Society norms
March 30, 2024 Brianna Nicole Austin no responses

And They Burned Witches Too

Many people outside society’s description of “norm,” have felt embarrassed because they were made fun of, guilty because they were “taught” that it is wrong, and continue to believe it because it is enforced in the collective social mindset.

So many of us suffer needlessly with feelings of low self-esteem, guilt, and embarrassment. That shouldn’t be a surprise when our society is rooted in a belief system with little room for anything or anybody outside the status quo. Most of us were raised in that belief system. It’s ingrained in the depths of our subconscious. To therefore express ourselves outside the norm contradicts what we were taught. Larger groups, and even countries many times deal with conflicting views by killing each other, so apparently, the mainstream doesn’t appear to have all the answers either. After all, killing defies the very God that Christians, Muslims, and Jews (to name just a few) say they worship. I was raised in a mixed religious household, both Jewish and Christian, which either makes me more confused, or less, I’m not sure which.

I was at a family reunion during the 4th of July weekend and  — in my brother’s absence — confronted with questions, and fishing expeditions, as to how I felt about my brother and his partner raising an adopted 16-month-old baby. My Midwestern relatives love my brother, but don’t agree with his ‘lifestyle’.  The idea of a gay couple raising a child — to them — is “against the laws of nature.” On the more practical side, according to them, a child needs a mother and a father. I would argue that a child needs love. I informed them that their approval wasn’t required and that my brother and his partner would make great parents – and by the way, it wasn’t so long ago in Salem that they burned witches too!

I went to Sunday school, I was taught the Bible, the stories, and what it meant. Suddenly, the recent events got me wondering who gets the privilege of determining the social order we are told to live and abide by. If time has shown us anything, it is that things evolve. One cell became two, and the world, as it was, changed. The dinosaurs no longer roamed the Earth – except, of course, those on the extreme right. Hey, the 50s have come and gone, get over it, and move on!

Conservative societies need to recognize that their way isn’t the only way. Transgender people have existed in various cultures throughout history. In native Indian cultures, they were referred to as “two-spirited,” and were accepted in those societies with jobs of great importance. Today they have been called freaks, deranged, and sick. On a weblog were comments that concluded that (gay, transgender, etc.) were an affront to God. I believe in God, but what does that mean? Is it possible that the religious teachings could have been misunderstood?

The thing that has caused transgender people such hardship is that they crossed the boundaries of gender expression. Some felt like women trapped in a man’s body, some identified as feminine men, while others just liked to cross-dress. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing, how many guys would be killing each other in their Sunday best? “War? I might get a stain my dress, so no thanks, I’ll sit this one out.” Society seems to prefer a frustrated, angry, and dangerous-to-society “macho” guy as opposed to a happy man who likes to express himself with feminine things, or, a well-adjusted contributor to society who happens to be attracted to the same sex. What is it about being different that scares everyone so?

Many people outside society’s description of “norm,” have felt embarrassed because they were made fun of, guilty because they were “taught” that it is wrong, and continue to believe it because it is enforced in the collective social mindset. To break the emotional and psychological chains that bind them might require a change in thinking altogether; questioning everything you’ve been taught about God, heaven, hell, society, and nature. The only person who can answer those and other questions … is you. If you choose to believe what you’ve been taught, that’s fine, as long as you have questioned it, and then decided it makes sense. Not that you believe it because you were told to believe it.

So what do you believe? Are we physical beings created by God in search of the spirituality necessary to get us into heaven, or are we spiritual beings simply experiencing a physical world? There are many books with views that go from one end of the spectrum to the other: one version describing us as eternal beings, and another defining us as animals that live and die – game over. 

In a world so marred with the here and now it is easy to lose sight of the larger picture. We all find ourselves caught up in the drama of life, you know, the little things — that in the end –weren’t all that important. So I asked myself one day, “Why are we here? What purpose could it serve?”

While I don’t profess to have any of these answers, I wanted to explore the possibilities. Maybe, as it has been theorized for centuries, we are born out of a collective entity, part of, yet less than God – a collective consciousness. This is not a new theory, but let’s take it a step further and ask, why are we here, on Earth? One explanation might be that we are here to experience what we can’t experience in our higher form: an individual body and consciousness. Such a thought would suggest that the “human experiment” is to “experience” individuality. By experiencing what you’re not, you can better understand what you are. Coming from a united body of collective consciousness connecting all things, it would then be reasonable to understand why we as humans would feel the need and are comfortable with, belonging to groups – whether they were ideological, social, political, racial, religious, or any other like-minded circle. But if the singular consciousness theory were correct, then the purpose of being here would be exactly the opposite of what most of us do: to celebrate our diverse individual expressions, and not engage in “herd-like” behavior. 

How does that make you feel? Does it make you afraid, or fearless? Are we limitless? When we look in the mirror, is that WHO we are, or is the body merely a taxicab to carry “us” around in this dream on Earth? Are we then just the sum of our thoughts, love, and spirit? And if we are limitless in our abilities, are we confined to a belief system based on form, which “we”, the collective masses have taught ourselves? Like the Elephant, who as a baby had his leg shackled to the stake in the ground, as an adult cannot shake loose the concept of not being able to break free. The idea becomes the reality.

I recognize that this may be a bit extreme, but it is in creative thought that we can mentally run free to consider all the many options. For so long the medical and psychiatric community has tried to understand why a person is “gender dysfunctional.” What if being transgender isn’t dysfunctional at all? What if the quest to express ourselves individually, is the entire object of the exercise?

I don’t know the answer. There is no real explanation as to why some people fall outside the lines that society draws; perhaps it’s simply evolution. Maybe it’s our subconscious mind resisting the horrors of what our society has created in the form of an escape mechanism, or just perhaps, we are experiencing our individuality. Either way, I do know that if you are not ready to question everything and discover what rings true to you, you will always be at the mercy of someone else’s belief structure. It’s all food for thought.

Until next time, get out, be safe, have fun, and always THINK PRETTY!


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Brianna Nicole Austin is an author, writer, columnist and journalist and editor of from New York City, now living abroad.
Brianna Nicole Austin