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my big book of little catastrophes
I ate WHAT?
what is normal? 
9th-Apr-2005 09:40 am
eyecon
I got in a stupid, weird conversation last night with one of those straight people that think that just because there are more of them that makes them normal and gay people not. I should say that I don't get this guy at all. He says he's straight, but he's always asking me to give him a massage, and he's even said he wants to come snuggle or take a nap with me. But most of our conversations are him argumentatively demanding that I justify something about myself. All the signs of a closet case who really wants to suck dick but can't bring himself to admit it so he tortures himself and other men with flirtations that never go anywhere, and attacks gay people for being less than straight men.

The conversation last night was a clash of perspectives. I was saying I'd probably go out tonight with friends. He asked where.

me: castro bars
me: bar on castro is always a good bet
him: ;yikes.
him: no thanks.

me: don't like the gay bars?
him: nah, not my kinda scene.
me: where do you like to go out?
him: normal bars
me: are you saying gay bars are abnormal?
him: normal in the sense that they're geared towards the interests of the overwhelming majority of the populace.
me: careful, if you go around using the word "normal" in place of "straight" in SF, you're going to get slapped around pretty quick
me: most straight bars do not appeal to any sort of majority of people, even of straight people. they are all niche bars of one sort or another - sports bars, wine bars, biker bars, karaoke bars, etc.
him: nobody can argue that the overwhelming majority of people that exist aren't homosexual.
him: it's not better or worse or a value judgment. it's just a matter of numbers.

me: i'm not saying queers aren't a minority. but it's foolish to lump all straight bars under the banner NORMAL, because none of them are either. and if you think that straight/gay is the only distinction that matters, your homophobia is showing

him: why not go to a breeder bar? (not straight, but individuals who choose to procreate by breeding)
me: i do that with straight friends sometimes, but it's silly to go out with my gay friends and hang out in a breeder bar. i wouldn't see anyone i know out and about, almost no chance of meeting someone i might want to date, etc
him: that's a scary thought...dating anybody from a castro bar
me: but i bet i've been in a lot more straight bars than you have gay bars
me: oh thanks. so i'm scary?
him: most people have been in many more straight bars than gay bars. but if i argue that point, you're gonna accuse me of being too heteronormative

him: that use of the word "normal" is an accepted definition of the term.
me: not in the context you used it. you could have so easily said "straight" instead of "normal". your use implies that gay bars are abnormal
him: nor-mal: adj. : Conforming with, adhering to, or constituting a norm, standard, pattern, level, or type; typical. ab-nor-mal. adj. : deviating from the normal or average
me: right, you are calling gay abnormal
him: typical or average sexuality is heterosexual. no value judgment there. it's just a statement of prevalence.
ok, try this out... gay people are normal too. if you perceive sexual orientation as the biggest factor in normality, that is like saying black people aren't normal. while the numbers are on your side, it smacks of bias
him: of course there's bias anytime one considers perspectives of the majority versus the minority.

me: i mean, you wouldn't call people with dark hair normal, as opposed to blonde people, who are in the minority
him: depends on the context. blonde hair is normal in scandinavia. black hair is normal in africa.
me: i'm speaking of our own culture. are you saying left-handed people aren't normal? do you think of right-handed people as normal? or people with brown eyes?
me: if you think of straight as normal and gay as not, then that speaks to how you think about people
him: you're attaching a connotation of "good" and "bad" to a statement based solely on prevalence.
me: not really. you're not getting my point
me: my point is... the distinction of sexual orientation is a social construct. normality is a social construct
him: there's a biological context.
you wouldn't call women normal and men abnormal, even though there are more women than men
him: even in the absence of society, sex derives from a fundamentally biological purpose.
me: so what?
me: read some post-structuralism. it's good sometimes to step outside of your usual context and see the world from someone else's point of view
me: and keep in mind, walking down castro street, i'm normal and you're not
him: from a minority activist's point of view, any position that doesn't bend over backwards to be overly accomodating can be accused of being wrongfully normative.

That's when I ended the conversation. I don't see any point in talking to someone who is just being insulting and trying to get me to accept that he's normal and I'm not. Refraining from calling someone abnormal is not being "overly accommodating". If he went around saying there are black people and normal people, he'd be called a racist. Maybe he does that, I don't know.

Years ago I had a similar conversation from the other side. It was with a roommate's boyfriend, who was staying with us for a week. The boyfriend was black and a very well educated Harvard grad. It was a long conversation, but I finally got that my distinction of people as black or white or asian or whatever was all a matter of perspective. I had said it was silly not to describe someone who was black as black. If I was at a party and someone was asking me to point out someone across the room, why wouldn't I say it was "the black guy over there in the red shirt"? He challenged me to ask why skin color was the first thing to fixate on to distinguish someone. Eventually I saw his point. Race is a construction. There is no such thing as race - genetically we are all virtually identical. Racial traits are only important in a context where we make them important. I doubt that dogs or cats care if a human is white or black any more than we care if a labrador retriever is black or chocolate.

Since that conversation I took on eliminating race as the primary way to describe people. After a while it got to the point where I didn't think about it. I'm certainly not color blind - I doubt anyone is in our culture - but it's much less of a factor for me in how I think about people. A few years ago I realized one day that everyone I'd dated in the past year was black. I hadn't really noticed it during the year, but it took someone asking me about dating for me to realize it. At one point I had a good buddy who was black. I had also been dating a guy for a few months, and my friend knew about this guy but had never met him. When they finally met, my friend took me aside and said, "You never told me your boyfriend was black!" I replied, "So?" Him: "How could you be dating a black guy for so long and not tell me he was black?" Me: "I didn't think it was important."
Comments 
9th-Apr-2005 05:24 pm (UTC)
him: why not go to a breeder bar? (not straight, but individuals who choose to procreate by breeding)

What the hell is a breeder bar?!

Yeah, that guy has issues.
10th-Apr-2005 01:12 am (UTC)
That's lame, also surprising in a city like SF, it's hard dealing with the general public.
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