As are many people, I am saddened by the recent suicides of gay teens.
Being gay is just one flavor of being different. I wish it were more commonly known and appreciated that there are so many ways to be different.
I have found it quite ironic that we who live in America and think of the US as the “land of the free” have a peculiar intolerance for people who are different. That’s a bit absurd when there are so many flavors of difference.
People young and old tend to focus on the one or two areas where they are the most different. Often they obsess on these differences and use them as a means of self-punishment.
I have had an uncanny ability in my lifetime to hang out with a lot of different people. This could include such stereotypes as nerds, gays, lesbians, fatties, polyamorists, hippies, near-death experiencers, unpopular kids at school, celebrities, artists, sex workers, religious fundamentalists, and basically the “fruits and nuts” of Northern California as the popular expression went.
Of course, to my mind stereotypes don’t mean much because everyone is unique. Everyone is a composite of different characteristics and predispositions. It’s common to lump all people together, such as all gays think alike, when clearly that’s not true.
I have spent hours upon hours in various workshops and intimate conversations with people who were greatly bothered if not traumatized by their special brand of being different. It is sad to see so many people with such diversified differences feel so similarly weird, alienated, alone, and unloved. We’re really all in the same boat, although most of us don’t recognize that.
Of course, the problem comes when we listen to other people who do not appreciate our flavor of being different. Often, the people who criticize us the most are people whose role is supposed to be a support person like a parent, priest, or teacher. This gets extended out to God and Country and is communicated to us by proxy. So, for example, if parents and preachers condemn a kid for being gay, or virtually anything else, the withhold of love and approval cuts to the core. Some religious people imply that God hates gay people and the laws often make it criminal.
With all our technology and know-how, we as a society should spend more time and attention helping people feel better about who they are, about the blessings of individuality. I think we must recognize that so much of our mass entertainment is based on deriding, ridiculing, and shaming people who are different. The superstars of news, opinion, and even religion often pit one group against another, playing demographic favorites that market research tells them is the right move. If it’s popular to bash gays, they’ll do that. If it’s popular to call near-death experiences psychotic fantasies, they’ll do that.
So much of our economy is based on using fear to stimulate buying products and services. Commercials constantly tell us that we won’t live happily (ever after) if we don’t have what they’re selling. I did not realize the extent of all the negative messages bombarding me until I quit watching commercial television and got a new perspective.
Ultimately, however, everyone who feels bad for feeling different for whatever that difference is has to find his or her own way out. That, I have come to believe, is part of the spiritual challenge we all take on. While we might easily be able to point our fingers at people who damned us, shamed us, or beat us down, the ultimate responsibility to rebound is ours alone. Don’t wait for the world to change.
Learn to appreciate the differences you have as part of your unique gifts and blessings. Being different does not make you wrong or inadequate. You are the ultimate authority on what is right for you. A Facebook friend describes her transformation this way:
“When I judged myself as being different, I made myself wrong. I was rejecting me and judging me saying I am wrong for being who I am…different. I was not loving and accepting me for being me and I felt bad, unloved, not accepted, and I didn’t feel I belonged or fit in. As I began to love and accept myself more, others changed in response to my changes in myself. Others are just a reflection of what is inside of you that they are mirroring back to you!”
When you accept and love yourself for who you are, the negative voices drop away and you find yourself attracting people into your life who get you.