A friend recently suggested I write about hate. It’s such a hard topic, something we as LGBTQ people encounter on an almost daily basis. The level of hate one encounters, though, varies by location. Places with laws protecting the community such as California and much of the Northeast tend to be more accepting. People also vary in their acceptance of the community based on their level of education (generally those who have experienced higher education are less likely to harbor prejudice), their religious beliefs, and their social class.
Most hate we encounter is caused by ignorance. A lack of knowledge about the community dominates, though more so for transgender and genderqueer individuals. For some people, all they know about LGBTQ individuals is they are different from the accepted social standard. People fear the unknown, the different, anything they cannot understand, and that is from what most hate stems. We must be aware of all of these variables to learn when we are most likely to encounter hate and to understand its sources so we may battle it and stand against it in all its forms.
But how do we handle hate? How do we go out into the world each day knowing we will most likely encounter someone who will exhibit hate towards us in some way? It isn’t easy, but there are some key things to remember: 1. Other people are other people; the only person’s opinion that matters in regards to you is your own. Don’t let anyone take away your confidence in yourself and who you are. You must store up that confidence and belief in yourself to defend yourself from hate. 2. Others do have a right to their opinions, no matter how ignorant they are, as long as they are not causing any form of abuse. It might hurt to hear some things, but freedom of speech is one of the most integral parts of our society. It allows us to be, and to speak for, who we are. Denying free speech is not the way to change opinions. 3. There are other people around you who experience the same things. You are not alone. You are never alone. There will always be someone from the community to offer support if you only ask. 4. Things are getting better, and they will continue to do so. New York just passed marriage into law recently, and other states are considering doing the same. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is being taken off the books. Protections for jobs are being put into place. Progress is being made throughout the US. 5. Education is the only way to deter hate. If there is an opening to talk to someone about their opinions rationally, and you feel secure in yourself, take it. Any subtle seed of contradiction, of hearing the reality of what we face, can change a mind, if only slowly. Being able to speak rationally about opinions also indicates a calmness, a way of going about things contradictory to what people hear. If we can speak rationally, then perhaps we aren’t trying to “convert” anyone, perhaps we don’t have “an agenda.”
It is terribly hard to understand how people think, to understand how hate can exist. Mainly we just need to acknowledge it does, and we as a community are a target of that hate. We must be aware and stand together to get through it. The most important thing to remember is you are not alone.