How Do We Learn Hard Lessons and Move on After Cruelty?
To Err Is Human
As human beings, we screw up regularly. We say or do things that are hurtful or downright mean and we may not always fully appreciate the consequences of what we do until it's far too late.
I say this not because I have a talent for stating the absolutely obvious, but because sometimes we forget that we can be incredibly thoughtless at times. Consider this: how many times have you failed to consider the magnitude of something you've said or done, not realizing who could be hurt in the process?
Something occurred recently that demonstrated great insensitivity to the LGBTQ culture and particularly to transgender individuals in a local school. While the exact nature of what occurred is still being buzzed about, there are people in the school's trans community, in the LGBTQ community as a whole, and in the community who identify as allies who are still reeling from this. There are emotions ranging from anger or even rage, to sorrow, to just an overall sense of numbness. Teachers and kids alike have been affected to one extent or another, and there appears to be an overall wondering of why and how this happened.
As always, there are a host of theories as to the how. The how, in many ways, doesn't really matter; people who need to know the details are trying to figure that out and those that aren't privy to that information don't need to know. Of course, gossip has abounded, and that's about as useful as trying to push a rope. Some people who don't need to know have always had this need to be somehow involved in the action, and generate their own drama. The bottom line is, what happened, happened. There will almost certainly be steps put in place to prevent something from happening again.
The why is another matter, and it speaks to just how much we have left to do so that people learn to treat others - no matter, race, creed, color, sexual orientation or gender identity, among the many, many other grounds for discrimination - with respect and dignity.
Do people make mistakes? Absolutely. 100 per cent, and that's how we learn. However, when we're dealing with a mistake or a series of mistakes that have allowed a community to feel more marginalized than they perhaps already feel, that's another matter altogether.
No Need For Labels
Hard Lessons, But Vital Ones
It's incredibly easy, when we are witness to prejudice and discrimination and want to do something about it, to put the blame on ourselves as something we somehow didn't do. However, prejudice is learned. People don't automatically come with it, and it takes a lot for people to let go of their beliefs and adapt once they are introduced to new ones.
Continued prejudice and discrimination is not the result of a lack of positivity. It's a learned behavior. Whether statements that promote discrimination of any sort or actions that are cruel are meant as a joke or not doesn't matter - they are hurtful and should be dealt with, certainly.
Given this particular instance involved the LGBTQ and trans communities, as well as teenagers, it would be all too easy to launch into various tirades about how "these kids today" aren't respectful of others or variations on that theme. However, before we start beating ourselves up about what we perhaps didn't do as individuals, we need to consider a few things:
1. It's been just shy of five decades that the LGBTQ rights movement has garnered any sort of notice or respect. Given the Stonewall riots didn't occur til the late 1960s - June 28, 1969 to be exact and that was a watershed moment for the LGBTQ rights movement - five decades really isn't a long time to be fighting for LGBTQ rights. It's a lifetime, but when you compare it to other civil rights movements, it's still fairly "young." There are hearts and minds that need to be opened yet, just as there are for any number of races that are still facing prejudice or even women.
2. It's not on any one of us to end discrimination. It's on all of us. It takes several teams and communities to join together to try and continue to promote the idea that all of us are human, and who we love or who we see ourselves to be doesn't matter one iota. It's the idea that we're all part of the human race, so why be divisive when it's so much easier to unite for a common good?
We have a long way to go. Situations where we see the discrimination and prejudice continue are heartbreaking, but if nothing else, it's a hard lesson that we are not quite as enlightened as we might think and that we have to keep working towards acceptance for all. It's a team effort - why not be on board with it?