People like those who are similar to them, we generally form friendships and communities with those who have homogenous or similar characteristics, experiences and interests as us. In those communities, cultures form, and within social conversations we can talk about generalizations of the Black culture, Mormon culture, Deaf culture, the Latino community, LGBT community, western ideals, southern tendencies, etc.
We live in a world of increasing complexity. The internet allows for greater social interaction and the introduction of more and more diverse cultures in one’s life. To assume that one can live in solely within their own cultural bubble, in this day and age, would be rather foolish.
It can be difficult being introduced to different cultures and ways of life. Quite often, we believe that an alien community might change our way of lives negatively. That there will be a loss of identity, degrading of morals and values, or even the fear of physical harm.
Recently, my writing for the Statesman has brought me in closer contact with the LGBT community. A community that can be found at the center of much controversy both on the national and local level.
I became interested in the topic of the community after a letter to the editor was published in the Statesman regarding disagreement, acceptance and the LGBT community. After reading the article and the reaction to the letter, I began to seriously reflect on what it meant to truly accept our fellowmen and the conversation that USU student’s were having about it.
I don’t claim that I have a complete grasp on the LGBT community, or any community for that matter, thus some of my insights might be incomplete. Also this topic is rather complicated, and I’m unable to include all of my thoughts in one article. If you have any questions about my work or my thoughts please feel free to contact me.
Though my thoughts revolve primarily around recent interaction with the LGBT community, the principles for accepting and tolerating are universal.
Differences between cultures, stereotypes, and individuals
I mentioned beforehand that we as people congregate into communities of like interests; it is important to note that those communities are made up people. Everybody is endowed with the ability to think and reason, and act ultimately for themselves. Though those thoughts and actions might be influenced and swayed by opinion leaders and friends, everybody is ultimately their own master and responsible for their own actions.
Just because people associate and are a part of different cultures and communities, doesn’t mean that that culture is that person or that person is a the community.
People often try to stereotype others, forgetting that people are complex and aren’t simply just one thing.
Stereotyping, in my opinion, is a form of fear. We have, or hear of, negative experiences or ideas that a person in a group has and in order to try to protect ourself we assign negative traits to that group. We are offensive. We close people out, shut them down and gradually descend towards hate: a poison that hurts not only the group but oneself.
Sometimes people are rude or shortsighted, they are insensitive, tactless, intolerant, hateful, loud, in-your-face. Yes it might seem like a certain group is hateful, but that hate starts on an individual level.
As I was researching for my articles, I interviewed and talked to a lot of students, all who had different opinions about the LGBT. There was intolerance on both ends of the spectrum, people on both sides who were hateful towards groups that didn’t agree 100% with them.
It doesn’t matter if you affiliate with a group that teaches acceptance, overcoming intolerance is a personal conquest. Yes, hate and intolerance is a mountain, but its made up of individual stones.
We can’t assume that people hate us because they belong to a group we disagree with, nor should we assume that a group is hateful because of hateful people we’ve met.
Creating a culture of respect
In a letter to the editor, “As students at USU we should feel safe to disagree. right?”, Chelsea Heaton wrote about an experience she had in a class with presentation about the LGBT community, students walking out, and fear of speaking your mind.
I was able to talk to Heaton more about her thoughts, and I believe that her comments actually represent part of the student body, she said, “[The presenter] was expressing that if we don’t embrace and accept that kind of community and lifestyle then we are being intolerant and ignorant. That is not how I felt, I don’t hate people that are in that group. I don’t feel like they should be treated as lesser human beings or anything. I just have beliefs that I firmly stand by about those types of topics.”
Heaton stated that she felt like that if people don’t stand up for what they believe they will be casted in a negative light, both those in and out of the LGBT community.
Heaton said, “The whole point of my article was that everyone should be able to stand up for what they believe in… If people always stood up for what they believe then it would leave the classroom a little bit more open minded.”
In order for true acceptance to happen, we need to come to respect, encourage and, listen to our peers. An open conversation that would move us closer to acceptance is ultimately stunted by fear. An invisible wall separates cultures, as members on both sides are often reluctant to speak their mind because of fear of being attacked and labelled as intolerant, unnatural, hateful, or immoral.
If conversations do turn to attacks then people need to first try correct that through respect, and then through appropriate channels. When a culture of respect is made, people push themselves out by embracing hate, but we need invite them back in through education and understanding.
Now a culture of respect is not that of political correctness, it’s one of active listening, actively trying to understand. It goes beyond just learning about other groups through internet searches, Reddit threads, and “what you’ve heard.” Truly trying to understand the people you’re with and what they truly believe. Trying to form the type of love that the Greeks called agape.
This type of respect and love is two way, it’s open, and it’s hard.
And in the end, how we judge and treat other people won’t ultimately define them, but it will define us.
—Dillan Passmore is a student life staff write. He never sleeps because sleep is the cousin of death. He’s motto is behind the walls of intelligence, life is defined. He thinks it’s a crime when he’s in a New York state of mind.