I read an article today about my hometown, and it wasn’t pretty. The article tells the story of a school district that secretly passed a policy requiring all school personnel to take a neutral stance on issues of homosexuality. It is essentially a form of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. It also allows school personnel within that district to turn a blind eye to complaints from students who are being bullied due to their sexual orientation. This is a school district that recently saw nine of its students take their own lives within a two-year period.
This article made me think of a heart-wrenching episode of Grey’s Anatomy in which a lesbian character’s father brings her family’s priest to the hospital in an effort to “pray away the gay.” In that same episode, the character’s girlfriend has a conversation with the father in which she tells him about the day she came out to her own father. She had never been interested in boys while growing up, and her parents knew, but yet she still worried that her father would kick her out upon hearing the news. Instead, when she told her father, his response to her was, “Are you still who I raised you to be?”
I believe that homosexuality is not a choice, but something which is innate. I have friends and family members who are gay and bisexual, and they are amazing and wonderful people. I believe they are who their parents raised them to be, regardless of the life partners they have chosen. People of color are not required to hide the color of their skin from the world, so people who identify as LGBTQ should not be shamed into keeping their sexual orientation a secret. They are people, and I believe the very thing that makes them “different,” is one of the many things that makes them beautiful.
As the episode of Grey’s Anatomy states, I strongly believe that you can’t “pray away the gay,” just as you can’t pray away the color of your skin. Believe me, I’ve tried. As a child, I spent many nights secretly praying to God, asking Him to make me blonde-haired, blue-eyed, and Caucasian, because I didn’t want to be different anymore. Twenty-plus years later, and I am still as Asian as they come.
I endured a fair amount of bullying growing up, and have even experienced it as an adult. Kids were mean when I was younger, but they can be downright vicious now. In an age where people can disguise themselves behind a computer screen or a phone, the attacks on others have escalated to unimaginable heights. I have heard and seen teenagers using racial and anti-gay slurs like they are every day words. These words should NEVER be a part of anyone’s vocabulary, PERIOD. Words can cut like a knife, and they can absolutely be the catalyst that can change a person’s life forever.
It is NOT okay that nine teenagers in one school district were made to feel so badly about themselves—so ashamed—that they would take their own lives. I have been there. I know what it feels like to hit rock bottom. I know what it feels like to get to a point where you think you are worthless and the world would be a better place without you. It’s a horrible place to be, and I cannot even begin to imagine what these teenagers must have gone through to get them to this place.
Kids don’t come with manuals, but parents should be equipped with open minds and open hearts. Parents should never use racial or anti-gay slurs around their children, or anywhere, for that matter. Children are incredibly perceptive, and pick up on a lot of things you would never imagine they would. They put an incredible amount of weight on the words and actions of their parents. If you, as a parent, don’t like the color of someone’s skin, or their sexual orientation, that’s your problem, but don’t make it your child’s problem. Children should be taught that everyone is different, and that those differences are part of what makes them beautiful. People should be accepted and admired for their differences—never bullied or belittled. Complete acceptance of differences is ideal, but at the very least, it is important that parents attempt to maintain open minds when teaching their children about the world and helping them to form their beliefs. The world will be a much better place when people learn to see the beauty in being different. And this message needs to begin at home.
** Please note that this post is not meant to offend anyone. I feel strongly about this issue, and felt the need to address this article. **
10 thoughts on “The Beauty in Being Different”
I remember the episode of Grey’s Anatomy you referred to. The father’s response was so beautiful. Kids, teens, and adults can be mean, but they can also be kind. This blog was kind. I think there is greater acceptance in today’s teens for diversity of color and sexual orientation than there was years ago, but maybe I see what I want to see. Something I need to be aware of. I also think you are right that people will type something for the internet that they would never say in person. That’s something that I really hate about the internet and try really hard to not partake in.
Thank you for pointing that out, Dawn. I absolutely agree that most people are very kind and amazing. I probably should have used the word “bullies”, as opposed to “kids”, when stating that they were mean and downright vicious. I agree that there is a greater acceptance around issues of race and sexual orientation, but reading articles like this makes me question just how far we have actually come. I am usually not an angry person, but this makes me so mad!
Just found your blog via my adoption agency. My Chinese adopted daughter broke down in tears a few weeks ago because she said she wanted to be beautiful like me – a blue-eyed, auburn-haired pale woman. My heart broke that she doesn’t find the beauty of her own skin color, hair and eyes. She is told she is beautiful all the time, because she IS! But she doesn’t believe it. Kids are cruel, and I think this is where she’s hearing comments about her looks. All we can do as parents is continue to instill in them self-confidence and self-respect, as well as respect for others.
I am so sorry to hear your daughter is having a difficult time, Samantha. I grew up in a predominantly Caucasian neighborhood and school, so I can completely relate to what your daughter is going through. You’re doing the right thing by instilling in her the tools she needs to love herself for who she is and cope with those who don’t understand.
If you haven’t already done so, check to see if there are Chinese culture camps in your area. My parents sent my older sister and me to Korean culture camp, and it helped a lot. It allowed us to learn about our culture, and it also gave us the opportunity to spend a week with other kids who were just like us! I can’t tell you how valuable that experience was for me.
There is a line in the almost appallingly mediocre film “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” in which Morgan Freeman’s character, trying to explain the reason for different races, says (paraphrasing due to middle aged memory) “Allah loves glorious diversity.” I’m not a believer myself, but I do think all our differences make the world a more beautiful place. When we don’t use them as an excuse to hurt each other.
I completely agree, Christine. And thank you for sharing that quote. Diversity is glorious and beautiful, and it shouldn’t be used as an excuse to hate or hurt each other.
I have to say I wasn’t a fan of that movie, either. 🙂
Thank you for linking me to this blog – it’s most definitely going on the google reader subscriptions.
I read that article a few days ago and it honestly made me cry. It’s horrific that things were allowed to get to that stage. Even worse were some of the comments to the article – denying culpability, rampant homophobia and the worst kind of ignorance.
What is wonderful is blogs like these which continue to spread the message that these attitudes are not okay and they will no longer be accepted. Thank you.
It’s a really difficult article to stomach, and I don’t know many people who were able to get through it without getting teary-eyed. I stopped after reading the first few comments on the website. Thank you for reading this blog, and for your kind words. 🙂
I agree in beauty in being different. That beauty is in a person’s heart, their goodness, their sincerity. We should not judge others, whether what they prefer is wrong or right, or rightious. I admire your courage and for speaking the truth. That’s why we are in a democratic country. We embrace freedom and equality for all. Bless your heart.
Thanks so much for your comment, the island traveler! I wouldn’t say I have courage. The teens in the article are the courageous ones.