When I was younger I used to say I could fall in love with anyone. That maybe my perfect mate was an alien and we just hadn’t met yet. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was signaling through dialog that I had an open mind. This often led to fascinating conversations with people who felt they could talk to me about anything without feeling judged. For a long time, it felt like a superpower, but now I understand that what we say and how we say it is an important part of expressing the dimensions within ourselves.
I initially grew up in a rough neighborhood, in a rough city. I learned that if you weren’t tougher than your adversaries, you better be faster and if you weren’t faster, you better be smarter. I was top dog at my elementary school. I had a friend with albinism and a friend in wheelchair. No one joked or harassed them in any way because I would kick their ass if they did. I could sweep a boy off his feet and step on his neck until he begged for mercy. I was badass. I had also learned Martial Arts from library books. My friend in the wheelchair died. I couldn’t fight the fragility of her body, only admire the spirit of her soul.
My mom and I moved right before the start of middle school. We moved into the rich kid school district. I was not the top dog. I was a poor kid, a loser, “rough around the edges” and ostracized. Slowly I started to make friends with the other kids that were also ostracized either for being poor or different in some other way. I wanted to beat up my antagonizers but all it did was get me sent to the principal’s office. Message received; I was the problem. So instead of retaliating I withdrew from reacting at all. I became a dispassionate observer of the human psyche. These rich kids: they fight with words, they fight with posturing, they fight with their network of resources available to them, but most of all, they tightly guard their weakness. They sit atop their mounds of freshly hidden bones.
To my mother’s chagrin I went from Country girl to Goth girl overnight. You treat me as different; I’ll show you what different looks like. I went back to the books. I read philosophy, books about competitive mindsets in sports training, business books about negotiating, mythology, folklore, and so on, and so on. I learned to fight with words, but more then that, I learned how to uncover their bones/weaknesses. I became an “other” like no other. My adaptions made me a sought-after commodity. Students and teachers alike sought me out for advice. I built up trust. I listened to secrets and never repeated a one. I demonstrated that being different didn’t mean being scary. As I got older; I let go of being everyone’s defender and gave them tools to fend for themselves. I learned that rich kids have problems too. I learned that everyone feels like they have something to hide. I learned that a lot of us are learning to adapt to survive in a way that reconciles how we feel with who we are.
My first love was an unrequited love. I couldn’t make him love me. I was floored when a friend confessed that she loved me as I loved him. I was sad and angry. Not at her, but at the situation. She said we couldn’t be friends anymore because it was too painful for her. I bitterly understood. Later that week, I too severed my friendship with the guy I adored because it was too painful for me. That was a shitty week. I lost two good friends and learned that sometimes you have to let love go.
A few years later I moved to Seattle. In 1998, I joined the march and vigil for Matthew Shepard. I didn’t know him. I only knew that he had been killed for being openly gay. Tortured and let to freeze to death in a field out in the middle of Wyoming. I thought about how scared he must have been and that he could have been a friend. It was a terrible reminder that there are still places in the world less tolerant of people being different.
I’m not perfect. Sometimes I play too rough, or say stupid and insensitive things, but I also don’t keep quiet or back down when I see someone experiencing pain, hate or threats of violence because of who they are. I don’t have to embody the characteristics of every individual I meet to understand what it feels like to be rejected, hated, or ignored. What is it you fear when you see someone who is different from yourself?
Humanity cycles through the same age-old questions over and over. “Know Thyself” while attributed to Socrates is expressed in nearly every edict or doctrine throughout various religions. Instead of saying, “What’s wrong with them?” Maybe the better question to ask is “Why does their difference upset me?” Why is it so hard to live and let live? None of us have been granted a divine right to be judge, jury and executioner over the lives of others. If you don’t like something or chose not to participate in it, it’s okay to say, “It’s not for me.”
Having sex with another woman, is not for me. Encroaching on another person’s autonomy, is not for me. I’m happy I’m not the center of the universe. I’m happy that I’m a small speck of sand in a greater community of….sand…people. I had my first existential crisis at age 13. The summer camp counselor told us to go around the circle and answer the question, “Who am I?” I panicked as I listened to the other girls go before me. Who…am…I? Why is this such a tough question? Megan defined herself as a girl who liked to ride horses and jump rope. Angel likes to paint because she thinks everything should be pretty. So are we defined by what we do? Are we defined by what we think? “I think, therefore I am? “ I am, I am what? By the time it was my turn I burst into tears and said, “I don’t know.” I ran out the door, barefoot through the woods, across the fallen log, and onto the small granite island at the edge of the lake where only the moon and stars could comfort me. I stayed all night. I’d like to say I was wiser the next morning, but I wasn’t. I was only committed to wanting to explore who I was with who I felt I ought to be. That journey still continues to this day.
We stand at the precipice of a new global event not seen in the history of humankind. We’ve had mini-ice ages in the past, but nothing like the global warming event coming on the horizon. Our modernized civilizations are already beginning to adapt both consciously and unconsciously to the future. Why should it be so wrong that some people within our societies find love among their own gender? Or seek to validate their body image when it doesn’t correlate with their conscious self? I have yet to meet a person who was content to live and die as a mayfly. (To live only to reproduce and die.)
If you think homosexuality and gender swapping are abominations of nature, then you don’t know nature very well.
Links to fascinating articles:
What say ye?