As I sat down in the chair waiting for my appointment to begin, my hairstylist recounted the time he participated in the Gay Pride parade, in our hometown, 10 years ago. That was the last and only time he participated in the event until this year. He told me he was startled when thousands of people marched with him compared to the 100 or so people who had participated a decade earlier. He felt great. He felt loved and accepted.
While I am pleased that there was such an outpouring of love and solidarity, it made me wonder why we do not just accept each other for who we are? Do we always have to teach or celebrate being respectful of others? Does this mean that it does not come naturally to us?
When we are born, we all have unique qualities. Our fingerprints and our DNA are unique to ourselves, and we know that each and every one of us is a special human being, and we are treated that way.
If people can recognize and celebrate our uniqueness as babies, why do we have to be frequently told to accommodate others as adults? Why doesn’t it just happen naturally? Why do we have to have Indigenous Peoples Day, Gay Pride parades, discounts for military personnel and Mental Health Month to bring awareness to certain categories of people’s uniqueness when we should just be accepting all the time? We are all different with our own special assets and needs, so let’s not put a square peg into a round hole.
But something happens after being born a perfect baby. We grow and are allocated to diffrent groups in society. We are categorized into groups according to age, gender, skin colour, religion, interests, sports and hobby groups, just to name a few. It seems to me that our uniqueness becomes secondary as we are manipulated to conform to the group identity.
Socialization creates a group-think mentality, including all the biases, idiosyncrasies and unfounded beliefs that come with it. Left unchecked, this is where judgements like racism, sexism and ageism creep in at first and then flourish.
Decades later we enter the work force and are told to accommodate others. We endure training sessions that we don’t think we need. We may be of the mindset that those who are different from the team should just conform. Or we may have a “live and let live” mindset, believing that we all belong no matter what we bring to the table.
My hairstylist, belonging to the LGBTQ community, openly admits that he became hardened against straight people when he spent time with his group. However, he chose to disconnect from the community as he did not feel right. He never wanted any special rights or accommodations. He wants to live his life in peace and without judgement from others: simple right that was not always given to him, nor to me, as a woman running a business.
Sometimes even a simple right becomes complicated. However, it’s crucial to remember that we each have our own human experience. Treat each person with respect and dignity. Be willing to change a limiting bias that you may have unknowingly inherited along the way. Do not judge or blame yourself. Just let it go and move on with a cleansed heart. By letting go, we will come together.