Redefining the word normal

Feb 26 • Opinion • 442

Normal. What exactly does this word mean? Well according to dictionary.com, normal is “conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; not abnormal; regular; natural.”
I think the first time I ever put real thought into this word was after an episode of “Sponge Bob.” Hear me out, this will make sense soon.
On season six of “Sponge Bob Square Pants,” there is an episode titled “Not Normal.”
In this episode, Sponge Bob reads “How to Be Normal for Beginners” and vows to change his abnormal ways. However, this only lasts an episode.
It didn’t make sense to me at the time why he was changing who he was, but then again I was only a child who didn’t understand most things. If I were him, I would’ve stayed myself and let others say what they want. Or so I say.
In a perfect world, I would say that. In this world, I would keep my mouth shut and try to appear as “normal” as I can.
I’m sure by now you’re asking yourself why I just spent three paragraphs ranting about Sponge Bob being normal. Monday afternoon in my Comtempory Issues class, we discussed queer theory.
“Queer.” I had heard the word before, but if I’m being honest I never really understood what it meant.
The word queer is an umbrella term used by many for any of the LGBTQ+ labels. However if you Google the word “queer,” the words “strange” and “odd” also come up.
This still makes no sense to me. What is strange or odd about being LGBTQ+?
My best friend from back home is a gay man and there is nothing strange or odd about him. He is one of the sweetest and smartest people I have ever met. If anyone ever tried to disrespect him for who he was, I’d lose my mind.
I remember the first time I ever heard the word “gay.” It was used by my stepbrother when he revealed to me that my uncle was gay.
For some people, hearing news like that can be earth-shattering. Which it was for me; I was upset that my uncle had a boyfriend before me. That wasn’t fair. Then again, I was 12 and nothing seems fair at that age.
I wish I could lie and say I have not been told to act normal before, but I have.
Friends, family, strangers, everyone has told me to stop and act normal for once. What isn’t normal about me? I’m in college, I’m in a heterosexual relationship, I “dress like a female,” I try to stay up on all the trends, what isn’t good enough for these people?
We learned in class, but already knew, that it is society that defines what is and isn’t normal.
I’m 20 now and I still don’t fully understand this. Who is this “society” and why do they get to pick and choose what is right and wrong?
To me, normal is being yourself. Honestly, if it were up to me, normal wouldn’t even be a word to describe people. It’s this stupid six-letter word that can easily make or break someone’s day in one breath.
Stop telling people to be normal and start telling them to express themselves and be who they are.

OLIVIA HAHNER
hahner001@gannon.edu

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