It’s been a long time coming, and even now I’m having second thoughts writing this, but what is “normal”?
Current context is LGBTI+ debates, especially around school curricula being cramped by those of dogmatic faith.
Woman on Radio 4 just now talking about the schools gay lessons row insisting that she isn’t homophobic but saying she hates the idea of homosexuality being “normalised” to her children. It is normal, and if you think it isn’t, that is what is known as homophobia.
— Jess Brammar (@jessbrammar) March 25, 2019
And slightly earlier:
The woman says homosexuality “being normalised” at school is what she objects to. Homophobia, pure and simple @BBCWomansHour
— Rupert Myers (@RupertMyers) March 25, 2019
Happens all the time with other social phobias, (eg Islamaphobia / Antisemitism and especially the religio-cultural-racial blurred self-identifying tribalisms) and it begs questions about whether phobias are misnamed and the nature of any expressed concerns. It is of course very easy to accept the PC conclusion that any expression of concern “against” any minority or “other” large bio-cultural group is a bigoted phobia. And many times it is of course. But this blurs some important nuances.
Sticking with the homophobic example, but remember the subtleties will vary with the particular examples and contexts:
Homosexuality is an evolved and developed bio-cultural variation in many sexually reproducing species, including humans. It’s indeed a valid and accepted natural part of life’s rich tapestry. To be “respected” like all “others”. But does that make it “normal”?
Is education “about” something the same as “normalising” it and/or should it be? Not necessarily.
Even limited to heterosexual sex and relationship education I’d be concerned what exactly is being taught “about” it and what aspects are considered normal. Normal variation includes deviation from the normal, but words like abnormal and deviant come with enormous negative baggage.
For me this is very analogous to free-speech, where in principle anyone can think and say almost anything, but that doesn’t mean they should necessarily. Evolution depends on a stable norm about which variation exists, but the prevalence of variation needs to be small or (self-)controlled relative to norms rather than the chaos of anything goes, anywhere, anytime. There is a wide spectrum between those extremes, and the extremes lie on quite different bio-cultural spectra. Respect for the other is the common factor, normal or otherwise.
I think it’s fair to be concerned about what is being taught as normal even if it is extremely difficult to find language that isn’t seized upon as bigoted or exploited by those that are actually bigots. The usual PC problem IMHO.
Am I making sense? Put me right if I’m not.