Normality and Its Toxicity


Normality by definition means “the quality or state of being normal,” meaning it’s inherently subjective and up to each individual to determine what they see as normal. In the United States, people tend to define normal as cisgender, heterosexual, neurotypical, and without mental illness. While one individual may check all of these boxes, and that’s valid, others don’t, and this idea of normality can lead those that don’t to such things as suicide, homelessness, and more. People need to understand that they are valuable, loved, and valid, and the current idea of normality is not allowing for that.

In the LGBTQIA+ community specifically, many individuals feel as if they’re broken, sick, or wrong, even though they aren’t. According to a 2012 estimate in the US, roughly 9,083,558 individuals report they are a part of the LGBTQIA+ community. The idea of normality’s toxicity affects each and every one of these individuals, as they are told through things like heteronormativity, the church, and politics that they are “sick” and “wrong.” For instance, heteronormativity affects individuals, as people may think they are faking it, or that they are just looking for attention, even though their identity and sexuality are completely valid. The church also affects LGBTQIA+ individuals, as many people that deem themselves religious tell members of the LGBTQIA+ community that they are sick and use the Bible as a reason. While religion, the church, and the Bible are not inherently toxic, the mistranslation and the malpractice of them can be. For instance, the word homosexuality was only described in the Bible after 1946, and before then the Greek word “arsenokoitai” did not translate to a homosexual, but it instead translated to a pedophile. Politics also play a significant role in the toxicity of normality, which is seen in the idea that members of the LGBTQIA+ community have existed all throughout history, even American history, and yet same-sex marriage was not legalized until June of 2015, and the protections of the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 were only extended to LGBTQIA+ individuals in June of 2020. Another example of toxicity in politics is seen in the “Gay Panic Defense,” which allows, in certain states, for an individual to assault or kill a member of the LGBTQIA+ community based on the defense that they were acting in temporary insanity due to unwanted advances from a member of the same-sex.

While the LGBTQIA+ community includes transgender, intersex, non-binary, and gender non-conforming individuals, it is also important to note that toxicity affects them in both the same ways previously mentioned, and through other ways, which are generally directed mainly towards these individuals specifically. Transgender, intersex, non-binary, and gender non-conforming individuals face a different type of toxicity, and it’s especially seen in human interaction and laws. The toxicity these individuals face can be seen in human interactions, especially of violent nature, as others are taught from a young age that these individuals are predatory, sick, and wrong. The teaching of children that these individuals are predatory, sick, and wrong also teaches children that they are allowed to discriminate and harass these individuals when they’re older. According to The Human Rights Campaign, there have been at least 28 killings of transgender, intersex, non-binary, and gender non-conforming individuals in 2020. And in 2009, an alarming rate of 17% of all reported violent hate crimes against LGBTQIA+ were against individuals who identified with either transgender, genderqueer, gender questioning, or intersex. Transgender, intersex, non-binary, and gender non-conforming individuals are also affected by laws, which has been seen as recently as 2020, in which protections of these individuals have been rolled back significantly. For instance, in July of 2020, The Department of Housing and Urban Development formally announced that rules that protected transgender individuals from discrimination in homeless shelters and other housing centers that are provided federal funding have been rolled back. In June of 2020, The Department of Health and Human Services formally announced the extreme rollback of protections of transgender individuals that have face discrimination in health-care settings, and this rollback also allowed for insurance companies to deny transition-related care.

All of the previous actions of toxicity against LGBTQIA+ individuals are not decreasing in rates. While some states have been taking initiative and passing laws to help members of the LGBTQIA+ community, other states are not. The violence against LGBTQIA+ individuals is on the verge of becoming an epidemic. The toxicity that has been taught to many since their childhood is not acceptable anymore, as it leads to higher rates of LGBTQIA+ homelessness (up to 40% of youth in 2017) and increased attempted suicide rates (29.4% of LGB individuals and 13.7% of questioning individuals in 2015).

Another group that faces the harsh toxicity of normality are neurodiverse individuals. Neurodiversity is “the diversity of human minds, the infinite variation in neurocognitive functioning within our species” and the term neurodiverse itself is an umbrella term. A neurodiverse individual could have one or more of the following: Dyslexia, Autism, ADHD, Dyspraxia, and other neurological conditions. These individuals face the toxicity of normality throughout their lives in human interaction and harmful organizations. Neurodiverse individuals face toxicity in human interaction as many neurotypical individuals don’t have an understanding of the vastness of neurodiversity and how every neurodiverse individual is different. For instance, many neurotypical people believe that the neurodiverse individuals that are non-verbal are unintelligent, and they can’t understand or communicate. This idea is caused by the toxicity of normality, as people think that ways of communication besides being verbal aren’t normal, and this is simply not true, as non-verbal individuals have a completely valid way of communication, others just haven’t been told about other ways of communication. Other neurodiverse individuals face the toxicity of normal through human interaction with people commenting with things along the following: “You don’t look like x,” “You look normal,” etc. While some of these may have good intentions, they are harmful to the neurodiverse community, as it perpetuates the idea that having Dyslexia, Autism, ADHD, Dyspraxia, or other conditions isn’t normal, even though 1 in 7 individuals is neurodiverse. Another way neurodiverse individuals face the toxicity of normality is through the creation of harmful organizations. Autism Speaks is a popular source, but what many don’t realize is that Autism Speaks is considered by some to be a hate group. This organization portrays autistic individuals as scary and frightening, which furthers the stigma surrounding autism, even though individuals with autism are completely valid.

Another group of individuals that face the toxicity of normal are those that have mental illness(es). While barriers are being broken every day, and countless organizations are working to fight the stigma, many individuals continue to face toxicity. Individuals with mental illness(es) face toxicity in many areas, but typically in topics like therapy, medication, and day-to-day life. For instance, many people grow up in an environment where mental health is never talked about, so the idea of people going to therapy for mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, and more seems to be abnormal, even though therapy is a resource for all, regardless if somebody has a mental illness or not. Even those with mental illness have a stigma surrounding themselves, as they may deem that their problems aren’t as bad, as others have it worse, so they don’t need therapy. These stigmas surrounding therapy can be detrimental and incredibly toxic, as they make it so individuals that need assistance never get it, which leads to rates like 60% of adults (2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health) never getting treatment. Another way individuals with mental illness(es) face toxicity is through medication and its use. While medication is not, and will never be, the answer for some, it may be the answer for others. Ideas surrounding medication like one may get addicted to it, or they’re going to have to depend on it, or their personality will change leads to many individuals who need medication to avoid it. Individuals with mental illness(es) also face toxicity throughout their day to day life. This is seen in communication between peers. For instance, those who communicate their concerns about their mental illness with family or peers may be shut down and told they are faking it, or that it’s all in their head. This leads to people denying that they have a mental illness, which in turn leads to never being treated, medicated, or if they do end up getting treated and/or medicated, they may downplay their symptoms, which leads to them not getting the right kind of help. Mental illness isn’t a bad thing, and individuals with mental illness(es) are valid, worthy, and not broken.

Normality is all around us, and it’s a struggle to recognize it on occasion. But as one becomes more aware of the toxicity surrounding it, they can actively work to dismantle stigmas they have or notice around them. Individuals affected by normality are valid, lovable, and themselves. One should not have to pretend or mask who they are to appear more “normal.” Once one understands that normality is inherently a social construct, one can also begin to understand that everybody is valid and worthy, regardless of whether they conform to society’s idea of normal.