I don’t want to be tolerated
As I sit down to write this, my mind is filled with a jumble of different thoughts. The attorney part of my brain can’t believe I just wrote those words; the gay part of my brain is angry thinking about them; and the just plain human part of my brain is sad.
This internal conflict goes directly to the heart of the issue — all of us: gay, straight, white, black, Latino, young, or old, have words that act as triggers. Words that fill us with strong emotions and influence our interactions with other members of the human race. Whoever first said “sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me” was tragically wrong. While it may be technically true and an appropriate show of bravado in the face of schoolyard taunts, in the modern world of cyberbullying, it is just plain wrong.
A quick review of history will show that words are much more powerful than swords and bullets. If a leader cannot command respect and attention with words, they will not have much to command in battle. The ability to tell someone what they want to hear is the key to selling anything, whether it is words of hate or words of love. From people who enjoy the subtleties of language or appreciate a powerful speaker, to those people who simply follow directions, we all are at the mercy of words.
So what words prompted me to write this? What are my trigger words? Tolerance and lifestyle. Tolerance, because as my good friend Stuart Milk often says “Because I choose to live in Florida, I must tolerate mosquitos, but in many ways the LGBT community are the butterflies, ladybugs and dragonflies of the world. We should be celebrated, not simply tolerated.”
I don’t know a single Floridian who wouldn’t want to eradicate mosquitos completely if given the opportunity. I do not want to be tolerated, I want to be accepted. And I would never describe my lifestyle as gay. Gay is not a lifestyle, gay is what I am. I am also a woman, I am also white, I am also Jewish, I am a lot of things. I wouldn’t say that any of those classifications is a lifestyle either.
Lifestyle is a word that describes habits, attitudes, tastes, moral standards, economic level, and other attributes that together constitute the mode of living of an individual or group. Many of these attributes are ones, which we can control through the choices we make and I think all rational people have moved on from that discussion. Anytime we try to group or classify people, we move into dangerous territories. I am not saying we should ignore our differences; in fact we should embrace them and celebrate our differences because that is what makes us human. Just don’t tolerate my lifestyle.