“Be Your Own Normal,” Whatever That Means

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Perhaps you’ve noticed TheCIL’s relatively new slogan, “Be your own normal” (hereafter BYON).  We’ve received a lot of positive feedback re this slogan, and we’re quite fond of it.  We even trademarked it.  (Btw, if you’re interested in BYON merchandise, we got what you need at http://www.thecil.org/merch/).

But we’ve also received some less positive feedback re BYON.  Most of that feedback has been along the lines of (a) what the heck is that supposed to mean? and (b) normality is a concept that can be oppressive and dangerous to historically marginalized segments of the population, including those with disabilities.  So we wanted to address such questions/concerns.

This blog post notwithstanding, we feel it’s a virtue for a slogan (or a motto or a catch phrase or what have you) to be open for some interpretation.  We want folks’ respective and unique perspectives to inform the slogan’s meaning.  That said, what TheCIL means by BYON is that people (all people, with or without disabilities) should be free to follow their own path, to decide for themselves who they are and what they want to be and do.  We want people to feel unconstrained by anyone else’s notion of normalcy and not feel pressure to be or act a certain way in order to conform to others’ ideas and expectations.  For us, BYON is a slogan that celebrates freedom and autonomy.

We realize that the concept of normality has connotations, denotations even, that are potentially harmful to the disability community.  Approximately a fifth of humanity comprises people with disabilities, which is to say that about 80% of people do not have disabilities.  So if normality is understood as the absence of any deviation from statistical norms, “normal” is a category that arguably excludes people with disabilities by definition.  But TheCIL isn’t using the term “normal” in a statistical or mathematical sense.

What we mean by normality is that which society experiences regularly and is used to and accepts.  For millennia, people with disabilities have been hidden away from mainstream culture and community life and without sufficient opportunities to participate in social, economic, political, and civic processes.  Ending this injustice is essentially the Independent Living Movement’s raison d’etre.  TheCIL encourages people with disabilities to get out into the community, to do whatever (within reason) they wanna do and be whomever they wanna be, and, importantly, to be seen doing whatever they want to do and being whomever they want to be.  If we are all out there being our own normal, society will accept us as society will not have any other choice but to accept us.  Our presence and participation will be irrefutable.

So please, everyone, keep on being your own normal…whatever that might mean to you!