For those of you reading that don't "know" me personally or for those of you that don't know, in real life, I haven't yet hit the lotto and I am forced to work for a living. My chosen profession is Speech Pathology and I work for a local school district.
Yesterday, one of my 2nd grade students, "G", "graduated" from speech. This means she has progressed in speech class to the point that she is now exhibiting age appropriage speech skills and she no longer needs me teachin' her how to speak good...I mean well. (that was a lame attempt at a bad speech therapy joke) "G" is a cool kid. Her favorite color is black. She's all tomboy. She wears black tutus almost every day with multi-colored, mismatched socks. She has a parrot. And she has an older brother that is severely autistic, and as such, her home life can be difficult.
When G came into speech yesterday for the last time, she looked right at me and said, in her sassy 7-year-old voice:
"Miss Jen, I just want you to know I'm very upset."
When I asked why, she said, "I think you know. I'm graduating from speech."
I congratulated her mightily and professed that graduation from speech is, indeed, a grandly exciting thing. But, G didn't think so. And she began to cry. And my heart broke. In the midst of my telling her how proud she should be of herself and how much I would miss her presence in my classroom, G looked at me with tears in her eyes and said: "I'm just so happy. I'm normal."
I bristled. And my heart broke at the same time. Normal? NORMAL???
Of course, I assured G that speech issues, of many types, were "normal". And I reinforced the fact that she should be incredibly proud of herself. I told her I'd see her again...during an end-of-year ice cream speech party. G dried her tears and we played one last game of Candyland before she went on her way.
I was left wondering who taught this 7-year-old child the word, "normal". Was it her parents? Had she heard them referring to her older, autistic brother as "not normal"? When her mother told her she was being dismissed from speech, did she tell G that she was now "normal"?
I thought about G and her statement all day yesterday. I thought about why her statement could possibly affect me to the degree that it did, and why it left me thinking about the word she used and what it meant to me.
What is normal? Who is normal?
I'm normal. Yet every day of my life I'm told that because I'm a lesbian I am "abnormal" or an abomination.
My family is normal. Yet every day of our lives we are told that we aren't a "real" family because the foundation of our famiy is built upon the love between two women.
My love is normal. Yet every day of my life I'm treated as a second-class citizen in my own country, and I am denied equal marriage rights. When I marry the woman of my dreams in three short months, our government will not recognize our union as legal or valid.
My life is normal. I wake up every morning, go to work, and come home to my family. We take turns making dinner and cleaning the house. And yet every day of our lives we live with the realization that our home, our family, is viewed as something that should be feared or dismantled.
I'm normal. We are normal. My family is no different than any other family.
And yet, in many ways, we are exceptional...because we battle for everything we seek, whether that be equal marriage rights, equal protection under the law, or simply living a peaceful existence away from bigoted and homophobic eyes. So, maybe we're not "normal". We're exceptional. We're the exception...within the confines of our own country. But, in our exceptional way, we seek normalcy.
Someday, I hope to look across the table at my soon-to-be-wife and say, just like G, "I'm just so happy. I'm normal."