I am a bigot.

A professor once told me the first, and the most important, step in eradicating racism, sexism, gender role oppression etc…is to first acknowledge it in yourself and constantly work on it. Whether it’s you acting or thinking in a discriminatory manner towards others, or yourself, we all have prejudices somewhere within us. How can we not? Our histories and lives are filled with all types of prejudice; even saints or respected figures had them ie Gandhi, Mother Teresa, MLK, Nelson Mandela etc…Mandela himself owned up to that.

So I’m always uncomfortable around self-righteous types who point the finger a lot but never look at themselves. When people judge too much, I wonder what they are repressing and thus projecting. I don’t trust them. I think most don’t, hence we roll our eyes at “do-gooders” sometimes. Many don’t feel they’re coming from an authentic place because they are not – they are annoyingly, hypocritically “holier than thou” acting out roles rather than being themselves, and coming from an honest, inspired, heart-filled place. The ones who are legit, however, like Mandela – we feel inspired by.

I get it because I was once like that myself – not just with societal issues but personally – until I realized I was so motivated by fear and sometimes societal definitions of “good”, “acceptable” “perfect”, I wasn’t really growing or self-actualizing as a person. I felt so trapped. And like a disgusting hypocrite, I was afraid others would find out the darker side of me, the side that believed more in certain prejudices or was weaker than I would outwardly convey.

Honestly, because I was like that, I thought everybody was too – politically correct, perfect beings on the outside, but not so much on the inside. I felt pretty bitter, guilty, and inferior – a huge fraud. But to admit this would make me look bad, so I tried to pretend these things weren’t there. I was so ashamed, but I had no way to communicate or deal with it, so I projected it outwards and got even angrier and judgmental of others. And I most likely alienated and turned off more people.

Now I’m more self-aware and comfortable in my own skin, I’m not like that anymore, or at least am not most of the time. And I’ve noticed now in my own life – and others experiences – that people tend to listen to and respect those who have the courage to own up to their intolerance than those who are always angry and fail to look in a mirror. Judgment, labels, self-righteousness, the words “You are so this and this”, “People, or this group, are sheep, lazy, complacent, dumb, ignorant, self-absorbed” doesn’t really do a whole lot when trying to resolve issues. It just creates shame and guilt, and as anybody with an understanding of psychology knows, those are the exact emotions people do anything to avoid – and thus will avoid anything that triggers it off, whether through avoidance or anger.

A lot of people are generally loving and caring, willing to listen, learn, grow, and change when you communicate to them from a down to earth, humble, understanding, problem-solving way/approach. Or at least that is my experience and observations. It’s just all about honest communication and self-awareness.

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Just because the law recognizes you as a human, doesn’t mean the rest of society will

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“What’s next? The Supreme Court’s going to legalize marrying our dogs? Brothers? Disgusting. And now on top of it, Obama’s taking our dollars and throwing them into the hands of the –”

The infuriated aged man stops to take a deep breath, as if the words he were about to utter were so disgusting he needed to brace himself.

“The goddamn “poor”, he spits outs, the contempt in his tone loud to all.

My hand shook as I poured cream into my coffee, his words and anger both shocking and scaring me.

It was a riveting reminder I wanted to share with you all – a way, I suppose, for myself to make something beautiful out of words so ugly:

While great political wins have occurred, there is a still – and will always be a need – for cultural and psychological shifts. Not just towards the LGBTQ community, but towards every identity – from socioeconomic to racial and gender.

Just because the law recognizes you as a human, doesn’t mean the rest of society will. Don’t let talks of “equality achieved” render you deaf to other forms of inequality. Human equality isn’t some destination with a single linear path, but a part of the greater human narrative – story – whose ending we can’t know but we have a lot of power to influence. Her/History is a story that ends only when humankind ends.

At the same time, don’t despair. Stories do and can get better. People’s hearts and minds can and do change, particularly young people’s, who are the future. So learn, teach and communicate with those willing to respectfully listen and engage.

The future is beautiful and full of hope, but only if we realistically accept and approach the still – and always, so long as fallible humans exist – imperfect present.