In the prime of my teenage years there was a movie titled The Girl Next Door that I really loved watching. Emile Hirsch is a young, clumsy teenager who has a crush on the seemingly perfect blonde who lives next door. Turns out she isn’t so perfect because she used to be a porn star but he loves her enough to see it as her past and they make up and continue their blissful teenage romance. I know what you’re thinking… bad summary, but this is just a reference to a point. They are examples of ordinary people who even though are imperfect have their lives in control and feel no pressure to adjust or change completely for a different view of what society thinks they should be because they are perceived as normal. When I was a kid it was compulsory for all of us to attend Block Rosary Crusade every day; we didn’t miss a day except when we were sick. The same applied to most of the catholic children who lived in my neighbourhood. It was in Block Rosary that I saw a young boy who made a strong impression on me; his name is Ekene. This little boy was different. He was the only boy I knew growing up who didn’t enjoy sports like football and table-tennis but he loved playing with the girls. Ekene could play ten-ten better than most girls, his sand castles were always awesome, and he had feminine qualities that most people didn’t understand. I remember that he was bullied by a lot by our peers (sometimes including me) because he wasn’t more masculine, he refused to play soccer with the boys or even hang out with them and was always found in the company of young girls talking about things only girls could understand. I was fascinated by this kid and even though I was not more than 7 years of age I knew that he was special and that made me jealous. You see I was just like Ekene in a different sort of way. I loved everything Ekene hated doing; I was playing soccer from the time I was 6 years old, I loved table tennis and basketball and I was always with the boys. I wasn’t bullied like Ekene because of my tough, no nonsense exterior no one messed with me, my family never made me feel different and I had it easier than Ekene. I noticed how he struggled; the boys would bully him because his chest jutted out when he walked and his hips swung like that of a woman. He was a boy with grace and just because he was different, people were mean to him. Ekene struggled; I saw the confusion and hurt on his face when he walked alone on the streets… a 6 year old kid who didn’t understand why he wasn’t like the other boys. A couple of years later I went off to boarding school and when I returned on one of the breaks I saw Ekene in church, he was a mass servant. I was shocked to say the least. We passed each other on the street some days later and when our eyes met the first thing I noticed was that the twinkle of mischief in his eyes and the smile always on the edge of his lips was gone. His face was stoic and contorted in a grim line, his back was ramrod straight, and he seemed to walk on a straight line never looking sideways. He was no longer the kid I used to know. He looked sad and angry and in that moment without a single word of exchange passing through us I felt like I understood him. Last year I was privileged to have a series of discussion with an inter-sexed human. For the first time in my life I was confused and felt like my understanding of everything I had been taught to believe was suddenly changing right under me and the only way for me to understand Max (not the real name) was to open my mind up to the possibility that human beings aren’t just male or female but that there are people born with both sexual organs who struggle immensely with a sense of identity and acceptance into society. My definition of what is normal changed and I came to understand that even though Max was inter-sexed, this was an awesome being that was just like the rest of us. I couldn’t even begin to imagine all the struggles and difficulties that Max experienced while growing up, the unusual body changes that must have been hard to adjust to; the hormones. The things that were supposed to be easy like ticking a box option of male or female would in Max case probably create a huge internal conflict of basic identity. Thus I have come to realize that normal is overrated. The desire to be normal has led people to the path of unhappiness, dissolution, depression, fear, anger, dissatisfaction and other negative emotions that come along with changing who you are to fit society’s description of what is normal. I consider myself lucky because my family never made me feel different, I didn’t give people the chance to tell me how they thought that a girl playing soccer was strange; I didn’t let busy bodies define my personality when they tell me that I should wear dresses and shoes not jeans and sneakers. I was brought up to be strong and independent, surrounded by a tight knit family unit that sheltered me when I didn’t know that I was supposed to be different and friends who accepted me as I was. Lots of people don’t have it that easy; society is always quick to break down and judge those who they perceive as different. They try to cut you off from being social, they mock you and hate you simply because they do not understand you and if they cannot understand you then you must be worth pushing out to the brink of civilization. Stereotypes are dangerous; they are the children of close-minded hypocrites who have refused to open their hearts to things that they cannot make sense of. How hard would it be for us to be kind to each other without without trying to use four eyes to see the non-existent darkness in the personalities of others. Must we hate simply because others say we should… is it okay to pass judgment on those who do not want to live as we do. When do we draw the line on morality for the sake of being good and religion for the sake of casting out the sinner. I do not like stereotypes; it is people’s attempt to box me into something that they can make sense of. It is the representation of their unwillingness to get to know me beyond the personality that they think they see and the ease for them to cast me aside because it is the easy way out. I do not know where Ekene is but i sure do hope that he has found his way in a hate filled world that has forced him to conform to their definition of who they think he should be. I am strong; I can’t be boxed into a set just to make it easier for people to understand me. There is no such thing as normal only different people living with their own types of quirks!