I Choose Love

I have been thinking a lot about the current state of affairs in this country, and I find the hatred and unrest surrounding it all so upsetting. There are people I love and care about very much who remain on opposing sides of many issues. They have their opinions and beliefs and I have my own. However, I don’t love or respect them any less because we don’t see eye-to-eye. They have their reasons for their beliefs and I have my own.

The thing that really bothers me about all of this is the fact that some people only seem to care about being right. There have been so many arguments and debates over whose principles and beliefs reign supreme and why all members of the opposing sides are horrible and deserve to be made fools of or completely cut from one’s life. Yes, there are definitely instances in which the cutting of ties is absolutely the answer, but this is certainly not the case in every situation.

Call me naïve or a bleeding heart, but none of this is about being right for me. It’s about loving your neighbor—regardless of race, gender, religion, orientation, socioeconomic status, political beliefs, etc. It’s about being kind and loving and opening your heart to others and accepting them and loving them for who they are.

You want to talk about God? I don’t know about yours, but my God is a loving and righteous God who walks with His sons and daughters and carries us through our struggles and supports us as we bear our burdens. He is a God who loves everyone, regardless of our perceived sins and shortcomings. He is a God who kneels and washes the feet of the poor and suffering, who takes His sons and daughters into His arms without question, and loves freely and openly and without the need to judge or discriminate.

My family has been perceived as different for as long as I can remember. When I registered my oldest son for school, the school system forced me to choose one of his races over the other—nonchalantly forcing his own mother to strip him of half of his racial identity without concern of the implications of doing so. I can’t remember a time when we have walked into a store and not felt the burning glares and distain for our mixed family from older Asian men and women who obviously feel I have somehow disgraced their culture because I married outside of my race and created tiny humans whose blood is not purely Asian. I have had numerous racial slurs flung at me throughout my life. These experiences could easily be perceived as reason enough to hate, but that is not who I am and that certainly was not the way I was raised.

The monumental ruling to allow all couples of legal age to marry in all 50 states matters to me as a straight ally, as a wife, and as a mom. It matters to me because I was allowed to marry the love of my life over 12 years ago and I cannot imagine a life without him as my partner, my other half, and father of my children—both in love and in law. As someone who was legally allowed to marry her partner, I cannot imagine the pain of loving someone so much and wanting to spend the rest of your life with them, and being legally banned from being able to do so.

I have so many dreams for my sons. I have no way of knowing who they will be when they grow up or who they will choose to love. I will love them regardless of whether or not they attend college or achieve their perceived successes in life. I will love them if they are gay and I will love them if they are straight. And, because of this monumental ruling, I will be able to dance with them at their weddings regardless of whom they choose as life partners and where they choose to live.

I will continue to remain unshaken in my belief that all people matter. No religion or law will dictate how I choose to treat others. I will never claim to easily or always love or embrace others or treat others with kindness. Doing so will always be both a struggle and a conscious choice. But, regardless of my spiritual or political beliefs, I will always try to choose love. I will always try to choose kindness. And, I will always try to choose what I feel in my heart is right.

Hate builds mountains. Love moves them. Choose love.

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Why I Am Voting NO

Since 1997, a statute has been in place in Minnesota that bans gay and lesbian couples from marrying. In May of 2011, a proposed amendment was introduced that would put into place a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in the state of Minnesota. Tomorrow, November 6, 2012, Minnesotans will vote on whether or not they believe this proposed amendment should be included in our state constitution.

I am not asking, nor will I ask you, to vote for a specific candidate. But, regardless of your race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, political party, or religious beliefs, I urge you to vote NO to the proposed marriage amendment.

For those of you who are married, I ask you to think of your partner and the love you share and imagine what your life would have been like had you not been allowed to marry. Imagine what your life would have been like had your union not been legally recognized. Imagine the implications it would have on your family, on your finances…on your children.

As a legally married couple, you are allowed to obtain health insurance through your partner. You are allowed to make medical decisions for your partner, in the event that he or she is unable to make those decisions for his or herself. Your partner is legally entitled to Social Security benefits, access to retirement savings, family leave, tax benefits, etc. If you have biological children, you and your partner are both legally recognized as their parents without the need for one partner having to adopt to make the guardianship legal. Same-sex couples currently do not have a legal right to any of these benefits in the state of Minnesota.

As someone who was legally allowed to marry her partner, I cannot imagine the pain of loving someone so much and wanting to spend the rest of your life with him or her, and being legally banned from being able to do so. My husband and I are an interracial couple, and our children are biracial, but we can walk down the street without feeling shame with regard to the makeup of our family. In terms of social norms, our family doesn’t fit into that perfect mold, but we are somehow accepted because my husband is a man and I am a woman. Same-sex couples deserve the right to feel accepted, and they deserve the right to not feel shame with regard to the partner with whom they have chosen to share their life, their love, and their home.

I think of my children and the dreams I have for them. I have no way of knowing who they will be when they grow up, or who they will choose as a life partner. I will love them regardless of whether or not they attend college or become successful in life. I will love them if they are gay and I will love them if they are straight. If one or both of my sons tells me that they are gay, simply by voting no to the marriage amendment tomorrow, I will be able to look them in the eye and tell them that I did my part in supporting a movement that will one day allow them to legally marry their life partner, regardless of whether their partner is a man or a woman. I will be there, and I will support my sons and the choices they make because I love them.

I was raised Catholic, and I have chosen to raise my children in the religion as well. I wholeheartedly agree with some preachings of the church, and I wholeheartedly disagree with others. I love God, and I love Jesus, but I also love my LGBT family members and friends. I refuse to allow my religious beliefs to dictate whether or not I am allowed to love and support my family members and friends and the amazing people I believe they were created to be.

It’s difficult to know whether or not the state of Minnesota will ever legally recognize same-sex unions. My hope is that it will one day become a reality. I do know that I absolutely refuse to support an amendment that would limit the freedom of same-sex couples to marry. You don’t have to necessarily agree with same-sex marriage to vote NO. If there is any part of you—no matter how small, or insignificant it may seem—that feels that it is wrong to keep two people who love each other and wish to spend the rest of their lives together from doing so, then I implore you to vote NO to the marriage amendment.

I am a Catholic, and I am voting NO. I am in a heterosexual marriage, and I am voting NO. I am a parent, and I am voting NO. I ask you to join me tomorrow, November 6, 2012, in voting NO to the proposed marriage amendment, and help Minnesota move one step closer to equality for all couples and all families.

UPDATE: With great pride and love for my fellow Minnesotans, I would like to announce that we CRUSHED the proposed marriage amendment!!

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. **