“Normal,” because of its easy associations with typical, ordinary, or unremarkable, appears to many people as a benign word, nothing more than a neutral descriptor of certain groups, bodies, or behaviors that are more common than others. Yet more than almost any other keyword in American studies and cultural studies, “normal” carries with it a history of discursive and literal violence against those who could never hope to be described by the term. Sexual minorities, disabled people, racialized populations, immigrants, and many others have at times found themselves among the motley group that the Chicana lesbian feminist Gloria Anzaldúa terms los atravesados: “those who cross over, pass over, or go through the confines of the ‘normal’” (1987, 3). For Anzaldúa and innumerable other critics of the normal, this border crossing has consequences. Lives lived beyond the confines of the normal have been marked as illegitimate and targeted for surveillance, control, correction, confinement, and even elimination.

This essay may be found on page 185 of the printed volume.

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