not spoken of does not exist, no?

The after reaction was the thought that trainings like ‘Boys don’ cry…?’ should be delivered to anyone, and soon. Young, old, white, black, Muslim, Hindu, vegetarian, tall, short, with or without any education, etc. Anyone.

What I heard was contradictory – we aim at societies based on love and understanding, but we have limits to this love. It should not be for everyone, only for those perceived as ‘normal’. But we build that ‘normal’ according to our education, culture, religion and different backgrounds. My ‘normal’ will never be the same with your ‘normal’, so what is normal?

The limits that we put to this need for general understanding we all agree should exist depend on our stereotypes, patterns and inherited mind sets that we do not challenge. Extrapolating, the issues about which we tend to also think in terms of ‘normal’ vs. ‘not normal’ in gender issues are not just about homosexuality, but also about little girls who would rather play with cars instead of dolls, about people who decide to undergo sex reassignment surgeries, about gender inequality, about who we perceive as victim in domestic violence, rape, and what we do about it, etc. We inherit stereotypes in these aspects and we multiply them later on, taking them as our baggage of ‘normal’.

‘Boys don’t cry…?’ challenged me and, I dare say, the rest of the participants, to identify and question the stereotypes on gender issues that we have inherited. Through various games, activities, informal discussions, I felt challenged to analyze myself, to question and to come up with my own answers. The main thing I gained after ‘Boys don’t cry…?’ is an opinion. One that I will argument, support and multiply as much as I can – in my personal and professional life. My opinion is that boys do cry, and it’s perfectly fine to do so.

Posted by Anca Gliga.

These are the personal reflexions of a participant of the training Course Boys don’t cry…? Mainstreaming Gender in youth work (Tarragona, April 2013) implemented by the Association of Human Rights Educators AHEAD

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