For years I have scratched my head in bewilderment at the anger and animosity the LGBT community displays. It’s almost a hyper-sensitive, prejudged response to anything less than the blanket embracing of their values.
I just wasn’t sure where all of this defensiveness and immediate-assumption of outside hatred was coming from.
But last night I had a bit of an epiphany.
Our daughter is on the east coast going to graduate school. She loves it. That makes me smile just typing it. For the first time in her life, she is experiencing what she has always imagined education could be; what it really should be: intense discussion of important issues, bringing many varying perspectives to the table, and recognizing that there is truth coming from all directions.
This also brings the recognition that one person doesn’t possess all the facts, all the understanding of these ever-evolving issues. The facts become clearer as all the necessary ingredients are added to the pot.
It also shines light on another fact: no one is completely a victim without also being a little prejudiced.
Let me explain.
Alex has lived a sheltered and protected life surrounded by people of the same belief system. Having a dominant faith with practical values that everyone, more or less, is living brings little risk of being demeaned, ridiculed, or discriminated against.
This would be applicable to any subculture if you think about it. We can all easily surround ourselves with similar thinkers, insulating us from those who are different. You know the fence materials: race, religion, political party and ideologies, sexuality, education, natural intelligence, married/divorced/widowed, mental illness, weight, physical looks, upper/lower class, nationality – the list is as endless as there are people.
Because we are certain that different is dangerous.
But Alex has been wise enough to know that a critical part of her education is to get out and see what others are thinking and doing. Understanding the difference.
And deciding firmly what labels she will choose to be identified by.
We’ve all heard the stories of those who are put in difficult situations and have to make pretty black and white decisions about holding true to their values when surrounded by those differences.
Certainly these are courageous acts of valor.
But so far, Alex hasn’t run into people who really care about the labels she may have chosen for herself. She is actually finding more tolerance than intolerance.
This is a gift that has opened up new worlds of discovery that there are good people struggling everywhere. She has shared deeply important insights with us on how we have lived relatively secluded lives. She now sees that others don’t necessarily construct similar fences.
It is actually possible to remain true to your core values and still mix and mingle with those who are different.
After so many years of thinking how irrational it was of the LGBT community to react so quickly to perceived persecution, I realized that I wasn’t really any different when it came to any mention in media or politics of those “Mormons.”
Being honest with myself, I admit that I always anticipate that the reports will be negative, and I am already prepared with rebuttals to their misinformation and righteous indignation at their bigotry.
Not so different, are we?
Alex has spent a lot of introspection on what it means to be a community; bringing the smaller, specific cultures into harmony with the larger, broader culture.
A culture where there really is a place for everyone.
Prejudice is a preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.
We already know what they are: race, religion, political party and ideologies, sexuality, education, natural intelligence, married/divorced/widowed, mental illness, weight, physical looks, upper/lower class, nationality – the list is still as endless as there are people.
Alex was prepared to have to combat prejudice about her faith and where she was from. Kind of like going into a situation hunched over and ready to strike back to minimize the damage.
But so far she hasn’t.
And in turn, she has dared to lift up her head and gaze at those around her.
You know, really see them.
For who they are; and who they aren’t.
The time will most probably come when she will have to combat prejudice. I think we all will. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t risk raising our eyes and looking anyway.
Not risking being hurt is the same as not risking truly living.
Alex is learning what we all need to learn: when it comes down to it, we are ALL different.
There is something each of us is wary of a battle regarding an incoming prejudice.
Which, by definition, would be an outgoing prejudice of our own.
Just in a different way.
Sure, we are going to find some who live up to our prejudiced expectations. There will always be idiots in every group that are, well, just idiots.
But there will always be pretty great people in every group that are, well, just pretty great people.
A culture willing to include all of those pretty-great-but-different people is what makes a real community, a community where we dare to lift our heads and risk being hurt.
So, let’s start actually experiencing in a reasonable way – one person at a time – then making our judgment, and finally including.
You know, our own way of being more tolerant than intolerant.