Diversity & Representation

Normalcy, tolerance & diversity: in life and in writing

Diversity is not a hype, it is the natural order of life. It is time to acknowledge the normalcy of diversity instead of remaining stuck in outdated norms informed by bigotry and oppressive systems. Though maybe even more so, be critical of what is deemed normal, because all it does is pacify people into thoughtlessly following rules and stop us from fighting against systems that harm us.

Picture of a wall painting of a black woman with their natural hair painted in several colours and the text on the side “Love in color”. A black block below with the text “Elisa Winther’s Diversity & Representation. Help and discussions on diversity and representation in fiction”.

// Disclaimer: This is maybe a little less about writing and more about things in general, though the links are there. I just really needed this off my chest. //

Tolerance conditional on normalcy

One of the biggest features of my home country is its tolerance. Dutch people believe we’re one of the most tolerant places and people worldwide and have pride in that. I hear it frequently, but especially when confronted with immigrants and especially with POC who either act outside of what is considered “normal” to them, or when there’s criminality in the news. In those moments, it’s used as a weapon. It’s almost a given that it’s combined with either racism or homomisia (hate against queer people), or both.

As someone who is Dutch, but also multiply marginalized this hits me in a quite personal way. And before you start about “growing thicker skin” or being “overly sensitive” or that I should just ignore whatever’s harming me, and whatever trivialising, gaslighting or invalidating words you have for me: DON’T. Words like that don’t help, they make things worse. Besides, I’ve been living in this skin, in this body, and with this brain for almost 30 years now. I’m used to it. Still doesn’t make this okay.

The state of normalcy

In the current political climate these things will probably increase, because people are fighting back more and more. Some against bigotry, others against change. This idea that we are such a tolerant place and people will remain, but I’m convinced we have not been as tolerant as is commonly believed. It is highly conditional to fitting in “Dutch normalcy”.

We famously keep saying “doe normaal” (act normal) but those who do never begin to think that normalcy is a taught thing and it’s riddled with outdated social rules, bigotry, and a need to erase diversity from a populace. It is allocisheteronormativity. It is white supremacy. It is ableism. It is so many oppressive views rolled in one which people refuse to actually analyse, because it’s “normal”. It’s a toxic circle that constricts people because we aren’t all one way. People are naturally diverse and diversity should be celebrated, not eradicated.

Erasure of what’s actually natural

I can honestly link this to so many subjects. It’s got its sticky fingers everywhere. But I’ll bring it home for you. I am firmly against this sentiment that we all have to fall into the line of “normalcy”. Yes, we need to prevent harm and take responsibility when we cause harm, but normalcy actually commits harm. It says we can’t be queer and proud. We cannot be black and expect equality and justice. We cannot be mentally ill and expect human basic rights. It says we need to be one way, or get out. It is violent and dystopian.

Honestly, this is so ingrained into Dutch people and with such pride that I don’t feel safe to express my thoughts and feelings about it openly. I do so now, on here, but I don’t expect many Dutch people on here. I don’t expect them to know the person behind this penname. I don’t expect their mobs to find me yet. But I will fight against this through my books. It might be subtle now, but it informs the way I worldbuild and write.

Diversity isn’t a hype or a threat

Of course my worlds have their own normalcies. Not all perfect, though I have plenty places which are queernormative for one, and some just as dangerous as this Dutch one, but those are bound to a setting. If there is such a thing as normalcy to my books, it is that humanity is naturally diverse, and in many different ways. I want to celebrate that diversity. I want them inclusive and accessible. I want to make my books feel friendly and safe to queer people, to people of colour, to disabled people, to neurodivergent people, to marginalized people in general and ESPECIALLY to multiple marginalized people. We exist and we matter. I know it won’t be perfect and I’ll make mistakes, but I promise to learn and do better afterwards.

So I’ll finish on this: diversity is not a trend. It is not a hype. It is not something to whine about and say it makes things so much harder for privileged people. You’ve had your monopoly for centuries. It’s time. Diversity is natural and it is needed. ON EVERY LEVEL. I am done being shut out by normalcy for being born something normalcy doesn’t like. I want to find my pride and celebrate that they have not broken me so badly I fail to recognise myself. I might only do this through tiny steps for now, but every step forward is progress. And I’m allowed to be proud of the progress I’ve made.

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