Thursday, April 7th, 2016
With all of the news and media messages reacting to North Carolina and Mississippi’s attempt to construct ways of dealing with diverse sexuality, I’m struck with something as I ponder all of this. I’m rapt with an intense reality of how hard it is for us to be empathetic towards one another’s personal experiences and to truly listen to one another’s hearts.
While reading a FaceBook friend’s post about this this morning that said, “The answer is simple!” I immediately got defensive in my heart thinking, “It’s NOT simple!” But what is the answer? How do we respond to a person’s need for privacy, comfort, or just a sense of protection when it comes to going to the bathroom? Or how about feeling comfortable where we expend most of our time and energy at our place of employment, or searching for resources for a very special celebration such as a wedding? Is it possible that we can construct laws that truly protect freedoms in our current culture for all?
I’m not sure we can satisfy everyone or even the majority. But one thing I do think about is what would happen if a woman who is very private about her body, her gender, her children; would sit around a discussion table with transgender men and women who have struggled an entire lifetime hoping to find safety and authenticity? What if that table included adolescents, senior citizens, businessmen, farmers, migrant workers and others to discuss how to handle the use of public restrooms? Is it possible to have that dialogue and truly listen to one another without having to have it our way?
As I worked through my defensiveness over my friend’s FaceBook post I had to sit down and attempt to look through her eyes. I had to reread the conservative political post she pasted into her status update and try to hear their words, their experience. I finally realized that it’s not just about a transgender male seeking to be validated in their assimilation to what they believe to be their true and authentic self. It’s also not just about a man who feels threatened while standing at a urinal with someone walking behind him who looks more like a woman than the other man standing next to him. It’s also not all about a mother who is taking her children to the bathroom and a very masculine looking person walks in beside them. We are not all one kind of people with the same experiences in life.
Truly, it’s not all about any of them, but it is about each of them. Each one has their point, their experience, their needs for comfort and safety in a very personal space, equally. But how in the world could this possibly be resolved when we’ve built our entire culture based on pictures of a body with pants and a symbol of a body wearing a triangular shaped dress. Humanity isn’t that cut and dried!
I believe that in time, our younger people will be less likely to see people in such simple forms. I think this dialogue is opening up the discussion to a more real and honest discussion. I think we’re really struggling with a transition of generational experience and opinion. The more mature are living with something hitting them in the face that is extremely uncomfortable such as gay marriage, transgendered people becoming public all around them. With the more public exposure we are seeing and hearing LGBT people who are finally free to live more authentically and are unwilling to go backwards into the closeted life that was painful and stifling.
The dialogue is occurring and it’s strained. People are reacting, over reacting, and fighting with laws and protests against their fears. Our culture is shifting quickly and it’s painful.
But in the long run, I think we are getting better. We’re getting healthier, stronger, and over all I truly believe we are becoming more loving towards one another. Sometimes it’s hard to see through the media representing a public battle, but ask anyone who has been maligned in the past due to gender, color, sexuality, or any other differences and I think you’ll find more who are happier, more free, and living a fuller life than in years past.
A friend talked the other day about an increase of sexual abuse in a particular county here in Texas. I said, “I’m not sure there’s an increase, but the culture is now more able to talk about it, revealing more cases and creating a greater need for people who can deal with the reality of what has always been.” Yes, the need is greater, but I think sexual abuse and child abuse has always been far to frequent but we didn’t talk about it, and certainly didn’t give our kids permission to bring out.
We’re learning how to deal better with special needs, sexual abuse, LGBT people, women and children through this needed but very difficult exposure. Bringing these things to the light exposes the ugliness that has been lurking in the dark for far too long. Now, we just have to sort through the things that are on the table. It’s clumsy and we’ve made many mistakes in our attempts to resolve the uniqueness of diversity within our culture. But take a deep breath. We’re not through yet.