One of the most profound lessons I've learned in life comes from a friend from college. We were both vegans when we met, but she has since gone back to vegetarianism. We were hanging out one day, when she started eating candy corn, which contains eggs. I was absolutely horrified. I was a relatively new vegan at the time and definitely had a bit of a vegan-police mentality. How could she skimp out on veganism? It didn't seem moral to me.
She looked at me and said, "You know, you can be really judgmental sometimes."
That's all it took. My world started to change. I started to accept that I can't control other people, and that that's okay. I have since adopted more of a live and let live policy; I'll respect your decisions if you respect mine. And differences are what make us unique. We are not "less than" others for carrying out "less desirable" behaviors, just different.
Going to college and emerging from my sheltered world has helped me become more accepting of others. For example, I abhor cigarette smoke. It's one of my biggest pet peeves. And I used to equate smokers with the behavior: bad. But then I made friends who smoked. And I learned that not all smokers are disrespectful. I will always loathe the habit, but people themselves are distinct from their habits. People are people, warts and all. It's not easy, but I am consistently striving to look past qualities that I disapprove of and embrace people for who they are.
***But now I'd like to discuss something different. I brought up my own struggles with acceptance to use as a baseline for this next topic. I'd like to make it clear that my thoughts this topic have never been as judgmental as the previous examples. However, it is a common source of controversy throughout our nation and around the world. That issue is LGBTQ rights.
This topic is so vast that there is still so much that I am unfamiliar with. I think it's a sensitive issue for many people. Sometimes it's hard to know what to say about it, because I don't want to be offensive or speak out of line.
I think that for a long time, I embodied the quotes I mentioned in my previous post. I was aware of the challenges the LGBTQ community faced but didn't see it as "my problem." Society has conditioned us to fear being perceived as LGBTQ for identifying with members of that community. This has occurred throughout history; it was terrifying for people to be perceived as a "Jew-lover" or a "N-lover." We fear having our own identities being misread, and so we remain silent.
I am thankful that, through the years, I have made friends with members of the LGBTQ community. While I wouldn't say I judged them in the past, I was definitely ignorant and afraid. But as I mentioned earlier, people are people. Live and let live.
Unfortunately, many do not see that. There is still too much hatred. We are moving in the right direction, but we still have a long way to go.
I support equality. I think people should have the freedom to live as they choose. They are not "bad" for being different from the "norm." They are people.
I was touched by this picture, originally posted by George Takei. He asked facebook users to share it, to honor his husband Brad on his birthday:
And it clicked for me. I am an ally. I am not afraid to say that I support members of the LGBTQ community. I am proud to call some of them my friends.
The following video was brought to my attention via Rose McGowan on twitter. It is a beautiful testament of the power of love and acceptance. I was touched by Donnie's story, and I wish him all the best.
Also, here's another beautiful story of a mother's love, courtesy of Katie Couric:
Choose acceptance. Don't hate someone because they are different from you or because you disapprove of their thoughts, ideas, choices, actions, etc. Try to understand where they are coming from and accept them for who they are as people. People are people.
I am an ally.