I’ve seen posts with many variations of this theme. People asking themselves if they are normal or perceived as normal. Indeed, what is normal ? Obviously, I’ve asked the same questions of myself over the years.
I think the question pre-supposes a certain level of self-awareness. If you never question elements of your own make up in comparison to what you see in the world around you, then it’s likely that you’ll assume yourself normal in all respects.
Of course, even for those lacking self-awareness there can be clues from the world around them when people suggest that they’re different. “You’re not normal”, “you’re fucking weird”.
How do we judge what is normal ? And how do we get led to be convinced that we’re on the wrong side of the line or not ?
We compare ourselves against the people around us. Interactions with family, friends, work colleagues and all the social environments we find ourselves in give us feedback to our own neuroses, sometimes debilitatingly so. We compare against the social norms drummed in to us from childhood, or what we perceive those norms to be from media that alternately supports and attacks who we identify as. There will be varying biases in those sources. Family will probably have an inordinate weight in the views that we hear and they can be the most cruel and insensitive of all.
For the longest time I’ve been aware that there are things about me that contravene the norms, or who I’m expected to be. Yet I’ve never considered myself abnormal. I’ve conformed on the outside to those expectations and I think I’ve been lucky in that this has rarely set off the sort of internal conflicts I regularly read about in others. It does seem to be an odd position to be in. The kinks and so much more have been rationalised and compartmentalised in such a way that it’s as if I regard it as normal for people to cope this way and as a result I don’t see myself as different. Though it does lead to wondering what it is that everyone around me is hiding [I’m always reminded of a statistic from quite a long time ago, so I don’t know if it’s still true. It was reported that the peak use of internet search for porn terms in the US was on Sunday afternoons in Utah – one of the most religiously conservative states of them all. It doesn’t really surprise me. I used to spend time in Utah before some of the stupider laws were relaxed. No alcohol on a Sunday left porn as about the only available distraction.]
Intellectually, I know that some of my kinks and thoughts are very much deemed as being abnormal. For example, some of my thoughts regarding castration could get me sectioned if voiced in the wrong place. It’s regarded as an extreme form of self-harm. I find it ironic that the medical profession will almost certainly not approve someone for SRS if they have tried to speed up the process with an unapproved orchiectomy.
However, in my own mind I’m very clear on the thought processes that over a very long time have arrived at such thoughts. I can place them in context such that to me they are very rational. I can comfortably live with them such that they don’t interfere with daily life and that seems to be enough for me to consider myself ‘normal’.
I’ve never considered myself subject to mental illness or disorder in any form. Yet, if you consult the American Psychiatric Association DSM 5, gender dysphoria is listed as a mental disorder. Actually, it’s a bit wishy-washy in how it describes gender dysphoria but no longer describing it outright as an illness, as I believe earlier editions did. Mind you, so many things are described in there that virtually no one is exempt from potential diagnosis of some illness or disorder. For example, I can imagine many people falling under a diagnosis of the paraphilic disorders. If you’re reading this and you enjoy sexual responses from, masochism, sadism, voyeurism, exhibitionism, fetishes or transvestism, then you fall in to this category. Yes, it is all about degrees, yet there’s no defined boundaries as to when such things become pathological – this side of the line is fine and normal and the other side of the line is not. The only paraphilic disorder that we agree is always pathological, or at least wrong even if committed only by thought, is paedophilia.
This may grate with some readers, but I have always been an advocate of my own personal responsibility. I’m happy to accept that I have gender dysphoria and that it is a disorder for which there is no cure. That’s probably too blunt for a lot of people. An illness implies something for which treatment can be attempted to elicit a cure – make it go away. Gender dysphoria won’t go away and it won’t be cured. I’m happy to own that within myself and come to my own solutions and accommodations. It’s nobody else’s problem and not their business. As far as I’m concerned this is the normal me.
When I read of people struggling, it often seems to be about the need to no longer keep their concept of themselves inside, a need to shout at the world “this is me, deal with it and accept it”. I can heavily sympathise with that and maybe it will be me one day. I’ve always been an intensely private and solitary individual and I think that leads me to having no need to shout. The world at large knows me in one particular way and I’ve no current desire to upset that view and deal with the fallout.
I may be a coward in this respect. I’ve no intention of coming out to family or at work. Though there is a daily morning temptation as the hands hover over the female clothes and the eyes look at the selection of heels. It’s a complication and hassle that I don’t want to deal with.
Having said that, this blog and the anonymous friends in the online world are a sort of proxy for what I might otherwise be driven to do in real life. In this incarnation I have come out, you know me in my female manifestation and (mostly) don’t consider it strange or abnormal. There are even a couple of special people in real life for whom melody is the real person. The disorders I own for myself that create this manifestation are exactly what make me seem normal to the eye of the beholder here.
The idea that someone or something is normal is an odd concept when you get to think about it. It’s as if you identify the exact median in a wide distribution. Or insist on defining the average as the only acceptable behaviour, the sort of logic that determines all humans must actually have slightly less than two legs.
I can only be definitive as to how I perceive myself as normal. I doubt I can provide any answers to those I read having doubts as to their normalcy. It may be something to do with differing views of the world. I grew up in a time where one accommodated the world and reconciled yourself internally. I have time and respect for those who deal with it differently, who need to shout at the world and refuse to compromise with it. I don’t have the drive or passion to do that, but I love to read and learn from them.
It used to be common in the medical profession in different regional areas, especially rural ones, to write a code on patient records to warn other practitioners. One of the more famous ones was in East Anglia where they used the code “NFN”, meaning “normal for Norfolk”. I may just adapt that and use “NFM” as “normal for melody” 🙂