raised fist patterned with the rainbow flag, symbolizing the fight for gay rights

“Darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable,

And lightness has a call that’s hard to hear”

Closer To Fine, The Indigo Girls

I believe that love always wins, that love will always defeat hate. This week that belief has been shaken.

Last Sunday, hate opened fire on innocent souls in their sanctuary. A gay night club was attacked. Hate drove murder into a place where love reigns.

Our nation is mourning. We are asking how this could happen. Why this would happen. We are trying to believe that love trumps hate. We are clinging to the feel good stories of heroes and community support. We are left wondering what we can do. Wanting to extend our love, to lift up the victims and the community, but feeling helpless.

Because our love is not enough. Yes, love can win. I still believe this. But love alone is not enough, not now. Not after hate came storming in on a Sunday morning.

So, it is with love that I say the following:

We need to fight.

We need to fight the hate that is becoming all too familiar in our country. Love won’t win if the loving people curl up on their couches and stay quiet. Not if we wrap our arms around each other but don’t raise our fist in the air in protest.

Now is the time to get loud. To get our hands dirty. To do some serious soul searching. To dig in and refuse to allow hate one more inch.

It means things are going to get uncomfortable. It means challenging beliefs and social norms. Norms that have been accepted in our country for too long.

The norms that say that being gay is a sin.

The norms that say that being gay is “unnatural.”

The norms that say that LGBT people are “freaks.”

“Mentally ill.” “Sick.” “Deranged.” “Deviants.”

Norms that say gay people shouldn’t get married.

Norms that give cover to parents who disown their children because they are gay.

Norms that say it’s ok for a clerk to refuse to grant a marriage license in the name of religious freedom. As if steadfast beliefs could actually be shaken by doing one’s job. Norms that allow good people to stand behind the clerk and support her bigotry.

Norms that have politicians saying that gay people adopting would be a social experiment.

Norms that have large religious organizations condemning a population of people.

Norms that have evangelists saying that hurricanes and natural disasters and even murder is the price to pay for homosexuality. Norms that allow these things to be spoken without widespread condemnation. Without their followers leaving their flock en masse.

Norms that repeat “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” A phrase used as a band aid for bigotry. Because bigotry is what it is when people themselves are classified as sins.

Think about that. A person is a sin. 

That is hate. That is demonizing a whole population.

Apparently these things are ok to say.  To say it as a “belief” makes it ok. Hate cloaked in ideology. Hate under the veil of spirituality.

But make no mistake, it’s hate.

I have heard these words sitting in a church pew. I have heard them shouted on the playground. I have heard them in casual conversation with adults. My kids have come home relaying stories of kids repeating these hateful words. I have read them in the comments section on my own blog post.

Words matter. Words spoken in houses of worship of many faiths matter. These words may not be said from a place of hate, but once spoken they become permission to condemn. To judge. To look down upon.

To hate.

And for some people? To kill.

Hate is swelling as we speak. Hate is running amok out of fear, fear of progress and fear of change. We see more hate when rights are being given to people who have been oppressed. As we progress and we give more rights to LGBT, as most of us welcome and love our brothers and sisters regardless of who they are, without any concern for who they love, as we move forward and make progress on being a better, more inclusive society… we see more hate.

Hate doesn’t like progress.Hate will always try to stop it. Hate will try to keep things stagnant. To regress. To make America great again. Progress is the antidote to hate, so hate will call in the reinforcements and do everything it can to stop forward motion.

Hate needs fuel. It needs people to buy into it. It needs people to repeat tired and senseless words of oppression and judgement. Words repeated so often over the years. Repetition. Routine. Tradition. Hate that survives in our modern day out of tradition. Is that a reason to allow hate to continue? Is tradition so important that we won’t stand up to words that speak hate? Hate infiltrates the routine. It repeats softly, sings it’s hateful words with a sweet melody. Repeat after me… 

I’m sick of hate. I’m tired of seeing it when I read the news, tired of hearing it from people who aim to be our leaders. Tired of hearing it from people who think they have the right to pass judgement. I’m tired of hearing kids spout off the hate they are hearing in their homes. The DNA of hate being embedded in their young bones. I’m tired of reading it when I write about LGBT rights.

I’m just tired.

But I refuse to give in to hate. I refuse to concede. I will call it out every time I see it or hear it. I will defy the sick social norms we’ve all become accustomed to.

Whether the hate comes from a twisting of an ancient faith, whether it comes from self loathing, whether it comes from fear of change, whether it comes from ignorance, I will not let hate go unchallenged.

Hate under the guise of beliefs has a long history. It was hate when interracial marriages were considered against “natural law.” It was hate that allowed Nazi Germany to commit genocide. It is hate that radical Islamic extremists employ to stone gay people to death. It is hate when Vladimir Putin jails people for being gay. It is hate when the influential American Family Association advocates criminalizing LGBT, advocates abducting the children of gay couples, among other despicable things. And it is hate when fundamentalist Christianity decries homosexuality as a sin.

It’s time to challenge some antiquated, misguided, despicable norms.

It means challenging people you may respect. It means calling them out. Saying “No more.” It means not tolerating hate speech.

Love sometimes means fighting. Hate doesn’t play fair. We can’t hug our way to a better place. The Civil Rights Movement didn’t make groundbreaking progress by disassociating and only looking at the positive. Martin Luther King, Jr. fought hate and injustice. He challenged notions that were being defended as faith. He advocated for love and peace while fighting oppression. He did it eloquently and fervently and loudly.

You can fight in the name of love. Change doesn’t happen with a whisper.

There’s much work to do, my friends. It’s time to challenge norms, change mindsets, change the words that are acceptable to say. It’s time to change what we accept. We have people who have been attacked. They have been attacked with hateful policies, with ignorant laws, with slurs and bullying.  And now they have been attacked in cold blood.

It’s time to shine a hot, glaring light on darkness and hate. It’s time to stop it’s angry feeding, to cut off it’s food supply.

Carry love in your heart while you shut down the hate you see and hear. Let love be the reason you decide No more. No more hate under the guise of faith. No more co-opting something we hold sacred to further an agenda. No more tolerating bigotry, no matter where it comes from. No one is above reproach in this battle.

No more staying quiet.

Let’s get loud.

 

target

I hear you.

You’re angry.

I get it, I’m angry too.

I’m not talking to the people who are angry at Target because their Pro Transgender bathroom policy flies in the face of their cherry picked moral compass. I’m not under any obligation  to respect their beliefs. 

I’m talking to you… the people who have no issue with sharing a bathroom with LGBT people. I’m talking to those of you who are speaking out about this bathroom policy, expressing concern over the women and children who you fear will be in danger because of this policy.

You’re reasonable people. You aren’t expressing hate or bigotry. You just worry. You worry about your kids, your wives, your sisters. I worry too.

I probably worry too much. I have always accompanied my younger kids to the bathroom in public places. When my son was too old to go into the women’s room, I would stand right outside the Men’s room door. If he was taking a while I would yell through the door, asking if he was ok. So, yes, I’m that mom.

I worry. I have always been a little leery of public restrooms.

But I’m not boycotting Target and I’m no more worried about my kids’ safety than I was before.

Even though I’m a worrier, I read and I research. Facts help to calm my fears. Facts that show that in states with pro-Transgender bathroom policies, there has been no increase in assaults. Research that leads me to find an article by a Sexual Assault Victim’s Advocacy Group that is stating very clearly that pro-Trans bathroom policies do not increase the danger of sexual assault for anyone. They in fact minimize it for LGBT people.

What I see is a lot of fear mongering going around. Stories of men sneaking into the ladies room, emboldened by these laws. Stories that have proven to be false.  And some that are orchestrated to incite more fear.

So, I’m going to try to say the rest of this gently because to be honest, it’s all got me worked up and more than a little angry. It’s got a question bouncing around my head for the last few days… one that makes me angrier every time I think it…

Where have you been?

You say you are concerned for women and children. That the thought of sexual assault in a Target bathroom is so concerning that you may boycott, that you are forgoing your usual pleasant FaceBook anecdotes and memes to shout about the new policy…

Where the hell have you been?

You, the protectors of women and children. Where have you been when we’ve been writing and talking about rape?  When some of us have been shouting about these things for years, begging for people to listen, to care. To see the pain and destruction of these things that plague our society.

When we’ve been the ones to make you feel uncomfortable because we are invading your mindless FaceBooking and Tweeting with rants about injustice and startling statistics of rape that should have any sane person’s hair standing on end?

Where were your angry voices when a Presidential candidate suggested that women who don’t want to be raped shouldn’t go to parties?

When actual real life Congressmen claimed that rape victims can’t get pregnant because their body “will shut that down.”

When a court rules that oral sex is not rape if the victim is unconscious from drinking?

When a state legislator in Tennessee is ordered by the TN Attorney General to stay away from women at work because he is a danger to them?

Where were your petitions? Where was your concern? WHY AREN’T YOU SHOUTING ABOUT THESE THINGS???

Where were you when yet another woman was killed by her abusive husband? When a mother was beaten repeatedly. When the “system” that is supposed to protect her allows her violent husband to keep his gun , which he then uses to kill her and her children? Where has your concern been for the 3 women murdered every day by their intimate partner?

Where were you when your favorite college or professional sports hero was accused of rape? Or caught on video beating his wife? Are you still a fan of some of these guys? Do you still cheer them on? Where was the moral outrage to a society that looks past it because he can throw a ball and win games?

Where were you when R.Kelly was allowed to perform, put out another album, collaborate with famous pop singers? Even though he was accused of raping minors and committing cruel acts and even video taped himself doing these horrific and illegal things? Did you stand up and protest then? Did the account of a 15 year old girl’s “disembodied stare” at the video camera as he assaulted her not make you angry?

Where was your angry voice when a rapist was sentenced to 45 days for raping a 14 year old girl?

Where were you when girls were slut shamed after coming forward about their rape?

Where is your loud voice standing up for the homeless women and children? When the U.S. has largest number of homeless women and children among industrialized nations? Is the Target bathroom more of a concern than a mother and her children sleeping in their cars? Or on the street? Or bouncing around homeless shelters?

Where was your self righteous indignation when a child was killed at a park playing with a toy gun? When the police officer who shot him within seconds of arriving on the scene was let off without being charged?

Where were you when a child was shot because his radio was too loud?

Where were you when a child was killed after walking home from buying Skittles? When his murderer was acquitted and went on to make assault two different girlfriends and threaten them with his gun. That he’s still allowed to own.

Where were you when these children were killed? Because I didn’t hear any of you then. I didn’t hear a whole lot of yelling and hand wringing for these children who were mowed down by white male outrage and misguided fear.

When we speak or write or Tweet about everyday sexism and rape culture -that you damn well better believe gives rise to rape and assault- you shrugged. Or rolled your eyes. Or looked away. Or clicked “Unfollow.” Did we make you uncomfortable? All of our ranting and raving about the insidious nature of a society that views women (and hell, children too) as commodities, did it make you feel icky?

You see, I care about women and children (and boys and men) outside of the Target bathrooms. I care about them at home, at school, on the bus, at work, on the street. I care about them regardless of how they’re dressed, regardless of their economic class, no matter their sexual orientation. I care about them when they are being victimized and the world just looks on in apathy.

Those predators you’re so worried will sneak into the Target bathroom? They’re all around you.

They are your Priest, your kid’s coach, your neighbor, your uncle, your youth group leader, your United States Speaker of the House.

They are a savvy bunch, these sick bastards. They flock to places where they can gain your trust. They go to great pains to appear normal and friendly. They don’t sport a beard and a dress and waltz into the bathroom to attack your women and children.

And I can’t help but question concern that only seem to flare up when it’s anti-something. When it’s an “alternative lifestyle.” I question the motivation. I wonder, where the hell have your morals been? Where was your moral outrage when kids were gunned down and college girls were sexually assaulted and women serving in the military were being raped? When women and children were murdered by angry husbands? When restraining orders were granted but in reality offered no protection. When women were threatened online with violence. With rape. With comments like “I know where you live and I will find you and kill you.” Comments that are generated because the woman had the audacity to speak up or write or actually just do her job.

Because I haven’t heard from you about these things. I haven’t heard of petitions or moral outrage from the masses on these things. I haven’t heard much from you at all.

Until now, your silence has been deafening.

So excuse me if I find your newfound activism a little disingenuous. Excuse me if I am rolling my eyes over the furor over using a public restroom. Excuse me if I’m a little worked up over the idea that the “problem” is a Target policy but not the fact that women and children have to be careful and on guard because of a culture that has encouraged male entitlement and subversive sexism and blatant sexualization.

The “problem” you’re screaming about is not the problem. The problem is your apathy all these years to the reality that you refuse to see or acknowledge. It’s a lot easier to believe in the boogey man in the Target bathroom than the real threat that is woven into the very fabric of your Made In the USA security blanket.

Excuse me if I’m a little put off by a flurry of chicken scratched signatures on a fear mongering petition. Excuse me if I think your priorities seem a little slippery.

Because until now? Your silence has been deafening.

no-respect

Right now everyone’s talking about beliefs. Beliefs that prompted the infamous Religious Freedom Act in Indiana last year, and last week’s Georgia’s Religious Freedom Bill and most recently North Carolina’s wide reaching and shocking HB 2, along with other similar initiatives that are peppering the country. Laws and bills aimed at limiting or taking away rights.

It’s supposedly all about beliefs. A conversation that has echoes of the not too distant past. Beliefs that are being recycled but not repurposed. A hand me down with historical context.

Beliefs are being held up and declared all while clutched in sweaty, angry fists. Beliefs are being trotted out like a prize pig at a State Fair.

So much talk of beliefs. And we all know that talk is the cheapest currency.

All of this talk is treading on some sacred ground. Beliefs (especially the religious kind) are for most of us a taboo subject. We don’t discuss them, we don’t engage in debate about them. Just try to bring it up on FaceBook and watch the insults fly and the defriending begin. No, we prefer to leave others to their beliefs and quietly go about living our lives guided by our own.

Most of us, that is.

Others? Well, they like to scream their beliefs in the faces of those who dare stand up to bigotry. Spittle forming in their taut mouth as they spout their reasons for the taking away of rights from others.

So what’s a respectful equality loving person to do when we see beliefs being molded into a vehicle for injustice and discrimination? What do we do when we see someone using their beliefs to leave people out, to treat them differently? When it’s affecting people’s rights to rent an apartment or a home? People’s rights to access to anything and everything that most of us take for granted. People’s rights to patronize a business? Sound familiar?

Do we sit quietly out of politeness and deference to said beliefs?

I have been struggling with this. I don’t want to step on anyone’s faith or beliefs. It’s not my way. But this conversation needs to happen and it doesn’t have to turn into debates over beliefs.

I don’t care about your beliefs.

I’m not here to trample your beliefs. I’m not here to comment on anyone’s beliefs.

I don’t feel like your beliefs are any of my business.

I don’t feel the need to say that I respect your beliefs.

It’s not my place to evaluate or determine whether your beliefs are worthy of respect.

Because I don’t care about your beliefs.

I care about your actions.

I care about how you treat the people you come in contact with every day.

I care about how you treat people you may not agree with.

Your beliefs? Who am I to judge them? They are for you to wrestle with and to determine.

If you are my neighbor, my friend, my boss, my congressman? I don’t care if you’re Christian or Jewish or Muslim or Buddhist or Atheist. Your beliefs are not my business nor my concern.

Beliefs are something that may guide you to live life with integrity and compassion. Or beliefs can be something you can carry around in your back pocket and pull out at any moment to justify actions. The difference boils down to character.

I’m interested in the fairness and compassion and empathy you do or do not express to your brothers and sisters of all faiths, all sexes, all races, all sexual orientations.

If you have to justify your behavior with your beliefs? That I can’t respect. Your beliefs are inconsequential. Your actions are the mark of your character. Making excuses or justification is just a lazy way to explain bad behavior. To pat yourself on the back as you step on the backs of others. If that’s your standard operating procedure, then I don’t respect you.

If you think you are better than others because of your beliefs? Then I can’t respect you. If you judge the lifestyle of other good people just trying to make it in this harsh world? Then I can’t respect you. If you cloak your compassion in judgmental pity? Then I can’t respect you. If you only lend a helping hand to others under the condition that they have to listen to your beliefs and subscribe to them? Then I can’t respect you.

If you are using beliefs to justify inequality? Then maybe you should check your beliefs. Because this is an old song and most of us are tired of hearing the tune. There was a time when beliefs were used as justification for unequal and in-humane and degrading treatment of black people in our country. Looking back I think we can all agree that it was a perversion of the beliefs that were held up as testimony. I think we can all agree that the beliefs that were co-opted and intertwined with vitriol were being abused and used as a cover for fear and hate.

Using beliefs to take away rights? Using beliefs to make a group of people less than? That’s ideology cloaked in fear and hate’s clothing. And it has the faint smell of disingenuousness. Don’t hide behind the safe and untouchable veil of your beliefs. Own your actions. Don’t pass the buck or the blame on to something you claim you hold sacred.

Here’s a little of what I believe.

I believe that equality is equality is equality.

No prerequisites. No conditions. No parameters.

I believe that compassion and caring and empathy for people who are not like you is one of the most important elements of our character.

I believe that actions speak louder than beliefs.

Equality.

It’s really not that complicated.

I believe the loving people in this world far outnumber the fearful and hateful people.

I think most of us want to live peacefully and harmoniously with our brothers and sisters who are just trying to make it in this harsh world.

I do not buy into the politicization of beliefs. The co-opting and the twisting of ideals. The cult of fear and judgement.

If you look upon everyone who is different from you with contempt and fear and condemnation? Then you are going to be spending a lot more time in a dark place my friend. Because our world is becoming smaller. We are connected and exposed in ways never before possible. Thanks to our digital age, we hear from and see and meet people from all over.

Along with this connectedness comes lots of new. New ideas, new lifestyles, new perspectives, new experiences. There’s no turning back from the world we now inhabit, one that is becoming increasingly… one. So maybe now is a good time to open our minds and open our hearts. To accept all the differences that come with living amongst other people.

Maybe now is a good time to embrace the differences and learn to adapt to our changing world. Maybe now is a good time to operate with an open mind. To realize that your way may not always be the best way. That change is not always bad.

Maybe now is the time to stop using your beliefs as a shield against all that you fear. Maybe now is the time to realize that your beliefs belong to you. No one can take them from you. The lifestyle of others does not impact or change your beliefs. If someone else’s way of living affects your beliefs? Maybe now is the time to check the shaky ground upon which your beliefs are tenuously perched.

Maybe you will find that your beliefs shouldn’t cause you to mistreat or discriminate.

Maybe you will come to the conclusion that no good ever comes from taking away rights.

Maybe you’ll see that it’s not even about your beliefs.

It’s about your actions.

Maybe you’ll realize that it’s time to leave beliefs out of the equation.

Maybe we’ll all be better off for it.

 

** Author’s Note: This is a post I wrote last year in response to Indiana’s Religious Freedom Law. I am re-posting it today given the recent legislative actions in Georgia and North Carolina. If you would like to make your voice heard, use the hashtag #WeAreNotThis on Twitter and Facebook (hashtags and social media have proven very effective in raising awareness and enacting change.) If you are still concerned about Transgender people using the same restroom as you, please read these articles and learn more about what the NC law entails and what it is to be transgender. 

http://www.upworthy.com/heres-what-itll-look-like-if-trans-people-arent-allowed-to-use-the-right-bathroom?c=ufb7

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/king-n-passes-anti-lgbt-bill-country-article-1.2576194?cid=bitly

crying-lover-boy-wallpaper-images-photo

“Boy… You’re going to carry that weight,

Carry that weight a long time…”

-The Beatles, Carry That Weight

You realize a few things when you bring a baby boy into the world. Your mind swirls with emotion and awe and fear and joy. You start to dream immediately of the kind of life your son will have.

And somewhere in the midst of the love and elation and the dreams there are a few wishes. Please let him be healthy. Please let him have a happy life. Please let me be a good parent. Please let him always feel safe and loved. And also… please let him be tall and strong and bold and athletic. You don’t really say any of this out loud. In fact the last part is said quickly in your head as you rush to tick off the superficial qualities that you only care about because society cares. Because possessing these qualities will make his life a little easier… actually, a lot easier. It will afford him more respect and privilege. It will give him a leg up and an advantage on the playing field of life.

Yes, many of these traits were at one time vital to survival. They used to be desirable in searching for a mate who could provide food and protect the family in a world of man against beast. But now? They are just superficial.

Society still cares. Society still deems these as qualities that all boys and men should strive for. Society still rewards height with higher pay and more leadership positions. Society and the media still perpetuates the idea of men settling deputes with violence. Society still gives a side eye to the man who takes a different path than the traditional “Honey, I’m home” role.

Our world has evolved. But we as a whole are still stuck in Neanderthal times.

I think it’s time for us to grow up.

I think it’s time to talk about boys and men and feminism.

Because boys are a victim of the same system (culture, mindset, tradition) that denies rights to women and the LGBT community, and tries to strip away their value and their worth. Because underneath the blatant misogyny in this system?

The boys and men are losing out.

They are being mislead and mistreated.

They are being told that they have to be tough. That they have to be big and tall and strong. They are told that their job in life is to have a job. They are being taught that their role in parenting is secondary.

They are being boxed in. Into a standard, a stereo type. They are being taught to stuff down feelings and to squash emotion. Unless it’s anger. They are being told that to fight is to prove your manliness. To dominate, to be aggressive, to be tough is the epitome of masculinity.

And it’s all bullshit.

It serves no one.

Not the shy little boy who doesn’t want to fight.

Not the stay at home dad who wants to raise his children and still be respected by his friends and his community.

Not the women or men who fall in love with and share a life with and raise children with these men.

We don’t talk about it much. And it’s understandable. Men make more money than women. They are afforded certain privileges, especially and primarily if they are white straight men. They are almost always the ones in positions of power. But that doesn’t minimize or negate the impact that our culture and society – and in fact most of the whole damn world – has on them.

It shapes their concept of who they should be. It puts undue and unnecessary pressure on them. They are being taught to conform and to look and act and feel a certain hyper masculine way. But rarely do we think about how the system affects men. And that is exactly why I think it needs to be said:

Feminism is for boys too.

Beyond #HeForShe, beyond the battle cry for men to join the movement. Feminism is for boys and men too. To benefit them. To lift the burden they carry from the moment they are photographed in their first “Lil Slugger” outfit.

What if we took these expectations off of boys and just let them grow and evolve organically. No preconceived ideas about who they should be or how they should play or how they should feel. What if we decided that whatever lies within them will lead them exactly where they are supposed to be one day. What if we didn’t have to worry about society bumping up against them violently for not adhering to the plan? Antagonizing them with jeers of being left out or left behind or left hooked?

What if… what if we took the gender ideals – from what colors boys are allowed to like to what types of activities they are expected to engage in – and threw them out with with the grunts and the knuckle dragging.

What if…

What if we stopped expecting or encouraging or allowing boys to settle disputes with violence?

What if we stopped belittling or laughing at tears or emotions when they ripple across a boy’s face.

What if we valued sensitivity in a boy as much as we value a good arm or fast feet?

What if we allowed and encouraged men to talk about and deal with and get help for depression, anxiety, PTSD and any and all emotional and psychological ailments without shaming them or making them feel less than masculine?

What if we took the rape and sexual assault of boys and girls more seriously? What if we took the shame out of it for all victims?

What if we (in the U.S.) gave men paid paternity leave and put changing tables in men’s  rooms and treated dads as vital and crucial in their role of parenting as we do moms. What if being a Stay At Home Dad was just another job?

What if we accepted that our boys might not like sports. That they might like to dance or draw or act or write or cook. What if we took the pressure to fit into one lonely little athletic box -that can’t possibly hold all the boys anyways- off their shoulders?

What if it didn’t matter how tall a man was? That his height was as inconsequential as a woman’s thigh gap or lack thereof.

What if we took pressure off of men to be the sole and/or primary breadwinners in a family? What if we accepted and respected that there is no shame in their wife or significant other making more money?

What if we eliminated the false notion that boys are inherently more violent. What if we realized that nurture (by way of a society that expects it of them) has led us to this false belief?

What if we stopped expecting boys and men to dominate women, to rack up the conquests? What if we allowed and encouraged men to focus on the romance and the emotional connection and appreciate true intimacy?

What if we let boys be whoever the hell they are and didn’t require anything of them other than to grow and learn and to be a good person? What if we did this for all kids?

What if we stopped assuming that men are not able to control their lustful urges and must be protected by covering the female body in school or in the science lab or on the street?

What if we stopped reducing men to bumbling idiots with no self control?

What if we gave boys and men a little more credit?

What if while fighting the good fight for women’s equality and LGBT equality we also acknowledged and focused on how the system affects the mentality of a young boy and consequently shapes the mind of the man? What if we recognized that these very issues that boys deal with as they grow into men are intertwined with the very things that Feminists are trying to achieve?

What if we were all in it together and fought the system together?

What if one thing lead to helping the other. The vicious cycle of misogyny and hyper masculinity ground to a halt by the refusal of men and women to participate in the perpetuation of an ancient myth for one second longer?

What if we eliminated this pressure and instead created a place where boys could express emotion. Could cry. Could deal with anger or fear or sadness without embarrassment. And could grow and mature in a world where they could be their authentic self. What if this trickled down to less violence in our world?

What if it is that simple?

What if inclusivity is truly all encompassing? Women, Men, Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgenders… all doing it together to just be who we are. Without expectations and parameters and shame and judgement.

What if changing our mindset and calling out pressure and expectations and bullshit for everyone was the thing that finally took down the system.

Maybe there’d be a little less anger in this world. A little less confusion. A little less hate. Maybe there’d be a little more understanding. A little more acceptance.

Maybe boys need to be a part of the feminist cause too.

Tell me what you think. Do you think that changing our cultural mindset about boys and men will have an affect on other feminist causes? Do you think that men are tired of the pressure they feel to fit into these roles at a young age? Or do you think this is a non-issue? 

 

no-respect

Right now everyone’s talking about beliefs. Beliefs that prompted the infamous Religious Freedom Act in Indiana last year, and last week’s Georgia’s Religious Freedom Bill and most recently North Carolina’s wide reaching and shocking HB 2, along with other similar initiatives that are peppering the country. Laws and bills aimed at limiting or taking away rights.

It’s supposedly all about beliefs. A conversation that has echoes of the not too distant path. Beliefs that are being recycled but not repurposed. A hand me down with historical context.

Beliefs are being held up and declared all while clutched in sweaty, angry fists. Beliefs are being trotted out like a prize pig at a State Fair.

So much talk of beliefs. And we all know that talk is the cheapest currency.

All of this talk is treading on some sacred ground. Beliefs (especially the religious kind) are for most of us a taboo subject. We don’t discuss them, we don’t engage in debate about them. Just try to bring it up on FaceBook and watch the insults fly and the defriending begin. No, we prefer to leave others to their beliefs and quietly go about living our lives guided by our own.

Most of us, that is.

Others? Well, they like to scream their beliefs in the faces of those who dare stand up to bigotry. Spittle forming in their taut mouth as they spout their reasons for the taking away of rights from others.

So what’s a respectful equality loving person to do when we see beliefs being molded into a vehicle for injustice and discrimination? What do we do when we see someone using their beliefs to leave people out, to treat them differently? When it’s affecting people’s rights to rent an apartment or a home? People’s rights to access to anything and everything that most of us take for granted. People’s rights to patronize a business? Sound familiar?

Do we sit quietly out of politeness and deference to said beliefs?

I have been struggling with this. I don’t want to step on anyone’s faith or beliefs. It’s not my way, it’s not my aim. But this conversation needs to happen and it doesn’t have to turn into debates over beliefs.

I don’t care about your beliefs.

I’m not here to trample your beliefs. I’m not here to comment on anyone’s beliefs.

I don’t feel like your beliefs are any of my business.

I don’t feel the need to say that I respect your beliefs.

It’s not my place to evaluate or determine whether your beliefs are worthy of respect.

Because I don’t care about your beliefs.

I care about your actions.

I care about how you treat the people you come in contact with every day.

I care about how you treat people you may not agree with.

Your beliefs? Who am I to judge them? They are for you to wrestle with and to determine.

If you are my neighbor, my friend, my boss, my congressman? I don’t care if you’re Christian or Jewish or Muslim or Buddhist or Atheist. Your beliefs are not my business nor my concern.

Beliefs are something that may guide you to live life with integrity and compassion. Or beliefs can be something you can carry around in your back pocket and pull out at any moment to justify actions. The difference boils down to character.

I’m interested in the fairness and compassion and empathy you do or do not express to your brothers and sisters of all faiths, all sexes, all races, all sexual orientations.

If you have to justify your behavior with your beliefs? That I can’t respect. Your beliefs are inconsequential. Your actions are the mark of your character. Making excuses or justification is just a lazy way to explain bad behavior. To pat yourself on the back as you step on the backs of others. If that’s your standard operating procedure, then I don’t respect you.

If you think you are better than others because of your beliefs? Then I can’t respect you. If you judge the lifestyle of other good people just trying to make it in this harsh world? Then I can’t respect you. If you cloak your compassion in judgmental pity? Then I can’t respect you. If you only lend a helping hand to others under the condition that they have to listen to your beliefs and subscribe to them? Then I can’t respect you.

If you are using beliefs to justify inequality? Then maybe you should check your beliefs. Because this is an old song and most of us are tired of hearing the tune. There was a time when beliefs were used as justification for unequal and in-humane and degrading treatment of black people in our country. Looking back I think we can all agree that it was a perversion of the beliefs that were held up as testimony. I think we can all agree that the beliefs that were co-opted and intertwined with vitriol were being abused and used as a cover for fear and hate.

Using beliefs to take away rights? Using beliefs to make a group of people less than? That’s ideology cloaked in fear and hate’s clothing. And it has the faint smell of disingenuousness. Don’t hide behind the safe and untouchable veil of your beliefs. Own your actions. Don’t pass the buck or the blame on to something you claim you hold sacred.

Here’s a little of what I believe.

I believe that equality is equality is equality.

No prerequisites. No conditions. No parameters.

I believe that compassion and caring and empathy for people who are not like you is one of the most important elements of our character.

I believe that actions speak louder than beliefs.

Equality.

It’s really not that complicated.

I believe the loving people in this world far outnumber the fearful and hateful people.

I think most of us want to live peacefully and harmoniously with our brothers and sisters who are just trying to make it in this harsh world.

I do not buy into the politicization of beliefs. The co-opting and the twisting of ideals. The cult of fear and judgement.

If you look upon everyone who is different from you with contempt and fear and condemnation? Then you are going to be spending a lot more time in a dark place my friend. Because our world is becoming smaller. We are connected and exposed in ways never before possible. Thanks to our digital age, we hear from and see and meet people from all over.

Along with this connectedness comes lots of new. New ideas, new lifestyles, new perspectives, new experiences. There’s no turning back from the world we now inhabit, one that is becoming increasingly… one. So maybe now is a good time to open our minds and open our hearts. To accept all the differences that come with living amongst other people.

Maybe now is a good time to embrace the differences and learn to adapt to our changing world. Maybe now is a good time to operate with an open mind. To realize that your way may not always be the best way. That change is not always bad.

Maybe now is the time to stop using your beliefs as a shield against all that you fear. Maybe now is the time to realize that your beliefs belong to you. No one can take them from you. The lifestyle of others does not impact or change your beliefs. If someone else’s way of living affects your beliefs? Maybe now is the time to check the shaky ground upon which your beliefs are tenuously perched.

Maybe you will find that your beliefs shouldn’t cause you to mistreat or discriminate.

Maybe you will come to the conclusion that no good ever comes from taking away rights.

Maybe you’ll see that it’s not even about your beliefs.

It’s about your actions.

Maybe you’ll realize that it’s time to leave beliefs out of the equation.

Maybe we’ll all be better off for it.