Fiercely UU: Rethinking Normativity

By Annie Gonzalez Milliken

Fiercely UU is a blog series where Unitarian Universalist young adults tell stories about what our faith requires of us and how they follow that call. To be fiercely UU is to proclaim human worth and interdependence. In an individualist, greed-based, shame and fear fueled white supremacist patriarchy, we say no to isolation and oppression and yes to radical love and covenanted connection.

Rethinking Normativity

by Jaime Jarrett

I came out to my parents when I was seventeen while they were watching an episode of Glee – a famously queer television show. They didn’t make a big deal out of it, and since then have been intensely supportive of all my relationships. I came out as trans* this year, and even though there was some initial confusion, it didn’t take too long for my parents to catch on that I was finally expressing myself in a way that made me happy. I was lucky enough to be raised by two parents who I knew would accept me as I was. When I was younger, every Sunday my parents took me to the Unitarian Universalist congregation in Ridgewood (and later the congregation in Canton, New York). At the time, I didn’t realize how inclusive the community was. People gladly wore rainbow pins—proud and unapologetically queer. This was all normal to me.

I know that people think my upbringing is “unconventional.” Maybe it is. But why? Why is a childhood with accepting parents and an inclusive community considered rare? I recognize that there are many people who are not as fortunate as I am— their parents don’t discuss queerness with them, or they even make it clear that they will not be welcome if they express their queerness in any way. Some members of the LGBTQ+ community are abused, kicked out of their homes, and lack any kind of support. This happens. I will not ignore my brothers, sisters, and siblings at Stonewall. I will not ignore the AIDS epidemic. I will not ignore the shooting at Pulse on Latinx night in Orlando. But I also have to acknowledge the gender neutral bathrooms that are beginning to pop up in public buildings. I also have to acknowledge my friends who came out to their parents when they were in middle school, and it was a non-issue. I also have to acknowledge the members of the LGBTQ+ community who unapologetically love themselves.

Hatred is a cycle that I have made it my mission to break. Let’s break the cycle by providing an alternative— I want to present diverse members of the LGBTQ+ community who are learning to be happy. Too often, these characters in film, theatre, and literature are given tragic endings. I began working on Normativity to fight against this.

Normativity tells the the story of Taylor, a teenage lesbian, who's sick of seeing LGBTQ+ people killed off in media with tragic endings (the phenomenon known as "Bury Your Gays"). When Taylor meets Emily, a book character who's willed herself to life in order to confront the author who wrote her story, they force him to rewrite Emily's story, giving her a happy ending and proving why positive LGBTQ+ storytelling is so important.

From a young age, I was told by my family and my community that I deserved to be happy, no matter how I identified. This is something the rest of the world needs to hear and know. We need to debunk the myth that happiness and queerness are mutually exclusive. I refuse to call queerness a disadvantage because my queerness is a beautiful and a unique part of LGTBQ+ identities.
Jaime Jarrett is currently studying theatre at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Writing credits include: Normativity (NYMF 2016), Aubade, Brief Connection(s), and additional music/orchestrations for Hear Me War.

The cast of Normativity, a musical celebrating queer joy.Photo by Steve Riskind.

"Normativity" shows that changing society's norms requires a little confrontation. Photo by Steve Riskind