Melissa Gurley

April 1997


Two views of life there'll always be,
Until the curving course is through.
Two ways to look, and two ways to see:
The places I remember; the places to see.
-- MNG

Normal. That's a funny word. My dictionary says "ordinary, average, usual." Isn't that interesting. Who knows what is normal? We are told to be ourselves, and we will know who our friends are. We are told to act naturally, dress the way we want, talk the way we want, be who we want to be. But isn't it funny when you open a magazine and see pictures of thin, white, heterosexual couples dressed in designer clothing and looking happy together; often holding hands or even embracing? On t.v. we see thirty minute shows of perfectly shaped teenage girls whose only problem is picking out which dress to where on which date with which incredibly handsome, rich, clear-skinned teenage boy. Who decided that was normal?

It is no secret that the majority always said what is normal and what isn't. Who else can? It is only logical that the people that call themselves normal decide what normal is. And it only makes sense that they also tell us what isn't normal. I'm not sure if that is really funny or really scary.

It can be a very frightening thing for a gay, lesbian, or bi- teenager. We are brought up with the idea that we are not normal. We are laughed at on t.v. Many are ridiculed, mocked, or even brutalized by our piers. Some are kicked out of their homes. We are told that we are crazy, and that with effective counseling we will "straighten out" (bad pun). In Sunday school, in Church, in school, and home we are told that it is bad to be anything other than normal.

Isn't that funny? There is that word again: NORMAL. Ordinary. Average. Usual. Doesn't that mean "like everyone else?"

What about expression? What about individuality? What about acceptance? What about freedom? What about life? What about love? What about happiness?

None of that matters. You have to be like everyone else. You have to be like that family on t.v. White, heterosexual, and upper-middle class.

All this and more are taught to all children as soon as they are old enough to understand words like equality, justice, non-discriminatory, fairness, and America. Along with those dream words we hear fag, dyke, queer, fairy, lezzy, freak.

Why is that taught? Why are we taught that we can be ourselves, only if that is just like everyone else? Why are we taught to hate what is not normal? Even now. Even in our open-minded, understanding, non-discriminatory culture.

Jane Eyre was a poor orphan; Eric was a disfigured child prodigy; Quasimodo was an ugly, monstrous, deaf man; La Esmeralda was a gypsy; Anne was a redheaded, orphan who talked to much; Hester was a woman who had a baby out of wedlock. All of those characters were wept for as eyes went over the pages. All of them were treated by cruelty by the society they lived in. The readers of these stories were saddened and angered by the times that the story took place, the times that were so dark and ignorant that anyone who was different was hated. Is it all that different now?

Is the world that different from the times these stories took place? In history, I learned of all sorts of terrible things that have happened in America during the twentieth century: Sacco and Venzetti; The Red Scare, Prohibition, Segregation, Riots. All of this in our enlightened age? Even the famous Rosa Parks, who taught a non-violent way of changing the world she was forced to live in, was attacked in her own home. Not just in History, but today there are things like hunger, drunk driving, child abuse, hat crimes, discrimination, racism, murder, rape: hate and violence of all kinds.

While we hear be yourself, be happy, live in peace, we also see hate, hate, hate, and violence, violence, violence.

Our time is still dark. We still live in a time where everyone is not equal. I see with sadness that the only changes that have come about for minorities in this country were brought on with struggle and lose and heartache. I see the shortcomings of society and I fear that the changes that still need to by made will only come at the same price. I can only do my best and hope that in some way I can make some difference, because I know that the differences can come.

Is it overly optimistic to have the same type of dream that got Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., killed; and to live to see that dream come true? Is it overly optimistic to live to see a dramatic drop in violent crimes? To see everyone treated like a human; not anything less than that? Is it crazy to hope that one day I would be able to marry the person I love and have the same rights and benefits as a heterosexual couple?

Call me crazy, but I think it is time to evolve again.


Melissa Gurley, 17, is a senior at Burlington High School in Wisconsin.

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