My child is again challenging me. This is not a call for pity, rather it is an exhortation to everyone to make room for others.
She tells me that when she grows up, she is going to marry a man, and “do it the right way.”
When I ask her what she means, she explains that since she is a girl, she should marry a boy. That is what she means by the “right way.” Welcome to pride month.
I look at her wonderingly, wanting to know where this message has come from, and pretty sure I already know. But despite my inner turmoil, I reply calmly, “There is no single right way to get married, but if you do marry make sure you do it for the right reason: love. Or love but don’t get married.” But even this response does not go far enough for me.
It does not go far enough to address the violence that two women faced on a London bus recently because not enough parents teach their children to make room for everyone. It does not go far enough because there is a group of people who feel that straight pride should be a thing. Apparently, they don’t understand what pride month is about. Inclusivity. The term straight pride is an example of the same idiotic mistake that I’ve come to expect from wayward humans — it is inherent in its exclusion of others. Instead, these groups should be thankful that violence tends to flow away from them; at the very least, it rarely comes looking for them.
I look my daughter in the eye, and I tell her, “Make room for others. Always. Give the respect you want to get.” Then I ask her, “What would happen if someone said there was a right way to look? Or told you that your gender was wrong, your genetic inheritance was wrong, your fundamental existence was wrong?”
We talked about not making assumptions about rightness in general. Wearing makeup and dresses is a choice that everyone can make — I asked her to recall Adam Lambert, who we saw front for Queen at the Oscars. She said he was Gorgeous (yes, her tone conferred the capital G). Similarly, I pointed out that the choice may be made by some to never wear makeup; this mommy is one of them, but my kids can make that decision for themselves when the time comes.
Some people have two mommies, some two daddies. We discussed my daughter’s own friends and their very diverse parents. Now realization is dawning in her eyes. It would be nice if we fellow human beings could just call people parents and be done with it. They come in pairs, singlets, and groupings. We considered the idea that there are people who prefer not to be defined or bound by gender; additionally, many people are born and do not identify with the gender they have. Like butterflies, they transform and find their own beautiful, their own freedom. There is no “right” way to do it; only what is right for the individual. Message received by my darling daughter. And there was much rejoicing.
A world without room for diversity is a prison. Make room on the train, in public spaces, in traffic, and in your heart. This exercise is as literal as it is figurative. It’s called evolution, and it is a demonstration of healthy change within a species. If you open your mind to one outside idea, you will find there is room for others. But take heed: you may learn that there is room in your life for the enrichment that diversity brings.
Alas, we aren’t all capable of it.
I am not asking anyone to stop having individual opinions. The world needs to make room for everyone. I might suggest that your opinions be informed by something other than rhetoric. If you want room for yourself but not others, extinction looms. It is inevitable. Expect protests and boycott.
If you fly a Confederate flag, none of us wants to hear about your “Southern Pride.” Be courageous enough to acknowledge that your worldview is exclusionary. We will make room for you. We should acknowledge your right to have whatever opinions you have, whether they merge with or depart from our own. But understand that many of us see that flag and think of another one — the one with a swastika.
Don’t hide behind your religion either. Any religious standpoint that is exclusionary is one that has departed from the underpinnings of human faith and moral decency. I can’t claim to be an expert, but who can? If you are reading this and pointing at your chest, you are either, by your own doctrines, a hypocrite or a blasphemer. We will make room for you, too. But you are marked as the sort of person who is on the way out — from an evolutionary standpoint.
The face of privilege has changed. It is becoming ever more diverse.
If anyone out there in 2019 thinks that power in the hands of the few is sustainable, I hate to be the one to let you down. Evolution has caught up with you and is about to roll over you unless you make room.
Different is never going away. As Taylor Swift put it, shade never made anyone less anything. Nor did violence. Nor did privilege. History has taught us that. Look up the French Revolution (poverty), Independence in the Dominican Republic (racial enslavement), the Stonewall (sexuality/gender identity), and that education will lead you to endless other examples.
And if you don’t evolve, if you don’t make room, if you think ad hominem attacks are justified, evolution will come for you. Organisms that fail to evolve die. In this particular case, because we shall destroy each other over infinitesimal differences while we ignore the boundless similarities among us.
Guess who always makes room for all of us? Guess whose celebrations are inclusive and open to the whole of the diversity spectrum?
Pride is waiting for you this weekend, this month, this year, this lifetime with open arms, and it knows how to party. Inclusion is always the “right” way. Make room in your life for it.
This essay is dedicated to all the Whos in my life that don’t care about What people are because they know that when we fall in love, it is always with the Who. Thank you for making room for me in your own lives.