A synonym for normal is expected. The problem is that people expect certain things, and those are the things that they consider to be normal. They have grown accustomed to these things and become uncomfortable, offended, and even upset when things do not adhere to these rigid expectations.
One thing which people have very strict expectations for are… people. A person that is considered normal is white, straight, able-bodied, cisgender, and male. That expectation is visible in film, books, TV, and more. It seems like no big deal, but the consequences are for more severe than one might expect.
Such severe requirements for the average person automatically decrease the validity of any who might not fit some (or all) of those restrictions. When diversity appears in any mainstream media, those who fit the norm are infuriated. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is an excellent example of that¹. Fans were outraged when the movie featured a woman, a black man, and a Guatemalan man as several of the main characters. After fans began to hypothesize that two of the characters might be gay, there was even more anger. When I read the angry rants of such people, I could only think how foolishly narcissistic they were.
Simply because you might not be an ethnic minority, female, or LGBT+, it doesn’t mean that others aren’t. These groups have just as much right as you to be represented in the media. They might not fit your idea of a normal person, but your idea of a normal person is the problem, not their differentiation.
They shout, “What’s next? A black, bisexual, wheelchair-bound, trans man?”
“Why not?” I reply indignantly.
Each word they add makes the proposed character farther and farther from their definition of a normal person. Farther and farther from a person, at all. Not conforming to the prescribed standards of normalcy does not make you less of a human, but hating people for that does makes you less of one.
We live in a world of normal, where those who don’t prescribe to the set customs are considered to be less. Girls are only seen as beautiful if they follow eurocentric beauty standards. People are assumed to be straight and cisgender, and mocked (or worse) if they reveal that they aren’t. Women are asked how they handle work and family, while men are presumed to be without responsibilities in that area. Those who admit that they suffer from mental disorders or other health problems are made into jokes, not respected and understood. People with disabilities still suffer from the lack of accessibility features, making it nearly impossible to partake in normal parts of daily life. These people are all valid, but are refused acknowledgement, respect, and visibility.
You do not have to fit inside the boxes that society deems normal. In fact, these rigid standards are more akin to cages than anything. Some people simply don’t fit inside these guidelines. Little children playing with puzzles understand that not every piece fits into the same opening. If toddlers can accept that, why can’t adults? People won’t always fit into your idea of what they should be, but that doesn’t make them wrong or less. They are simply different. And if you listened to any of the cheery posters bedecking middle school hallways, you’d know that being different isn’t a bad thing. Unfortunately, that sentiment doesn’t last throughout your entire life. Adults seem to magically forget their sermons on individuality as swiftly as the words exit their mouths. If they truly believed such things, there would be acceptance of all people, even those who don’t fit the expected.
More and more Americans are breaking these norms. Soon, those who fit all of these qualifications will be the new minority. People appear to be incredibly fearful of that day. Why would they be? I mean, it’s not as if those who aren’t considered normal are treated badly. Right? 😉
¹ Read more about Star Wars: The Force Awakens here