The Beauty in Being Different

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. **

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