Let me state things I know to be true. We are all people. We all have been happy. We all have been sad. We all have felt love. We all have felt rejection. We all have been proud. We all have been disappointed. We all have faults. We were all born into the same world. We all have potential. Who am I to say that my feelings are more pure than my neighbor’s?
I have heard the phrase, “People are afraid of what they don’t understand,” repeated many times. It’s true. I am scared. I don’t understand hating people because of things they cannot change. I cannot change my skin. I cannot change whom I love. I cannot change who I am. If I cannot change these things, how does it make sense for me to ask anyone else to try to do so?
These are questions that have plagued me my entire life. Growing up in Tuscaloosa, Alabama led me to be surrounded by people who resented others for their differences. This has never made sense to me. All of our differences add a multitude of colors to the world; a rainbow wouldn’t be admired the way it is if it was only one color.
I was an ally for human rights before I realized there was a name for it. I have always believed that prejudice is created and hate is something that must be taught. I was raised in a household that taught us not to see color and orientation, but to look for character. Most of my experience with the LGBT community has been through theatre. I have been involved in musical theatre and straight plays since I was in third grade. Always being surrounded by members of the LGBT community, it took me a long time to realize any of those people were any different than me.
I only realized there was a difference when I got to middle school and all of the boys who tried out for show choir were picked on. I had no idea what the big deal was. We were in middle school. How could we already find things to hate in each other? I have continued to see this behavior my entire life. I have spent many tears and long talks with mom trying to figure out how to combat this type of behavior. Once I noticed the hate, it was everywhere.
My mom always taught me to kill people with kindness and to lead by example. She made it clear to me that if I became part of the crowd and didn’t stand up for others, I was just as bad as the ones oppressing. After twenty years, I have realized that I am not going to be able to change everyone. I am also not going to have friends that believe the exact same things as I do. That just isn’t realistic. It also isn’t the way to live. Instead, I choose my friends based on their character. They can believe what they wish, but I don’t allow any of my friends to use derogatory words towards others around me, and I do not tolerate gay bashing of any sort. My hope is that by leading by example, maybe they will slowly learn to see the world through my eyes.
I truly believe harboring hate hurts your soul. It is so much easier to love. I will forever believe that promoting love can change the world. I believe that people are born good. If we are the ones that teach hate, we are also the ones that can teach love. Every time I feel frustrated and want to lash out at a person that is hurting me or my friends, I realize that fighting hate with hate creates nothing but resentment. I lead by example. I lead by love. I am an ally.