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Diversity in Modern Society


#3816

In your social circle being gay was abnormal - to them. I’d guess that played a role in your hesitance in coming out and helped drive your goals to make homosexuality more accepted. You’re looking for absolutes in normal and abnormal, but you know what’s normal and what isn’t is, in practice, individual based on each persons experience and personality. It’s up to others to help change minds, so hopefully you’re the 1 in the 250 that’s making being gay a normal thing.


#3817

This discussion seems to me to be just about the meaning of words. What do you mean when you say normal or abnormal?

Rather than haggling over words I think it is vital people just let others be whatever they want to be as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else.


#3818

You can argue that there is a distinction between “not normal” and “abnormal” from your perspective but I can guarantee you that those who would seek to cause harm to those for whom being in a same-sex relationship is a natural expression of their own selves that those two terms are seen as synonyms. And yes, "abnormal’ does sound harsher, doesn’t it?

And I get that and in a world where individuality is able to be freely expressed without fear of prejudice, discrimination or harm, I’m right up there with you. But this isn’t about individuality vs normality; it’s about using phrases like “not normal” as the first step in denying people fundamental human rights.

Writing a description for yourself on a dating site - sure?

If it’s a choice between being normal and boring, and not-normal and persecuted for it though, then I embrace normal every single time. As I said above, I will absolutely shout my individuality from the rooftops, but I also need to be protected by a social, cultural and legal framework that respects my biological variation as being normal.

This, to me, is the argument from ignorance, wilful or otherwise, of those who see these issues as subjective and not objective.

You really do want to rewind the clock don’t you?

Alcoholism, schizophrenia, dementia are all examples of human pathology, not physiology. Like cancer, or heart disease, or diabetes, while they fall within the variance of natural human biology, they all represent pathological processes where the normal functioning of body, brain and mind has gone wrong in some way.

Hair colour, height, sexuality represent normal physiological variations of human difference - they represent brain, body and mind working within the parameters of what is normal for our biology. At the extremes pathology starts to overlap - some very short people are actually short because they have a form of dwarfism; some very tall people are actually tall because they have a diagnosis of a condition like Marfan Syndrome. Correctly diagnosing those pathological conditions and treating the associated other medical problems can make significant differences to quality and quantity of life. If you are physiologically tall or physiologically short then medical treatment is much less appropriately indicated (there’s an interesting side debate from a sociological and cultural perspective whether people who are physiologically short are impaired as a result, not because of pathology but because the world literally looks down on shorter people - an argument used to say that very short, but physiologically normal, children should be offered growth hormone)

Being gay used to be considered a pathological difference - a disease and an illness just like schizophrenia. There are two main diagnostic manuals in use in psychiatry, the American Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and the World Health Organisation International Classification of Diseases (ICD), with a wider remit. Homoesexuality was defined as a disease, a pathological mental condition, in DSM until 1973, and only completely removed as a pathological diagnosis in 1987. Homosexuality was removed as a disease from ICD in 1992.

They were removed for exactly that reason that unlike dementia or schizophrenia, with overwhelming evidence that these were pathological expressions of human biology gone wrong, the evidence increasingly demonstrated (and even more so now) that homosexuality is a physiological difference, not a pathological one - it’s a different expression of human biology working right, not working wrong.

So “right or wrong? Biology won’t tell you that?” - actually it does, and trying to turn that objective truth into a subjective opinion is something that causes harm, just as it did when homosexuality was defined as a mental illness.

You can call same-sex relationships “not normal” rather than “abnormal” and maybe to you there’s a difference.

But the second that someone like me has their life defined in those terms by someone like you, it’s the beginning of a process that permits removal of universal human rights down the line. History is replete with examples of that so, if defending my right to be considered ‘normal’ means I get seen as ‘boring’, then so be it.


#3819

Being gay is normal. Absolute truth.

How society perceives being gay is more complex, yes, but it doesn’t change that absolute truth one jot, whether there’s someone in your social circle who is gay or not.


#3820

What makes one thing normal and another thing abnormal?


#3821

“Someone like me”? Sounds like you’ve already made a positive assumption about me when my whole point has been not to make assumptions. I’m not labeling you as “not normal” in general, but homosexuality as “not normal” for me. However, you’re insisting that everyone has to absolutely agree with you no matter their own experience. I’m making no demands for definitions on your life, but you are trying to define what I’m allowed to think in mine.

What exactly do you mean by someone like me? I’ll defend your right to deviate from what anyone thinks is normal, but I won’t punish people for their opinions on what’s normal for them.


#3822

Somebody making superficially reasonable and cogent arguments fundamentally predicated on the fact that something intrinsically central to my core identity - that I am attracted to, and form relationships with, someone of the same sex - is “not normal”.

And how do you differentiate between saying that you see “being homosexual” as “not normal” for you, but you’re not labelling me as “not normal”?

Being gay is fundamental to who I am. If you say “being homosexual is not normal”, I don’t see a distinction between that and you seeing me as being “not normal” because I can’t separate being me from being gay. It’s as much a part of me as my eye colour or my gender or my height.

This is an example of that; this looks superficially reasonable and rational - “I think what I think, you think what you think, let’s just agree to disagree”

If you say that you think the sun is green, and that you thinking the sun is green doesn’t cause me any harm, so what’s the point in arguing about it, it doesn’t change the fact that the sun is yellow.

Homosexuality, in the context of human biological experience, is normal.

That’s not an opinion, it’s a fact. Trying to turn it from objective fact into a subjective opinion is the first step in a process that ends with lines being drawn between “normal” and “not-normal” that threaten the application of universal human rights to those in the group identified as “not normal”.

The social and cultural opinion of that biological fact may differ (and indeed change and evolve over time and place - I completely agree that there is a level of social and cultural lensing through which ideas like homosexuality are perceived), between individuals and between different groups, but the core underlying biological truth does not. I can’t stop you from holding your opinions, for what you think about that fact, but the truth of that foundation principle is not subjective.

And the difference is that while you believing the sun is green is unlikely to cause me, and people like me (or indeed, anyone) harm, allowing the belief that homosexuality is “not normal” to propagate unchallenged absolutely will.


#3823

These terms are not very helpful in the first place. In some societies female genital mutilation is normal. In the past slaughtering other tribes was normal.

Anyone’s identity is valid, wether they’re deemed normal by others or not. It is this kind of arbitrary moral authority that gives some kind of “moral stamp of approval” which is the problem. That is the kind of society we have to reject. If we value normality so much it is because we want to be accepted by the moral authorities that use those labels, but fuck them, fuck conformity.

I can’t change the opinion of people who think I’m not worthy because of who I am, all I can change is how I feel about that.


#3824

Normal is supposed to mean ‘the norm’. The average, the typical, the standard. It’s got actual mathematical usage that way. It’s not being used that way here, I think the word normal is being used rather than the better word natural. Homosexuality isn’t the norm, but it is natural. But in English words get used beyond their intended use, so saying being gay is normal and being gay is natural is essentially saying the same thing, even though they have different meanings. Being straight is normal.

Language matter though, as Mike points out being not normal can be a basis for confirming a prejudice. You can’t really go to a bigot and point out their incorrect use of language - I don’t think they’d care.


#3825

Agreed; it’s using “norm” as a synonym for “common”

… “the norm” :wink:

(and is the same point I meant by this right at the beginning:

[quote=“Mike, post:3809, topic:1461”]
There is a difference between normal, common, and similar.

My sexuality is different, uncommon … but normal.
[/quote] )


#3826

Maybe there’s a kind of cultural difference? I think the Netherlands has a tradition of valueing weirdness and outsiders. Well, not everyone does of course, but a sizable part of the population. I also spent a week in they “gay neighborhood” of Washington DC, I don’t think those guys aspired too be deemed “normal”.

Isn’t it better to be respected as an individual than to be deemed normal?


#3827

I get Mike’s point though that it important not to be deemed less normal than any other individual. However, it’s not a great argument for tolerance to simply say normal when the fact that bigoted reactions occur because what people encounter is unusual, uncommon and scary essentially because normal is defined as whatever is good, helpful and harmless so anything exceptional is immediately defined as dangerous.

The trouble I have is that progressives and especially actual gay activists are by definition way outnumbered here. There are far more people inclined to disagree than agree, but these arguments are designed to persuade only those inclined to agree. You’ll find bigots everywhere - gay and straight, minority or mainstream. Xenophobia is essentially against what people perceive as not normal. Trying to change the context is not going to convince them. You have to accept that whatever it is - same-sex relationships, black skin - is feared because it is already not normal in their eyes (more complex than that, but essentially). How do you start the conversation to persuade that even if they don’t think it is normal, that it is necessary not to diminish it, eradicate it and is instead healthy to get out of the way?

You have to start from their individual perspective where everyone is not normal. And if you do that, you set the stage for the next conversation and next group to find itself “othered.” Everyone can understand that. Like Mike points out, being tall, red-haired, crooked teeth or English is weird, but would you throw a person in jail or beat them up for it?

Well, maybe the English…


#3828

I would be fairly confident that, no matter how proud of their individuality they were and are that, like me, they would expect to have the same legal and human rights as any other citizen - rights that in countries like yours, mine and the US have been won relatively recently and those fights for equality under the law are far from over yet. We still have one constituent nation of the United Kingdom where same-sex marriage remains illegal, for example.

That’s what “normal” is correlating to in this context - people who are identified as “normal” are treated with the same rights as everyone else. When people begin to be identified as “not normal” in this sense (not the same thing as the fabulous expression of their unique individuality), it is the beginning of that process of “Othering” that Christian mentioned before


#3829

I certainly agree that everybody deserves the same rights. It’'s not right to take rights away from anyone wether I think they are normal or abnormal.

edit: The thing I think is the case here is that normality gets confused sometimes with common intrahuman respect and decency, and of couse the human rights issue. Everybody is entitled to that, unless they hurt others.


#3830

I would disagree with that. I think some points are too fundamental and too important to attempt to compromise on. But on that, we maybe can agree to disagree.

Compromise works best where the “real” truth lies in the middle; the Vorlon’s three-edged sword of understanding from B5 - “your side, their side … and the truth”. Lots of politics is like that, and when that’s the situation, compromising on “your side” to get to the middle ground makes sense.

It doesn’t work when what you are being asked to compromise on is an objective fact.

I say water is wet, you say water is dry; I say the sun is yellow, you say it is green. There isn’t a halfway point where elements of both ‘opinions’ are true (*) - one side is factually, objectively correct and the other is not. Compromising in that situation, saying that something isn’t true when you know it is to try to persuade the other person nearer to consensus doesn’t usually work … it just makes them emphasise the fact that you doubted your truth, and they double down on it being subjective and not objective.

So, yes, I will always aim to find common ground and seek compromise, and there’s plenty of scope for that in the how and the when and the manner of achieving change with regards to LGBT+ rights and laws (so, for example the gradualist approach towards things like equalising the age of consent or introducing civil partnerships building to equal marriage - absolutely)… but I will not back down on something that I know to be objective truth because I know that in the long term, the only person that benefits are those who want to make that objective truth appear to be a subjective opinion so they can attempt to undermine and dispose of it.

Being homosexual is biologically normal (or natural if you prefer). That is an objective truth, and I will not compromise on it.

*: Unless you go quantum, and you know that’s not what I mean


#3831

Where does the UK still need to make ground in your opinion Mike?


#3832

From an LGB perspective, the lack of equal marriage in Northern Ireland is the obvious legislative anomaly.

The other general LGBT+ one that I think is key is building in inclusive education as standard in all schools; the Scottish Government became the first in the world to do that last year (and took on the challenge of the significant religious groups in Scotland who have historically chosen to omit that teaching from their lessons to do so), and Westminster is moving towards it. The Ofsted opinion/ruling on the Birmingham school is another small but significant step towards what will eventually be legislation supporting it.

I think we need to be better at how people understand bisexuality; there’s a degree of biphobia that’s unique to being bisexual, and a prevailing attitude of disbelief that being ‘really’ bi is something that exists.

But the massive issue in the UK at the moment is transgender rights; the attitude towards trans people in the UK at the moment is peculiarly hostile and toxic, and it will need concerted effort and sustained campaigning in the face of what is a deeply unpleasant, and subtly corrosive, environment against trans people. For trans people in the UK today, things are probably at an equivalent point as they were for homosexual people in the late 80s/early 90s. There’s a huge amount of work to be done, and even the key LGBT+ groups like Stonewall have only really sorted themselves out in the last 5 years or so to realise that and work out that they need to do something about it.

(as with the debate about LGBT+ inclusive education where those opposed tend to have a rather determined focus on ‘we can’t teach primary school children about gay sex!’, the ‘debate’ about trans rights often seems to focus on toilets, and the return, repackaged for the 21st century, of that 80s idea that every gay man was a paedophile in sheep’s clothing, only now it’s that every trans person is secretly determined to covertly infiltrate ‘opposite’ sex environments to commit acts of harm against ‘real’ men/women)


#3833

I never said that it wasn’t - and actually, that has never been any part of this argument - you moved it to that because you feel comfortable there rather than considering the much more vague but far more pertinent element of people’s perceptions of normalcy.

Who cares if it is biologically normal if it is not culturally normal? Human culture itself is not natural or normal compared to any other animal.

The prejudice against homosexuality is not based on what people think about biology but on culture and on people’s everyday experience of what they find to be normal. Honestly, most people are very aware of what is not normal in their own desires, so it’s not too hard to get their empathy from that.

It’s important that roles for the less common people in society be supported, and that has to start by acknowledging that these are exceptional cases for the majority of people who may have all sorts of preconceptions to overcome.


#3834

Your subjective opinion - “same-sex relationships are not normal” - is in ignorance of the deeper, underlying objective truth, that same-sex relationships are absolutely normal in the context of human biology.

You’re entitled to your opinion, but it is not one based in fact, but in your own beliefs, and yes, I think that’s entirely pertinent to a discussion about what’s normal.

Your perception (or indeed my perception) as to whether my being in a same-sex relationship is normal or not is completely irrelevant to the objective truth of it, which is that it is normal (or natural) in biological terms.

Every civil rights argument has that same principle at its core. Your belief is irrelevant in determining the objective truth; your subjective opinion is yours.

Defence of homophobia is absolutely rooted in arguments of false biology.

10 countries in the world still impose the death penalty for people who are homosexual.

In countries like Nigeria, politicians and bishops use phrases like “un-Biblical, unnatural and un-African” to justify their anti-LGBT+ laws. In Chechyna, the president declares emphatically that homosexuality simply does not exist in his country, and that if it does these people are unnatural, and fit only to be killed. And they are.

And I would counter your earlier claim by saying that your arguments constantly seek to shift the argument into subjective areas because it’s where you feel more comfortable in defending your opinion that homosexuality is “not normal”.

I care that it’s biologically normal, because fundamentally it means that when I debate issues like this with people making arguments like you, it means I know that I do so from a foundation of simple, unassailable truth: I exist, I am gay, I am normal, and I am entitled to exactly the same respect, rights, privileges and responsibilities as everyone else.

Knowing that objective truth is what gives me - and everyone like me - the conviction to argue against those who insist that our rights and privileges are contingent on the subjective interpretation of others of both our existence and, at its most extreme in countries like Nigeria or Chechnya, our right to exist.

Your subjective cultural belief that being gay is (culturally) “not normal” is no more or less valid than someone who believes that the Earth is flat, or that the sun is green, or the moon is made of cheese. As long as views don’t cause harm to others, fair play to you; but the idea that being gay is “not normal”, biologically or culturally, does cause harm to others.

Whether my life is ultimately, objectively, natural or normal isn’t something to be decided by other people’s subjective opinion (which incidentally is also why the referenda for equal marriage in Ireland and Australia were so problematic in form)


#3835

Is there anything in biology that isn’t biologically normal? What biological phenomena do you think are abnormal?