Last night, I witnessed some very cruel words uttered to another human being. It undoubtedly, was one of the most heartbreaking commentaries I have personally heard, in a long time. It definitely woke me up, and opened my eyes, in more ways than one. And, powerfully tugged at my heart strings, to say the least.
To start with, I will say that I do understand there are people in this world who do not agree with, and maybe even detest, homosexuality. I am not oblivious to this fact. However, despite some of the uprisings and protests in the media lately, it seemed to me that homosexuality was, to a certain extent, more commonplace and accepted than it used to be. I have seen some vicious comments spoken in the media, and the hellish fire that gets stirred up at some of the different protests. In spite of all this, it apparently didn’t sink in with me, the level of hate that still exists among some ordinary people. I don’t watch mainstream news much, so maybe I missed something!! Or maybe, because the things I’ve seen were on in the media, it just didn’t have as much of a personalized effect on me. I guess that sometimes, when you have a front row seat to something ugly, it seems to illicit a greater emotional response.
Regardless, what I saw and heard last night did personally affect me. It made me very aware of the fact that some people are still very hateful towards gay people. Furthermore, these same people, most likely also, are abhorrent towards every other category of people that they don’t like, disagree with, or view as different. Whether it is race, religion, culture, values, political party, lifestyle, or simply different viewpoints, some people are still, very frighteningly, inhumane when it comes to someone who is different than they are.
Developments, over the past few years, such as gay marriage being made legal and moderately shifting viewpoints towards the gay community, gave me the false impression that our country had come a long way towards acceptance of homosexual individuals. Maybe we have become enlightened to some degree, but I learned last night that we still have a long way to go. There are still some people lurking about, who are so filled with hate, they are willing to hurt a young man’s feelings simply because he is gay, and not think twice about it.
Secondly, I also learned that, at least a few people, are completely ignorant in regard to certain facts about HIV and disease transmission. One would think that after twenty years of public health messages, educating people about how HIV is transmitted, that everyone would have learned the facts by now. Wrong again! Some people, apparently, still believe that HIV can be transmitted by sharing a toilet seat. We obviously need to get some more public service messages into circulation, to educate all people on how HIV is transmitted. For example, you cannot get HIV from sitting on a toilet seat. Unless you find a rare circumstance, in which the toilet is covered in HIV infected blood and your backside has open lacerations on it! You also can’t catch HIV from hugging someone, or shaking their hand. I don’t mean too sound condescending, I am almost positive that the majority of people, who might be reading this, already know these things. The point I am trying to make is that there are still some people who actually don’t have this common knowledge. After last night, I now know this to be a fact.
Let me jump off my soapbox now, and tell you about what happened last night, that ruffled my feathers. My teenage son has a very good friend who is openly gay. My son and I, and this gay friend, were all at the home of one of my relative’s. I will refer to my son’s friend as Andrew, because I don’t want to share real names here, and I also don’t want to keep referring to him as “the gay friend”. At one point in the evening, Andrew needed to use the restroom. There are two bathrooms in the house, but apparently the toilet in the main bathroom was not working. So my son asked this relative of ours, if “they” could use the bathroom in her master bedroom. She responded to my son, and indirectly to Andrew, with these hateful words, she said “you can use it, but he can’t” (while she was looking directly at Andrew). The dejected look on that young man’s face, when he heard that response, hurt me to the very core of my soul. As if that wasn’t bad enough, she proceeded to add insult to injury by following up with, “I’m sorry but it’s my personal toilet and I don’t want his bodily fluids all over it. I am sure you can understand that I just don’t want to catch something.” The young man simply needed to use a restroom (and side note, he doesn’t have HIV either). I immediately took Andrew out of the room and apologized profusely. I went in the main bathroom and “fixed” the toilet, which simply just needed to be plunged, so the boy could relieve himself. Then, after uttering some stern words of education, to my relative, we left. However, I don’t think those hateful and ignorant words will ever leave that young man’s mind. They certainly won’t leave my mind or heart.
“Andrew” has enough ugliness to deal with in this world. He is not only gay, but has also confided in me that he, feels more like a woman than a man inside, and sometimes dresses as a female. Kids and teenagers can be cruel, especially when someone is “different”, and where we live in the bible belt “backwoods”, neither one of those two things are readily accepted. So I am sure those spiteful words he heard last night were not the first he has heard, and won’t be the last. He has a long fight ahead of him, to be able to keep his head held high, and hold on to his self-esteem. It was very hard to witness, what was probably just one more hurtful remark, in a lifetime of insults.
Since my blog is basically dedicated to mental health, I will share what I have learned from a mental health viewpoint on this topic. First and foremost, self-esteem is essential to being mentally healthy. Low self-esteem is linked to anxiety, depression, isolation, eating disorders, opposition to social “norms”, substance use disorders, self-neglect, inability to take on challenges which often leads to lower socioeconomic status, higher suicide rates, and the list goes on. I don’t know about everyone else, but I certainly don’t want to be responsible for helping to send a person down such a dismal life path. One comment may not destroy a person’s self worth, but hurtful words most certainly do chip away at a person’s self-esteem.
We are all guilty of saying things out of anger, or even fear, that were mean spirited or insensitive. Nobody can be perfect all the time. However, if we value our own self worth, we feel a sense of guilt after saying something hurtful, and if possible, we take the first opportunity to apologize and make amends. People who truly have high self-esteem, desire to lift others up, not tear them down. I am not implying that we have to agree with everyone either. People with self worth, and confidence in their own personal values, have the ability to “agree to disagree”, when necessary. I personally hold religious beliefs that would not enable me to choose to live a homosexual lifestyle. And that’s okay, I have a right to my own personal beliefs. But I don’t feel I have the right to impose my beliefs on others, or to be mean if someone believes differently than me. And, I certainly have no authority to judge another person. I can hold my personal beliefs, “agree to disagree”, and still love another person who has belief’s different from my own. And I love “Andrew” dearly, he is one of the most kindhearted people I know, and I am truly glad he is in my life.
When you ask a class of kindergarten children, “What makes a good friend?” You often hear things like: “being nice”, “sharing”, “having fun together”, “helping me when I am sad”, and so on. When you ask an adult to name good qualities about a person, you often hear similar characteristics, such as: “kind”, “caring”, “empathetic”, “nonjudgmental”, “easygoing”, “honest”, “reliable”, “compassionate”, “loyal”, “helpful”, “unselfish”, among many others. We improve our own self worth by embodying good qualities in our own personalities. In other words, when we act in a hateful or egocentric manner, we actually damage our own self-esteem, in addition to the self confidence of others. It seems as though being tolerant, accepting, respectful, and thoughtful of others, is a win-win for both sides.
Differences, such as race, culture, lifestyle, personal convictions, knowledge, and opinions, can be viewed as unique characteristics among individuals. Diversity among people can make the world an interesting place, rather than reasons to hate each other. Variations among ideas, cultures, viewpoints, and so forth, give us things to talk about, and even debate. You can even stand up for your beliefs without knocking someone else down. There are tactful ways to get your point across. You will most likely never convince someone to join your way of thinking, by being belligerent, and hateful towards them. And you don’t have too convince anyone, you can still keep your cherished values and opinions, even if others don’t share them.
We all have the freedom to think for ourselves and speak our opinions. Every so often, there are even instances in which we feel it is important to defend our beliefs. But there is never a situation where we need to make someone feel less than, or spew hateful insults, in the process of defending our ideals. None of us are superior. I know sometimes our standards are dear to our heart, and we hold on to them strongly. But that’s just it, they are our own personal beliefs. Everyone has the the liberty to decide what they will believe in, that is why they are so often called “personal beliefs”.
So please, even if you don’t like someone, there is no need to be hateful. Words uttered, with a mean spirit, can hurt worse than being hit with a bat. The hateful words I heard last night were not even directed at me, but they may as well have been, because the memory of the look on that boy’s face is still making my heart ache. That image, will forever, be a stern reminder in my memory to think before I speak.
As always, I would love to hear your opinions and thoughts on this topic, if you wish to share in the comments section below. Pretty please, with sugar on top, let’s just all remember to be nice when discussing these sensitive topics. Sometimes, I get upset or frustrated with someone, maybe it’s a waiter that brings me ice cold food, a slow cashier when I am in a hurry, or a hard to deal with coworker. I take a deep breath and always try to remember that this person, that I am frustrated with, is someone else’s son, daughter, mother, grandmother, father, etc… I wouldn’t want someone to say something hurtful to my child, my parents, my grandparents, or anyone that I love. So I try to choose my words wisely and treat others, not only as I would like to be treated, but also like I would want my dearest loved ones to be treated. I hope some day my relative will try to do the same, or at the very least learn to bite her tongue.
“You never know what someone else is going through. Be nice, it’s that simple.” –unknown