We’ve been so inundated with abnormalities this year, it’s easy to lose sight of what normal looks like. But don’t worry: I got you covered, you wonderfully complex human being, you. This is what normal is:
Accepting facts and studies, even when they reveal uncomfortable truths, is normal. It sometimes takes courage, comfort and support to revise your worldview in light of new evidence, but it is the normal thing to do. Don’t back out; humans have done this for thousands of years. You can do it.
Accepting climate change as a real and dangerous threat is normal. The science is clear. The facts are incontrovertible. It can be debilitating and terrifying to acknowledge, but that’s no reason to go into denial. We’re past that stage of grief. It’s normal to understand that our increasingly extreme temperatures, wildfires, blizzards and loss of ice masses are a real result of increased CO2 in our atmosphere, and we must address this.
Being a feminist is normal. No one is born hating women, and being a non-feminist is an expression of hate against women (even when it comes from a woman). Being a feminist just means that you acknowledge that gender-based inequalities exist and you support efforts to address them for an equal society. It’s normal to consider women your equals, and it’s only a relic of a hateful, expiring system of oppression and inequality to ever think otherwise.
Being intersectional is normal. All privileges and injustices are real, and understanding how they intersect takes time and effort, but is nonetheless a normal thing to do. Squaring your worldview with these things is hard, but we do it all the time in other (often less confrontational) ways. It’s entirely normal to do this.
Being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, nonbinary, genderqueer, or otherwise is normal. Sexuality and gender identity are extremely fluid concepts across a vast spectrum, and that is normal and totally fine. It doesn’t hurt anyone. It’s an expression of love for each person themselves, and for the others they choose to love, purely and honestly.
Understanding nuance is normal. There is nothing in life or society that is truly black and white, other than two color swatches. “Purity” of anything other than chemical compounds is a fallacy, a lie, a misguided belief used to justify exclusionary behaviors and condescending views. Normal is knowing there is nuance to everything.
Knowing that free speech is not absolute is normal. Like any other right, there are limits to freedom of speech as well. Just as you don’t have a right to someone else’s body, you don’t have a right to someone else’s platform. You cannot incite hatred or violence, and you cannot encourage death, mass-murder, or genocide. When we’re being normal, we know, respect and acknowledge these necessary limitations, including to speech itself.
Tech companies kicking Nazis and racists off their platforms is normal. Yes, really. I worked on one of the world’s first social media platforms (before MySpace existed). You know what we did, 24/7? Kick Nazis off the platform. They’d come back with new accounts, but whenever they started using the platform to promote their ideology, we’d kick them right off again. It’s easy, it’s not censorship, and it’s the moral and ethical thing to do for tech companies.
Questioning authority is normal. Loyalty is a nice thing; blind loyalty is turning yourself into a tool for someone else to make use of. Authority, like respect, must be earned and cannot be demanded or decreed. A leader unwilling to entertain criticism is not a leader, but a dictator. Normal people follow leaders.
Having sex for fun and also supporting abortion rights is normal. Safe, consensual sex has tremendous health benefits, and there is nothing shameful about it. Simultaneously, supporting abortion rights while disliking abortion is normal, because access to safe and available abortions is a medical necessity to save human lives and families. Abortion is sought primarily by people who already have children and did not intend to have more.
Practicing a minority religion, like Islam is in the West, is normal. Religion is but one of many things abused by ideologues to justify their bigotry and violence. Religion can be twisted to encourage violence and oppression, but it’s equally capable of advocating peace, tolerance, inclusion, solidarity, compassion, and community. Someone is not more or less dangerous because of their religious views. They are more dangerous if they hold intolerant views.
Having mental or physical disabilities is normal. Depression, anxiety, impostor syndrome, and a swath of physical disabilities can happen to anyone. They are an every-day part of the human condition, and do not make a person any less.
Understanding that tolerance must make no room for intolerance is normal. This is known as the Paradox of Tolerance, and it explains that intolerance, when given any ground, will eventually destroy tolerance itself. Tolerance, therefore, is not absolute; it must not tolerate intolerance—and understanding this is normal.
Standing up against all forms of fascism, in solidarity with people from all groups, is normal. We have always overcome fascist regimes or oppressive rulers by standing together. We, united and indivisible, can prove a powerful government or ruler wrong, and we can do it without bloodshed.
Calling out bad behaviors is normal. That includes people who disingenuously try to retcon their harmful beliefs with pseudo-science when the real evidence contradicts their views. We have always mocked and ostracized those who espouse intolerant ideologies, because intolerance is the one thing we cannot tolerate.
Having a different skin color is normal. And recognizing that we must actively eradicate any outdated beliefs to the contrary, which linger on when we ignore them, is also normal.
Holding police officers accountable for the non-premeditated murder of innocent civilians is normal. The normal thing is for people who end up killing other people to go to jail. Only under severe forms of corruption is that not how it goes, and corruption is not normal. Normal police conduct protects all lives.
Sharing resources is normal. Just look at any time humans are forced into hardship together: they share what they have, because all of us are equally deserving. Deep inside, we all know that to be true; we’ve just developed systems that help the rich and powerful few justify why they want and need more, why they are ostensibly “more deserving.” But they’re not. We share equally and deserve equally, when it comes down to it, and that’s what normal is.
Being consistent with your political statements and your actions and voting behavior is normal. So no spouting platitudes on Twitter or issuing “strongly condemning” press releases while gutting voter rights protections, gerrymandering, or supporting greater protections for drivers who run over protestors. Actually walking the walk you talk is normal.
Normal is not necessarily popular or commonplace, but popular or commonplace is not necessarily good. Slavery was popular and commonplace, until we finally convinced enough people it was evil and ethically void. Same with white supremacy and other forms of racism, same with sexism and “biotruthers,” same with all forms of intolerance and inequality.
These views may not yet be commonplace, but they are normal. “Normal” is what ultimately keeps our society civil, functioning, inclusive, and therefore stable. These are the norms to adopt and embrace if you want an actual civilization.
To want anything else is not normal.