I can be very patient. Really. I am patient when waiting for a table at a restaurant or when standing in line watching an overworked cashier doing their very best to be efficient and helpful. Life is too short to get worked up about sitting through a red light twice or having to wait a few extra seconds for the chip reader to read my debit card. These are minor inconveniences that do not constitute a crisis; however, it is difficult to continue being patient when it comes to acceptance of diversity. I’m holding on to the knot at the end of my patience rope with one hand when it comes to this.
My little family is incredibly diverse; we are a microcosm of America. Transgender, gay, black, white, Christian, atheist, Mexican, college educated, high school graduates, Democrat, Republican, military veterans, and the list goes on; we have a lot of diversity check marks sitting around our holiday tables. It’s incredible to watch these unique individuals blend into a beautifully open-minded, loving, generous whole. So why is it so hard for others to be accepting and open-minded? What can we do to help people recognize the beauty that comes with diversity? And for me, how can I grow my patience rather than become frustrated by those who seemingly refuse to try?
For me to strengthen my patience I should better understand people who are unaccepting. I have a theory. I think maybe some people don’t even try to be accepting because that means they would have to admit they have been wrong all along. Or, maybe people are afraid that accepting diversity would mean they would be losing something that they use to define themselves.
Let’s think about those people who simply don’t try. Is it possible these people don’t want to acknowledge they were wrong in their beliefs and refusing to express acceptance is their way of avoiding having to admit they were wrong? At one point in human history mankind thought the Earth was flat. They were wrong, big deal. Humanity got over it and stopped being afraid to fall off the edge of the Earth. Since then people have learned to accept a lot of things that were once unheard of. White people marry people of color. Gay people have children. Transgender and non-binary and intersex people exist. For real! With this group of unaccepting people, I try to be gently persuasive, try to follow Carli’s lead because she is the queen of patience in this area! We try to be an example, talk with them face to face since seeing is believing. We hope they will see that turning a blind eye to reality doesn’t make them right, it just makes them seem deliberately hurtful. Being right shouldn’t be more important than being supportive, loving and kind, should it? It’s a marathon of patience, slowly, gently, subtly proving through mere existence and visibility that diversity should be celebrated instead of hidden or ignored. It’s exhausting, and I do rely on Carli and our many friends who continue to encourage patience.
The second group of people are the ones who frighten me. This group knows they are on the wrong side of history and are blatant about not caring. They care only about themselves and their way of life, afraid that letting diversity thrive will mean the end of their comfortable, familiar existence. If they accept gay marriage it would destroy the foundation of their own marriage. Because they can’t personally explain what it means to be transgender it can’t possibly be real; it’s just a bunch of sick men running around in women’s clothes. Children from interracial marriage are diluting the gene pool. All of this is preposterous but there is no arguing with this type of ignorance. Their stance is irrational and how do you have a rational discussion with someone who seriously believes that sexual orientation can be flipped on and off like a light switch, being transgender is a lifestyle choice like living on the lake rather than in the city, or interracial marriage is against nature? I have no patience whatsoever for this group of people, but I am terrified of their far-reaching influence on the future of our country as well as the very physical safety and well-being of my family and friends.
There is a third group of people I truly admire and this group gives me hope. This group readily admits they do not understand. They don’t get what being transgender means and they might still do a double take when they see an interracial family. But instead of shaking a finger at my trans wife or gay son, lecturing about turning their lives around and getting back to “normal”, they embrace them and say “I don’t get it, but I love you, and that’s what matters.” Even though they can’t quite see over the horizon and the world still looks a little flat, they are willing to give the explorers the benefit of the doubt and accept them at their word. For them, humanity wins over false righteousness. Love wins over hate. Acceptance of diversity is a work in progress for them but they are working at it with diligence. For these people, I have all the patience in the world.