Growing up queer and why ‘authentic’ is better than ‘normal’

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Who decided that girls wear pink and boys wear blue? Who came up with the idea that we must have ham and potato salad on Easter Sunday? Who decided that one must get married to someone of the opposite sex, start a family, and have the house with a white picket fence? 

Who actually decides what’s normal and socially acceptable?

Much of society teaches that their beliefs are right and any other belief outside of that is wrong. Do you fit into the mold of what society has decided is the “norm?” It would seem an impossible task given the fact that there are so many different beliefs about what actually is normal and acceptable.

What happens when you don’t fit the mold of what others think is normal?

Will everything I do in my life reflect the values of others? Must everything I do line up with the “social norms?” Must everything I do line up with what a particular religion says is right or what a political party dictates is right or wrong? Must everything I do line up with what my family believes is right or wrong?

It would be a pretty boring world if we were all the same. Yet there seems to be a strong effort on the part of many to accomplish just that. It’s disturbing to constantly hear politicians and religious leaders trying to force their views of what is “normal” onto everyone.

Growing up gay, I never felt like I fit into the “social norm.” It was a bit isolating. I did not go to my high school prom because it would have been unacceptable to take someone of the same gender with me. I also did not play sports even though society said that the guys play sports and the girls are cheerleaders. What if I wanted to be the cheerleader?

I was taught that being gay was a sin and that I would go to this place called hell and burn forever. Burn forever for being my true unique, authentic self? It didn’t make sense to me, but I still tried to conform.

I’ve been called many names in my lifetime because I did not fit into what others considered to be normal and acceptable. I have been called weird, sissy, sinner, and names I care not to mention.

I have come to learn that I do not need to understand how and why some people choose to express life in a different way than I do. My normal may not be someone else’s normal. I get to choose what is normal for me based on my internal guidance and my intention to be my true authentic, unique, beautiful self.

It’s important to be authentic, to be completely ourselves, even when it does not conform to the social norm. That includes friends, family, religious organizations, and politicians. 

It took me a while to get to this point. I always felt a need to try to fit into what was considered the norm and what was acceptable. Now I fully understand how important it is for me to be about peace and full self-expression for all. I respect and embrace the diversity all around me.

No one says we all have to agree, but I do believe we all have a responsibility to love. Even those who do not fit into our “normal.” I want my life to be filled with love and acceptance for all. Just like snowflakes, we are each our own individual expression of the creator. No two alike.

Are you living a life of authenticity, or are you living your life based solely on what others consider to be the social norm? 

Live the life you love. Be the true you, because no one else can.

Vince Shifflett is a critical care Registered Nurse and popular blogger living in Atlanta. Read more of his work at

This article appeared in Q magazine. Pick it up all over Atlanta, and read the digital verison below.



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