In the ongoing, online, in-person, seemingly ubiquitous discussions about equal rights for women, gays, lesbians, minorities – pretty much anyone other than rich, white, American men – there is constant talk of “paradigm shift” and “changing the dialog.” And, while it’s true that we need to have meaningful discourse and that we need to talk about what actually matters, these phrases are becoming such overused buzz-terms that people are starting to tune out, which is exactly the opposite of what needs to happen.
What truly needs to happen is just one thing: We need to have respect for one another as human beings. Perhaps it seems like an overly simplistic answer, but when we stop to think about it, really, what is the main barrier to resolving these issues in our society? Typically, it’s a failure to communicate and interact in a meaningful, authentic manner because so many people simply do not value and respect those who think, live, do, speak, look, love, parent, and act differently than they do.
When we have respect for one another, we’re more willing to engage in a meaningful interaction – yes, that paradigm-shifting, dialog-changing conversation we keep hearing about. Those who are willing to oppress, marginalize, victimize, and dehumanize others do not respect the people they hurt. If they respect anyone, it’s not those they view as less, but those they view as equal. Would the civil rights movement have progressed without the support of those who weren’t being forced to the back of the bus? Would the women’s liberation movement have been successful without the support of forward-thinking men? Most likely, no, they wouldn’t, at least not on the same time frame or with the same level of success. Why? Because those who would oppress others don’t respect those they marginalize, and therefore true change must come from within their perceived peer group. Once white people and men joined these causes, it freed others to come forward and say, “I agree. This is wrong,” so that together, we could progress.
It is the same today with gay rights issues, which are truly human rights issues. Without taking anything away from the phenomenal work that people within the LGBTQ community have done to further the cause of equality, it is noteworthy that a great deal of the current dialog shift is coming from straight allies, just as the women’s and civil rights movements of the last century were most successful once the majority began to stand behind them. As more and more people come out and live openly, and as larger numbers of heterosexual allies are willing to say that they support equality for the LGBTQ community, it becomes more socially acceptable for people to support the LGBTQ community and ultimately – albeit slowly – it becomes socially unacceptable for people to discriminate.
This is the changing dialog and the paradigm shift. Notice the phrasing in the last paragraph: “…larger numbers of heterosexual allies are willing to say that they support equality for the LGBTQ community…” It wasn’t so long ago that we were debating civil unions as a separate, yet (completely not) equal option for LGBTQ Americans. Not so long ago, we often heard people talking about so-called, “special rights for gays.” And while some still espouse these outdated ideas, slowly, the dialog is changing. The perception is changing. And now, the majority is finally seeing that equal rights aren’t “special rights” and that, as we’ve long known, separate is most certainly not equal. Additionally, as more and more people are coming out, the hold-outs are now seeing that people they already admire and respect are gay or are gay allies, and that is a game-changing element.
So it goes in the public discourse, and so it goes in our personal lives. When we seek to understand before we attempt to be understood, when we listen instead of waiting to speak, when we are fully present with and respectful of others, only then can we have meaningful dialog with the people in our lives, just as that is required for meaningful dialog on a larger scale with society as a whole.
At Sanctuary, we strive to ensure that every person with whom we have contact feels that we fully hear their concerns and thoughts and emotions. We endeavor daily to provide a safe space in which people can be truly authentic without fear of judgment or recrimination. Sanctuary is a place of acceptance where we all grow together by listening respectfully and hearing honestly. It may be just one little corner of the world, but it’s such a nice start.
Remember: You are welcome here.
Tara Cohen is Sanctuary’s Director of Business & Marketing. She is a professional writer and marketing expert who enjoys writing on a variety of topics including politics, social issues, parenting, personal growth, marketing, and more. You can reach Tara by clicking here. What would you like her to write about next?