Last weekend in our home town, my husband and I joined an enthusiastic crowd watching an exuberant parade of people celebrating their PRIDE in being who they are. And many of our local businesses, nonprofits, and religious groups marched with them, showing our community’s support of diversity.
As we applauded for the rainbow-decorated “Courage Has No Age” seniors, I remembered a very poignant conversation several years ago with a man in his 50s who told me, “I grew up in a small rural town where no one had ever mentioned the possibility of my being attracted to someone of the same sex. At that time, even our church didn’t preach against it. Of course homosexuality wasn’t visible on TV, and we didn’t have the Internet.
“At about the age of 12, I realized that my feelings were different than the other boys, at least as far as I knew. I thought that I must be the only person in the whole world who had these evil feelings. I was terrified of going to high school because my secret might get found out when I had to take a communal shower during PE. I spent the summer between my middle school and high school years trying to figure out how to kill myself in a way that wouldn’t hurt me or upset my family so that no one would ever have to know.”
I remember rejoicing with this man because today he is alive, happy, loved, and a well-known and highly respected member of our society. Thanks to the courage of many people like him, boys and girls don’t have to worry anymore that they are the only people in the world who are gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgendered, or who have other sexual orientations or gender identities.
Communities all over the world have come a long ways in changing this kind of prejudice — and we all still have a long ways to go. Kids who are starting to become aware of feeling “different” still have to worry that their sexual orientation or identity might be considered wrong by others, cause them to lose the love of their families, force them to face homophobia, put them at greater risk of being assaulted, and make their lives harder.
At Kidpower, we promote understanding of differences as being essential to our vision of working together to create cultures of caring, respect, and safety for everyone, everywhere. Violence and harassment because of someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity is still sometimes not understood as being just as cruel as prejudice due to different faiths, cultures, appearances, political beliefs, and abilities.
As LGBTQIA+ people and their allies are celebrating who they are with PRIDE and courage, let’s remember to celebrate the ways in which each of us are different. Let’s rejoice in the progress we have made so far against the harm done by prejudice and fear – and look ahead to how we can keep making our world a safer, kinder, and happier place for everyone.
Published: June 16, 2015 | Last Updated: June 16, 2015