Are you ready to confront your demons and have a frank discussion?
In light of the Supreme Court’s recent decision on marriage equality, we need to have a frank discussion. Business owners, corporate leaders, and people, in general, don’t live in a vacuum. We are sentient, living, breathing humans beings who each possess unique value and views.
Our values and opinions are are learned at various stages throughout our lives. Speaking from personal experience my early views were almost mirror reflections of my parents, mentors, and significant religious figures; each of these people heavily influenced my own culture early on. In some instances, I was their mini-me.
When I was younger, there is no way I could have written Ten Reasons I am Not the Christian I Used to Be. I thought homosexuality was an abominable sin, and homosexuals had no place in the church. I was adamant and vocal about my beliefs. My religious mentors were like minded (or so I thought.)
Then one day I was sitting on a leadership panel with the Reverend (Dr.) D. Mark Ward. During a frank one on one discussion, he confided in me. I was floored to learn that a fellow Missionary Baptist Church leader was gay. Although (to myself) I snickered “well, it’s not too surprising because he is from Berkley.”
Mark was the ultimate religious scholar in my mind and his credentials made him larger than life in my eyes. Hearing him expound biblically about homosexuality was mind blowing. I am almost sure you could see the smoke escaping from my ears as if my mind was on fire.
Mark’s teaching conflicted with everything I had learned. As he spoke, I wanted to consider everything he was saying but it was challenging. While Mark continued to expound, I found myself wondering,”If I agree with him does this make me gay?” In the back of my mind I knew (at that moment) I could not publically support Mark. In fact, at that time Mark had not publically disclosed his sexuality.
Those few days I spent learning from Mark were profound. So deep, in fact, I credit Mark for affecting a deep change in my life. He instilled in me a process that would fuel my growth many years later. I learned the importance of challenging my beliefs, asking the hard questions, and ultimately the importance of forming my conclusions.
Thanks to Mark’s tutelage I learned an important lesson. It is important to share our beliefs and encourage others to share their opinions and feelings as well. True tolerance (the purest form) does not require blind agreement. Nor does it vilify those who disagree with us. It does encourage open, honest, and frank discussions.
Mark risked a lot that day when he confided in me. I was at least ten years his junior and worked for a luminary within our field. Had I chose to do so I could have ruined his career and made life extremely unpleasant for him. I am extremely proud he elected to confide in me.
It is in this spirit I would like to be frank and share with you some things that bothered me following the court’s decisions on marriage equality.
1. Raising the flag on Iwo Jima
I was extremely offended when the picture was depicting a rainbow flag and gay men raising the flag on Iwo Jima. In my opinion, it was done in poor taste and degraded the sacrifice of those men and woman who valiantly fought. For me, it had nothing to do with sexuality and everything to do with poor taste and judgement.
2. Stop the vilification
We don’t have to agree to be friends! In fact, real tolerance is being able to discuss our differences and be comfortable with them. Demanding blind acceptance merely perpetuates the negative cycle of extremism.
3. We are all fallible human beings
The very fact that we use the legal system to define equality echoes this point. Our imperfect nature leads us to disenfranchise others. So stop complaining about the court’s decision (or involvement) and try to understand why. We have to start learning to play nice with others.
4. Just because I am uncomfortable does not mean I am a bigot
Yes, I am uncomfortable when it comes to certain issues regarding transgender teammates in the workplace. No, it is not the fact that their transgender or transitioning but it is the fact that they are uncomfortable themselves and fear reprisal. Confusion ensues about how to address someone appropriately and makes simple things like pronoun selection very challenging.
If you’re not comfortable in your skin how can you honestly expect others to be comfortable.
Just to clarify my position I will close with the following words. I am an avid proponent of honest, open, and raw dialogue even in a business setting. However, it is not possible until each and every one of us stop burying our emotions and confronts our demons. It won’t happen until we all realize we are PERFECTLY FLAWED!