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Denigrating Normativity Vs. Punishing Differences: Thoughts on the Backlash
Why is it so hard to find a middle ground?
It’s not cool to be normal, or rather, normative, as the hip lingo goes. Being attracted to the opposite sex, not having gender issues, and having children or desiring to raise children under such circumstances is completely out of the question. Such a lifestyle only perpetuates the harms of the colonialist cisheteropatriarchy, don’t you know? And are you even homosexual if you also seek a stable and loving monogamous partnership and aren’t interested in dismantling society? Well, at the very least, you’re not queer, and if you’re not queer, then you are normative, and that makes you a bad person.
I wish I was embellishing, but this is the message of today’s queer activists.
You could argue that the kinds of people pushing such ideas represent an extreme fringe of woke progressivism—but unfortunately, I don’t think that’s actually the case. These ideas are pushed by people who have enmeshed themselves into positions of significant power and influence, who run training workshops and charge ridiculous speaking fees that useful idiots are begging to pay them.
Even if that wasn’t the case, even if these were truly fringe and minority views, it doesn’t really matter. The overarching vision that being “normal” in any way is bad and that being any flavor of “queer” makes you an unimpeachable victim and unquestionable moral actor is the vision that society has received, and it is the reason that a major backlash is brewing.
Understandably, many people are looking at how far things have gone and deciding that we have to go back to traditional values and morality. This isn’t in and of itself a bad thing. “Traditional” values have stuck with us because they work. Society needs to have a backbone of morals and values to keep things from going off the rails. If this mess is waking people up to the value of stable relationships, family, commitment, and community, and even if it pushes them to rediscover the importance of religion or a spiritual life, I think these things are actually very good.
But, as pendulums do when they swing, they swing as far in one direction as they did in the other. There is a growing anger not only at the horrible excesses of the queer movement, which deserves to be derided and eschewed, but at anyone even remotely considered to be associated with it. I feel it all goes too far when the anger and backlash begin to hit individuals; when anyone who is same-sex attracted and gender non-conforming is considered to be part of the problem just because they are the way they are.
Where one end of this extreme denigrates normativity, the other end seeks to punish differences. To be different is framed as a moral failure, and it breeds feelings of disgust. And we know where feelings of disgust aimed at minorities can lead.
I remarked to a friend a few months ago that I am glad I am a lesbian. Aside from the obvious reasons for this, what I meant was that I am glad I can’t help but be one of the “different” ones. If I wasn’t, if I could easily lead a normal life, I too could see myself potentially retreating to the comfort and protection of tradition and perhaps finding too much certainty in my opinions about how everyone else should lead their lives.
But I can’t do that, and I have to stay stuck in a place where I recognize that there is value in offering most people in society normative ideals to strive for, but that it isn’t necessarily the right path for every individual in that society. As I also remarked to another friend a few months ago, all I ever wanted was to carve out a small place for myself and leave the rest alone.
I don’t buy the idea that we start down the slippery slope the moment we decide to show tolerance for people who don’t fit into the norm. I think that only happens when our philosophy is rotten. I think it happens when we grant acceptance not on the basis of actual tolerance but on relativistic and subjective grounds like those offered by postmodernism. If the basis of your tolerance is that anything goes because there is no truth, then it is eventually going to degenerate into a hatred of the normal.
A good example of this is the inability of the progressive mindset to differentiate between description and prescription. Take the simple fact that most people are heterosexual. In some circles, if you mention that this is the normal and natural state of things, you know, to ensure the continued survival of the species, you will be accused of hatred. You will be accused of othering and marginalizing people who don’t fit into this framework just for describing reality as it is.
Of course, this mindset also exists in reverse on the other side. The fact that most people are heterosexual coupled with the fact that making allowances for people who are different seems to have caused us to descend into madness is now being taken as a prescription for how everyone should live.
As I said at the outset, the backlash is understandable and another version of me may have joined in if I didn’t have to wrestle with the fact that I myself am one of the different ones. This informs my views on the trans debate as well. Trans-identified individuals are people first, not proxies of an ideology. If they support gender ideology and the wild excesses of progressivism as a whole, then I will fight their dangerous ideas. If they are just people trying to make it through the messiness of life like the rest of us, then how can I treat them as a problem in and of themselves?
Maybe society itself is doomed to endlessly turn the wheel between two extremes. I don’t know if a happy middle ground—a balance between accepting that most people are normal and that’s okay, and some people are different and that’s okay too—can ever be reached.
I hate to be a total cynic: I feel like we did have that for a while and I still very much have that among friends, family, and acquaintances in my personal life. But it does feel like it may be starting to slip away. One side went way too far in one direction, and the other is beginning to pick up steam in the opposite direction.
We will have to see how things play out. But, regardless of what the masses say, or what our political “side” says, or what our in-group says, or what our friends say, we will always have the personal choice to decide, at the end of the day, how it is that we ourselves want to live.
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