Have you ever felt discouraged by people who seem to have shit so figured out? Have you ever felt judged or bullied by someone you thought was supposed to be open-minded? Have you ever felt like no matter how hard you try to learn about something, there’s always someone out there who feels the need to tell you you’re doing it wrong? Yeah – I’ve felt like that quite a few times as well. These individuals, who think they are all high and mighty and above the rest of us, are social minority extremists. On one hand, they are living a lifestyle (or making a choice, or existing) in a way that tends to be outside the range of normal society. They’re different. They don’t live by other people’s rules. They walk against the grade. On the other hand, they’re exactly the same as all the other different people. They live by very strict rules within their outsider community. And they walk alongside the hundreds or thousands of other people who have chosen to live the exact same way. Point 1 – living differently than what is typically expected, understood, or approved of by “normal” society, does not make you an open-minded person.
Quite on the contrary, you can be even more close-minded than people who are identified as “normal”. Maybe it’s because you’ve been outcast and felt to feel ashamed for who you are, so you’re taking shelter in your new identity and holding it up in everyone else’s face to show how proud you are to be you (now that you finally feel like you can). But guess what? Other people don’t have to be who you are. You don’t get to choose who other people decide to be. You don’t get to choose what other people decide to do. As cliche as it may sound, the best way to create peace in such a diverse and vibrant world is to live and let live. Allow other people to be who they are. If you are fighting for a cause you genuinely believe in…don’t ruin the cause by hating others. The only way to form an understanding with anyone is by showing love and kindness. Point blank period. There is no other way to change the world.
Now, for all my fellow triers out there who feel like no matter what they do people are out to get them, let’s discuss why you shouldn’t take offense. First of all, what kind of identities do people feel the need to protect? And let me be very clear when I say that that is exactly why they come off so harshly – they are trying to protect their identity. They want to make sure the labels they use for their own identity stay safe. In short, they are scared. So, who is it that gets scared of their identity being taken away from them? Who is scared that their identity will be misunderstood (especially if someone accidentally uses it the ‘wrong’ way)? Here are just a few examples: people who are vegan, people who are bisexual, people who are transgender, people who are pagan, people who homeschool, and last but not least people who are polyamorous (or living a polyamorous lifestyle). Of course, these are not the only minority extremists out there, but for our understanding here I’m keeping it somewhat brief.
A vegan isn’t a bad person. And there is nothing wrong with being vegan. Some vegans want to save the animals, some want to save the planet, and some just want to stay healthy. There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of those things. The issues only come in when people who take on that identity feel threatened by those who identify differently, and thus they push back and lash out and try to justify their identity (one way of doing so is by making themselves seem better than other people). But telling someone else they aren’t who they should be, just because you’ve found out who you are, is never okay.
Bisexuals and people who are transgender are not bad people either. They may love differently than you do, or they may feel internally different than you do. But what does that matter? One person loving whoever they love does not stop you from loving who you love. One person being uncomfortable in their own skin does not stop you from being comfortable in yours. So why the controversy? People who don’t understand bisexuality or the concept of being transgender may feel uncomfortable, may feel fear of the unknown. That’s natural. That’s human. Actions against people for being who they are, however, is not okay. And, unfortunately, people who are bisexual, and people who are transgender, tend to get a lot of backlash for who they are (because people do not understand them, as with most minorities). So what do some bisexual and transgender people do? They push back and they lash out, and they fight for their right to be who they are. Sometimes this creates a rigid system of outcasting other outcasts within their own outcast communities just because they are so scared to let people in, to allow people to try and understand them, to allow themselves to accept other people, or to create bonds across identities. Past experiences have taught them to be extremely cautious.
How about pagans? Is loving nature a bad thing? Is praying to a God (or Goddess, or whoever the hell you want to) a bad thing? Is working towards self improvement, or trying to find natural ways to heal yourself, a bad thing? Of course not. And, yes, I’m definitely simplifying things. But, point is, that being pagan in and of itself is nothing to fret about. Again, people tend to not understand it completely. We know how uncertainty scares people. How fear can cause outcasting. People of other faiths take myths and media at face value and create an idea in their heads of what they assume a pagan person is like, and then just flat out freak. If it isn’t something that they understand, then it’s bad. So pagans get a lot of crap from people for being themselves – which is typically really good, genuine, awesome people (of course, each individual is different…I’m sure there are some asshole pagans out there too). So what do pagans do? They push back, and lash out, and become either more secretive or more up-in-your-face about who they are. And nobody likes anybody who is pushing a belief or an identity on them.
Then there are people who homeschool. What’s wrong with this? Absolutely nothing. Teaching your own children is a great thing, if you can, and if you want to. Not everybody wants to do that, and that’s fine. Some people prefer working while their children attend school (some have to work). Other people prefer to stay home with their children and learn. Homeschooling your children can be extremely rewarding. It can also be extremely beneficial to your child’s emotional development. There are a million reasons people choose to homeschool – religion, disabilities, travel, or just plain wanting to spend that time loving and teaching your children. But homeschoolers tend to be outcast from the main population of people, because people are so used to the idea of school that anything else scares them. They just don’t understand. Around and around we go again. Homeschoolers feel like they need to justify themselves, and they push back and lash out. Minority extremists are not created on their own. It takes a whole society of people who are unable to accept each other in order to force someone into that corner where they feel the need to fight their way out. We do it to each other every day in little ways. Little judgments that make people feel like it isn’t okay to be different. It isn’t okay to be who you truly are. It isn’t okay to step outside the box and do something new. As that High School Musical song goes “stick to the status quo”.
This brings us to the real reason we are here today – polyamory. Have you ever been in a polyamorous FB group and asked a question or made a comment and been immediately attacked by the “rule police”. Yeah, those are the poor people who have been backed into their corner, who are fighting to keep their own identities alive. Those are the social minority extremists. There are no right ways to be polyamorous. There are no wrong steps to take. There is no rule book. Branching out in your life, or within your identity, is supposed to feel empowering. You are taking on a new part of yourself. You are in the process of becoming. You are growing. That’s an amazing thing! Don’t let anybody make you feel otherwise.
Yes, there are times when you will make mistakes with wording. Vocabulary can be confusing, especially when it itself is growing and changing so rapidly in this fast paced world. Words can change meanings over time. Words can completely be flipped on their heads. No need to feel like a failure for misusing a word. Of course, the best practice is to stay open to other people’s understandings of things. You can learn a lot about a person by the way in which they interpret a word. Don’t take their interpretation personally – your brain and their brain are not identical, and your past experiences and theirs do not match up perfectly. There will always be some form of confusion. But don’t let that confusion get the best of you. Don’t let that confusion keep you from trying to understand. Don’t let that confusion cut you off and push you into a cramped corner of your own. Allow things to be fluid. Allow meanings to flow. Allow people’s thoughts to be different. Allow people to be who they are, even if they don’t accept who you are. In conclusion – don’t let the social minority extremists out there dampen your thirst for learning, or destroy your path towards growth. Maybe your acceptance will help them loosen up a bit themselves. Be proud of who you are, and who you are becoming. Never let anyone tell you who you’re allowed to be (or what you should be). Be true to yourself, but also let others be true to themselves. Create a peaceful and loving space, even if that space was not presented to you. Love yourself, and remember, live and let live.