I have always been a night owl. Society in general shuns the night owl; waking up early is to be praised, you’re a go-getter, you’re proactive. Waking up late means you’re lazy, you’re irresponsible. Medicine is finally waking up1 to the reality that different people have different natural sleep cycles, and this is okay, but their way of describing this is by calling the late-shift folks “delayed sleep phase disorder.”
People who are trans are told they have gender identity disorder.
People whose brains process stimulus differently and have a tendency to hyperfocus on problem-solving are told they have attention deficit disorder.
These aspects are framed as being outliers, deviations from the norm, problems to be fixed.
All these things that are inherent to me are framed as being problems. Things to be ashamed of. Things to cure.
But they are the things that make me who I am, and which give me strength.
There is nothing inherently superior or inferior to one’s sleep cycle. Society needs people that work at all times of day. There are very clear evolutionary advantages to this. Working the late shift once was necessary to protect the tribe, but now is necessary to keep things operating in our always-on society. It should be a choice, not a punishment, and people who thrive late at night should have the freedom to be part of late-night society. We all are forced to be awake during the median operating hours, and as a result even when we can work late at night we end up miserable for it.
The ADHD brain is very well-suited to certain sorts of problem solving. It is not very well-suited to other interactions. Once upon a time the ADHD neurotype would have been revered as the village tinker/problem-solver/eccentric/wizard, but now we’re seen as broken because we can’t do certain things as well as non-ADHD people can, never mind that non-ADHD people can’t do certain things as well as ADHD people can.
The same can be said about autistic brains, of course (and there’s a lot of overlap between the two things), as well as any other thing that’s considered neuro-atypical. Anxiety, bipolar, schizophrenia: all called “disorders” when really they’re just differently-ordered. And when someone with one of those conditions thrives, they become inspiration porn, and always considered thriving on the terms of neurotypicals. Or are seen as tragic figures. These conditions only really become disorders because of how they’re treated by society.
As for being trans? All I can say is that being trans is part of being me. I wish I’d been able to express myself much sooner. What I have to offer extends beyond my capability for performing in the gender role I was assigned at birth. Trans people have always been champions of human rights especially when it comes to gender and sexual orientation, amd breaking down the barriers that lead to reductive thinking regarding gender roles. But then again, before Christian imperialism took over the world, most civilizations were totally on-board with trans people, or at least recognized our existence.2
“Normal” as a concept is dangerous. A deviation from the median is not automatically a disorder, it’s just a difference. Save the term “disorder” for things that are actually a problem.
A little understanding can go a long way.