Sunday, May 3, 2015

Straight...Not Narrow

“A straight oar looks bent in the water. What matters is not merely that we see things but how we see things.” – Michel de Montaigne

There are many legitimate problems in the world that need to be controlled: hunger, disease, poverty…just to name a few of the top-billed. Then there are the so-called problems, or at least what society has decided is a problem, has turned into a problem, and has now worked itself into a tizzy about. I’m going to say it, and so many people will roll their eyes, or huff, or groan, or say, “Ugh, not this again. I’m so tired of hearing about this.”

Some people are gay.

I understand completely that not everyone embraces that lifestyle. And for those people, that’s their right, of course. They shouldn’t be judged for that any more than those who support the LGBTQ community. So often people preach tolerance but are pretty one-sided about it (“You have to believe what I believe! Be tolerant, dammit!”). But we have to understand that not everyone will agree.

The thing is, someone else’s lifestyle isn’t about us. It’s about them, whether they live the way we approve of or not. And that’s hard because we always want to “fix” anything we perceive as “wrong”. The bottom line is that we don’t need to approve of gay relationships any more than we need approval for straight relationships.

I am straight. I am an ally, which means that I support the LGBTQ community. This isn’t a trend. It isn’t a bandwagon. Look past the media hype and the labels and realize that we are simply talking about people. We are talking about people who fall in love, but cannot share that with anyone because of public shame. We are talking about people in long-term committed relationships, people who have laughed and cried and suffered joy and loss together, but who cannot celebrate their love by standing before their friends and family in a marriage ceremony. We are talking about children who know they are different but who aren’t allowed to talk about it because they know their parents won’t love them anymore. We are talking about people who kill themselves every day because society refuses to allow them to have a place. Society says, “You don’t belong here. You’re wrong. You’re unacceptable.” And these people, sadly, tormentedly, listen.

I am an ally. And I am a Christian. The basis of my faith is to love others. My faith is not a weapon that I use against others. Bible verses are not like rocks to be flung at people in an effort to beat them into submission. My faith guides me; it’s a map for my life, for how I live. It’s personal. It would be supremely arrogant of me to expect everyone I meet to believe exactly as I believe. We don’t expect the world to share our favorite color, our favorite movie, our favorite book. We cannot expect the world to believe exactly as we believe. While I am a Christian, I know there are many other religions, and people with no religion, in the world that do not believe what I do. I don’t expect them to. In as much as I believe that I am right, they believe just as much that they are. No one wins those arguments.

We don’t regulate religious views in this country, so why do we try to legislate adult relationships? I know what the bible says about marriage, but remember, faith is personal. It’s the overlay for your own life, not someone else’s. You can’t apply your filter to someone else’s photo, so to speak. Not everyone has the same faith, the same religious views, so arguments about religion, in a country without a government based on religion, don’t wash. When discussing gay marriage, there is often the view from opponents that it will compromise the sanctity of marriage. When just under 50% of marriages end in divorce, I’m not entirely sure what sanctity is being threatened. When heterosexuals marry and divorce repeatedly, just what does that say about the sanctity of marriage? Commitment is commitment. Love is love. Who are we to judge whose love is stronger, or better, or more worthy of marriageable status?

Who are we to judge at all?

I’ve seen many relationships I thought were odd. I’ve seen a 72-year-old man in a romantic relationship with a 44-year-old woman. I’ve seen a 64-year-old woman in a relationship with a 30-year-old man. I’ve known a man who was married nine times who was dating a woman who had never been married. While these relationships might not be my particular brand of feed, I was not the one in them. I have no idea what they looked like from the inside. But you see, these relationships did not affect my life or the lives of the general population. If they made me feel uncomfortable, I did not have to stare at them (staring is rude, in general, anyway).

My mission is to love others. I try to let that guide my life. I cannot change the behavior of the world, but I can make sure that mine is respectful, and open, and that hopefully no one is worse off for having met me. In my life, I am not in control of a lot of things, but I am in control of how I treat people, and while I may not receive respect from everyone, I can make sure that I offer it. It is so easy to belittle and berate others in an effort to build ourselves up, to make someone else feel as small and unwanted as we feel sometimes. But there is no ground for growth there. Denying someone respect because of your personal disapproval only holds you back, not them. So grow. Don’t automatically turn away from someone just because they live or love differently from you.

I love it when I see people in love. I don’t mind if it’s a man and a woman, a man and a man, or a woman and a woman. Love is love. And there needs to be more of that. 

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