I was thinking about Foucault and his thoughts on abnormality and it reminded me of another conversation I had about binaries; how one is component valorized and while other is devalorized in relation to each other. With normality and abnormality, it’s easy to spot which one is higher ranked. Good/bad, hot/cold, male/female, straight/gay etc. there’s always a ranking involved. It becomes far more than a simple “one of these things is not like the other” question; there’s an implicit whisper hidden underneath saying “one of these things is worse than the other,” as if the comparisons are stacked rather than side by side.

It’s understandable to use binaries to understand the world, but what happens to the things in between? What happens when male/female isn’t enough to describe ambiguous genitalia? What happens when genitalia isn’t ambiguous, but an individual doesn’t identify with either sides of the binary? Though one component of this binary of male/female is ranked higher than the latter, those who don’t easily identify with either options are ranked lower.

In this case the normal/abnormal binary would step in to make things a little more clear; if said individual doesn’t fit this binary, at least they fit into that binary.

I think this is incredibly limiting. The logic we use to describe the world takes away the breadth of expression and color and creation we can use, or at least use in a socially acceptable manner. Why can’t difference be unique rather than pathological? I know the queer community may be more accepting to those bodies that don’t fit common sense understandings, but there’s still a policing of norms. Bisexuality, for example, has such a strange place in either heterosexual or queer communities. I lot of people seem to think bisexuality doesn’t actually exist; that being bi just means someone is gay and isn’t quite ready to admit it. Bisexuality doesn’t fit into a straight/gay binary so it must not actually exist. What depressing logic.

I suppose it’s easy to take the world and neatly organize it into one of two categories, but I’d prefer if differences in bodies, sexualities, and gender performance were viewed as diverse, unique, and full of endless combination. Maybe I’m a dreamer, but really, what’s the harm in trying?

-Lucas Zigler

P.S. I know this would make more sense in the “Beyond Binaries” category, but my musings on Foucault and abnormality led me here in this very week.