I've been married for 12 years, and one of the biggest disagreements my spouse and I have is over cilantro. I love it. I love it in Mexican food, Thai food, salads — everything. To me, it's the flavor of freshness. To my wife, it tastes like soap. Now, she has gotten used to my cooking, and if I don't use too much, she's OK with it and I'm OK with her opinion of the soap-flavored herb. It saddens me that we don't share the same affinity for it, but our relationship isn't hinged on our differing opinions on produce.
And that's the thing — a simple difference in opinion or disagreement generally shouldn't affect a relationship. But what makes an opinion, anyway? For those who live in free countries, being able to voice our opinion about something is a guaranteed right, meaning we won't go to jail for saying that cilantro tastes like shit or that your country is being led by a circus of used car salesmen. That's OK. You can do that. It hurts no one. (Well, maybe the used car salesmen.)
I understand that everyone has the right to their opinion, and I cherish that. I also understand that it is a privilege to be able to voice an opinion since not every human gets to do that. However, I don't have to respect your opinion when it hurts others. It's OK that we disagree on whether or not Big Macs are a health food or if pickleball should be an Olympic sport. It's also OK if I chose to not associate with you because your opinion perpetuates violence and ignorance on already mistreated minorities.
To put this in perspective: my wife is transgender and I am bisexual. Outwardly, we were the picture-perfect American family, oozing family values. Then she came out and I fessed up to my own sexuality. Now we are a picture-perfect queer, two-mom crew, a "live and let live" kind of family just doing the best that we can.
When she decided to come out to her family, it didn't go well at all. They are part of an evangelical denomination that is very politically charged and is against anything that would go against biblical family values. Well, except the whole concubines and incest part. Oh, and they totally eat shellfish, braid their hair, and love bacon. But being gay or transgender is about the worse thing you could be.
When she made that phone call, there were a lot of terrible things said about genitalia and the like. If word vomit were a real thing, this would be it. They said just about every rude and mean-spirited thing you'd think a Christian should never say to their child who was previously suicidal and struggled with her identity, but they did. When Tara tried to call them out on their hypocrisy, they always came back with the assertion that she was the one with the closed mind and she was the one being intolerant.
I'll just let you reread that again.
Yes, my wife was being intolerant. She was expected to be tolerant of their intolerance and respect their opinion, even though they didn't respect one thing about her... because that made a lot of sense.
Not surprisingly, we don't talk to them anymore.
Not long ago, an old roommate posted a video of a pastor standing in front of a Target telling all of his followers that Target is now allowing grown men to use the bathroom with little girls. This person had been a friend of mine on social media since my wife had come out, so she was fully aware that she was stepping on toes. When I called her out on it, I explained that this type of opinion directly affects my family and puts people like my wife in danger. The response just seemed to be the same generic bullshit: We can agree to disagree. This is my opinion and I don't have to agree with your lifestyle but we can still be friends.
Bitch, no we can't.
That man invoked the assault and murder of trans women across the country. His video was viewed hundreds of thousands of times. His view is shared with millions of people just salivating at his words waiting for someone to validate their hate.
Statistics have shown time and time again that LGBTQ folks are at a higher rate of suicide, assault, and murder. Nearly half of all transgender youth have "seriously thought about suicide." Much of this is due to bullying and lack of family and societal acceptance. So, when you share your negative opinion about the LGBTQ community, you put them directly in harm's way. You perpetuate violence against them. You continue to spread ignorance to those who don't know better. That ignorance festers into hate. That hate can turn into violence.
I know some people voice their opinion from a place in their heart that is concerned for others. There are people concerned that we are going to hell. They are concerned that being gay or transgender is a mental disorder that needs to be fixed. Fine. Believe that all you want. However, nobody needs to be fixed or saved, and if they do, they don't need your opinion to push them along into conforming to your standard of living. Even if you think you are being genuine, you are saying hurtful things from a place of kindness, mark my word: they are subtly violent and passive aggressive.
The LGBTQ community just wants the same rights as everyone else. Marriage equality finally passed last year, but in most states you can still get fired or denied housing for being gay or transgender. We should be able to put up pictures of our partners and spouses at work without worry that we will be fired or harassed. We should be able to hold hands in public with the ones we love without fear of offending someone, being beat up, or thrown out. We should be able to use the restroom of our gender identity without fear of our own lives. We should be able to walk out of our homes with the same protections and liberties as everyone else.
But we can't.
I can't just sit idly by and listen to anyone spout that "God doesn't make mistakes" and that we are going to hell for being who we are or who we love. You don't know what the LGBTQ community has been through if you think that way. Like-minded individuals and groups have bullied us for literally millennia.
Expecting me to just stay quiet while you spread ignorance and hate about people like my family is unfair. Expecting my loyalty to you as a friend or family member when you perpetuate intolerance against us is also unfair. I imagine that if I continually posted on social media or said things to your face that made you feel small, insignificant, unloved, unworthy, or invisible, you probably wouldn't like me much either.
Here's the thing: if you want to be a part of my life or have me be a part of yours, you have to learn to exist alongside people who are different from yourself without throwing a tantrum or acting like you're better than us. Not only do you have to coexist, you need to also show respect. There is no sense in making someone else's life difficult or miserable just because you don't like their "lifestyle."
I can respect you for acknowledging your ignorance on LGBTQ issues and can help you understand. I can respect you if you are trying but get some things wrong. I can do that. But I can't have a mature conversation with an immature bully. I don't have to tolerate being treated like a second-class citizen or tolerate watching you treat others that way. Just like you would expect to be respected, so do the rest of us.
It's none of your business who we love, what we do in our bedrooms, what we wear, or where we will spend the afterlife. Don't worry about it. Instead, please show the love to others that is already inside of you. We will do the same.