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In Rejection of Normalization

At the end of August there was a new development in Texas in what has been framed generally as the culture war. In this case it could more specifically be called, the discourse around child protection. There has been an ongoing discussion in the US and UK around the appropriateness of drag queens for children in libraries and schools. Drag queens have historically been gay men cross dressing as women performing versions of femininity while lip synching, singing, or dancing. It's a form of gay adult entertainment that has become popular in the mainstream over the past decade, due in large part to the popularity of Rupaul's Drag Race.

The development was an all ages drag show reviewed by the Texas comptroller for sexual content. A group of armed radical activists protecting it from protest made the event newsworthy. They are not the most significant aspect of the story, which I'd have missed entirely if not for the coverage by internet news and current events program The Rising. Hosts Robby Soave and Briahna Joy Gray both contrast this event with previous events that generated controversy with overt sexual representation. Both seemed to see opposition to this show as overblown. Gray notes the possible hypocrisy in the lack of protest for Hooters. Soave says, "this event was not sexual, did not involve sexual dancing, it's just literally men dressed as women, which did not used to be offensive." They have clearly missed the point. 

Unlike drag queens, Hooter's waitresses are not being brought into schools and public libraries and being paid to do so with public money. Soave's statement implies the question, "What is there to protest against with the sexual content removed?" The protestors might ask a different question, "Does removing sexual content from inherently adult entertainment make it appropriate for children?" The fact that the former question is considered first or to the exclusion of the latter explains the continued  protest. Gray and Soave believe that parents should decide if children are exposed to drag performance, which is reasonable, but also not the point. This represents a new paradigm in the normalization of adult centered entertainment and concepts for children. We have jumped to "What's the best way to do this for children?" without ever considering if it serves their need in any way. Whether they are conscious of the fact or not the families protesting modified adult entertainment for children recognize that it's about normalizing adult entertainment for children and not the best interests of children. It is fair to be concerned that normalization eventually may remove even the opportunity for parents to say no to drag. It is also reasonable to question what might be destigmatized and normalized next.

The principle of normalization as a deliberate process to change norms can be traced back to Danish legislation in 1959 to raise quality of life for citizens with learning disabilities. Studies into the process of normalization have found that individual perception of norms is an interplay between descriptive and prescriptive considerations. Descriptive refers to the individual perception of normal based on the human average, while prescriptive refers to the individual perception based on that individual's ideal. Consider this in relation to asking an individual what he thinks is the normal amount of exercise for an adult. The answer might be derived from what he thinks is the average amount of exercise for an adult and what he considers the ideal. The answer may also be influenced by the value judgements he applies to exercise. Shifts in perception of what is normal are often preceded by shifts in language. The difference between calling an individual retarded and calling that individual cognitively impaired may affect perception of and response to the individual.

Merriam-Webster traces the origin of the word normalization to the mid-19th century. The word was most often used in scientific contexts to denote returning something to its natural function, for example, medicine restoring health. Through popular use the word evolved to refer to removing variables to create a standard, like normalizing the work week. Following World War 1, normalization referred also to stabilizing the relationship between nations. More recently, the word has come to refer to making outliers the norm, as in the normalization of hate, for example. This use is an inversion of prior use. Instead of bringing something to natural function or removing variables to stabilize and delineate a norm, it refers to essentially removing the norm to stabilize the deviation from that norm. The destruction of the Discovery and Columbia space shuttles both represent examples of the normalization of deviance. In both cases known risks were repeatedly dismissed because of the absence of disaster in prior flights. This dismissal became a normalized aspect of NASA culture. The absence of disaster became an excuse for accepting lowered standards and increased risk.

Drag Queen Story Hour, sex education instruction in elementary school, and extreme body modification for adolescents to match "gender identity" are all deviations from social norms which are being normalized. This normalization is not the result of organic social change but an attempt at social engineering. This is made clear from the Siena poll showing 70% across age groups and party lines oppose teaching gender identity and sexual orientation in K-5. At the same time teacher trainings continue to expand the teaching of sexual education in elementary school in a growing number of domains. The event in Texas, highlighted above, represents the stabilization of deviance as a new norm. Removing overtly sexual content is removing the most extreme variables to create the appearance of a new norm. It is the reverse of the frog in boiling water. The metaphor for slow gradual change sees the frog boiled as the temperature gradually rises. This normalization of deviance is more like throwing the frog directly into boiling water. Quickly lowering the temperature a few degrees makes the water seem less deadly, while still far hotter than normal. The framing of the Texas event helps to reinforce an ideal amount of adult entertainment for children in relation to the extreme deviation rather than the norm. In a sense, the only way to argue for drag for children is to avoid ever asking if it serves the needs of children. One side is starting with the needs of children, the other side is starting with the desires of adults. For the people most concerned with children, there is no middle ground found by balancing the needs of children with adult desire.

Any honest person would recognize that this is happening in the context of massive engineered social change around children. It is not as if there is a body of evidence showing drag queens to be vital to child development. If there is any doubt that these changes have been engineered, consider the new norm of pretending not to know what a woman is. There was no discussion, no compromise, it happened through the manipulation of language and repetition of mantras. Returning to Soave and Gray's position that these things should be up to parents, that is increasingly only if they concede to the social change. Parents who might dissent are having that ability stripped involuntarily, for someone who "knows better". It is a reverse cuckoo that substitutes parental discretion. Children are being socially transitioned into "transgender" and "non-binary" identities by schools to the detriment of the students. Parents have lost custody of children for not affirming their chosen "gender identity" to sometimes tragic results.

Parents who are objecting to perceived attacks on their responsibilities to their children are not being paranoid or hyperbolic. They are being prescient that the deviance that is being normalized will only grow worse and more extreme. There is a group called Gays Against Groomers. Their mission is to stop the sexualization and medicalization of children. Within days they were banned by Paypal and Venmo and were stripped of their Google email account. Paypal continues to serve The Prostasia Foundation. The Prostasia Foundation calls pedophiles, minor attracted people, in an attempt to destigmatize pedophiles. This ban occurred within a week of The World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) publishing its new treatment guidelines. The new guidelines have removed minimum age requirements and include a eunuch identity. I am not sure there could be two better events that demonstrate exactly how cognizant the parents are who believe their children under attack.

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