Safety and Normalcy

I came out at 14, and I wasn’t scared. I’m fortunate enough to have parents who treated the announcement of my queerness like the announcement of my favorite color. It was a part of me and that was that. Years later, I had a conversation with my mother about when I came out, and about queerness in general. She told me that while she would never change me or my identity when I came out to her, she had a moment of fear. She said, “For a moment my heart sank because I knew that your life just became less safe.” I was less safe because I had admitted that I wasn’t normal. That unfortunate equivalency stems directly from the stigmas that result in microaggressions and violence. Warner, in The Trouble with Normal, calls this stigmatization a sense of pseudo-morality where “people think not only that their own way of living is right, but that it should be everyone else’s moral standard as well” (Warner, 4.) This sense of correctness and self-righteousness is easy for individuals to defend, cherry-picking passages of religious text or warping secular arguments to provide a sense of evidence. This perceived moral high ground provides the precipice where people outside the bounds of normal stand. If I stray from heteronormativity in public, I risk verbal or physical abuse. Even an act as simple as holding my partner’s hand on public transportation could incite a violent reaction from someone who perceives my existence as immoral. And, perhaps even worse, if I were to experience violence based on my sexuality and expression of it, in some places my attacker might never face repercussions. They could plead a case of panic, say that the shock of my queerness led them to their actions and that they cannot be held accountable for that abuse. And some judges and juries that would allow that because to them it is not unreasonable that my perceived lack of morality should incite violence. In a way, I become the criminal, although my “crime might be harmless difference” (Warner, 5) and I am shamed and deprived of dignity. However, that shame and fear also deprive me of my identity. My life is less safe because I maintain my identity, but my life would not be mine if I did not.

 

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