What really is a societal norm, and who defines them? For the society I belong, society has been predominately influenced by Christian, White, Males, conservative, who are heterosexual. For decades I bought into these societal norms, I was part of the group, one of them, I was a card carrying society supporter (on the outside).
When I started college I began to see others who were outside the societal norm, wonder why they were so angry, listened to their stories and began to internally shift my own belief system. I would listen to Francoise and her plight as a white, Christian, conservative, heterosexual, female.....she was not far from the norm but she had some poignant stories! I even ran with her for elected office at the University we attended. It was a great journey of learning and growth for me.
I remember sitting at the movie theater (on campus where I worked) and befriending Michael. He was also part of student leadership, which we both participated in. During the movies we would talk about life, love and our futures. One day he came in extremely distressed. We talked. He was gay, I was one of the first persons he confided in. I could related to him on a personal level, but never divulging my own, honest feelings. I wonder where he landed. He was a great friend and example to me. He was white, that is all he had in common with the norm.
I was influenced by Winston. He was white, conservative, male, Christian and heterosexual. I worked with him in housing for almost 2 years. Him and his wife were neighbors. They were driven to obtain their educations. Good people, lovely friends, great examples. Winston was trying to find himself, joined the LDS religion....but was probably more liberal than most in the church. I do treasure our friendship, but have lost contact with him and Rachelle. I would never be able to have an intimate conversation about my desires with him.....although if I would have, I think he would have been alright with it!
Karen was one of my mentors in college. She really pushed me and gave me opportunities for personal growth. Those that know me....know I am not the most conventional acting heterosexual person. I am VERY expressive. When I began working with Karen we would have in depth conversations. She is the first person to ask me if I was gay! I was SHOCKED on the outside, but JUMPING for joy on the inside. I did not answer her right away. I did admit to her that I probably had some BI tendencies. I did not even know what that meant fully, but it satisfied an honest question from a mentor. Karen was white....that is the ONLY way she fit the norm. She was a delight and inspiration to me!
Becky is my final person of particular influence in my life for this thread. She was did not meet any of the norms. She challenged my belief system. I worked for her in Diversity Education. I was continually to re frame my own language and actions learned from a majority-speak to be more integrated into a diverse population. This was an opportunity that kept me from my comfort zone for months on end. I look back and say "how could I have been so blind"!!! Growing up in privileged (according to the norms) was good for me, but damaging in my interactions with individuals outside the norm. I finally was able to see things in context and respond in an appropriate, fair method. This was a choice experience.
So on my sojourn.....I began in all of the societal norms (see above). I NEVER felt comfortable in all of them. These experiences challenged my christian, conservative systems consistently. I have been a liberal for years now, my family and friends have given me grief over it. How can a person be Liberal and Mormon. I even remember an experience when I was placed in a position in the church of influence.....people went to the Bishop expressing concern that the church cannot be true if a liberal in placed into a position of leadership and influence. SCARY, I know!!!! Although I am no longer a member of the Mormon faith, I still consider myself Christian..... God will take care of this mess.
So according to the norms.....I am white and male. I do feel comfortable in my skin. When I came out as a gay male, my internal homophobia subsided....self-loathing reduced, shame and guilt took a different twist. I do feel comfortable with who I am. That has been quite an accomplishment!