October 12th is the 12th anniversary of the murder of Matthew Shephard. I was pretty young when it happened, but I still remember.
I was always different in a lot of ways. I was the fat kid with glasses and braces. I was the unattractive, socially awkward, outcast that had a few friends here and there, but none that were really solid. I always knew I was attracted to girls, as well as guys, but my family made it so "taboo" that I didn't voice the feelings.
There are a lot of bigoted people residing in my family -- something I don't like to admit. I come from the deep south -- southern belles, pecan trees, the works. My family holds true to the values of the "old south" -- no "fags", no "niggers". There are also a lot of open-minded people in my large family; we are a diverse group that tends to agree to disagree on a lot of issues.
With that being said, you can imagine that my "live and let live - it's not your place to judge" attitude set me apart. I believe that intolerance is just that - intolerance. There isn't a way to sugar-coat it and make it pretty. You can't tie it up with pretty paper and lace and make it any easier to look at. I believe that everyone is unique and beautiful; I believe that everyone has their own views and mannerisms that make them who they are -- make them special; I believe that it doesn't matter what colour you are, what religion you practice, or how you live your life -- though there are the normal things I find appalling: murderers, thieves, radicals; these people lead me to intolerance for what they do, but I'm sure everyone feels that way, right?
I've never lied about who I am, where I come from, or how I feel about life. I have covered certain aspects up to appease my extremely traditional family, which, in my eyes, is completely acceptable. I love them and I don't want to hurt them; being bisexual would hurt them.
But you should never have to feel like a freak for those reasons. Ever. I felt like a freak; I felt like I was "going to hell" for who I was and what I believed. That, my friends, is what intolerance does to people. I had to grow up feeling like the biggest failure alive - my problem with social settings probably had a lot to do with that.
What I'm trying to say is actually pretty simple. Don't be a bigot; don't hurt people just because they are different; don't tell someone who they love and what they believe is wrong -- it's not your place. Why is is okay for people to call members of the LGBT community "fags" and "queers"'; and tell them they're "wrong" and "going to hell"? Did you know it's a federal offense to call someone a "nigger"? That's racism, and that can land you in prison.
By definition, the word "nigger" basically means someone who is ignorant. Shouldn't the person screaming the word at others turn that insult around on themselves? Of course they should -- but they won't. You'll never hear a member of the Klan say "Hey, ya know what? They're not the "nigger", I am!". You'll never read where Hitler told his followers "We aren't right; They aren't bad people because they're not like us. We should change the name of our little 'club' from Nazis to 'Niggers'!".
You most certainly will not hear people who say terrible things about people who don't love they way they do refer to themselves as "niggers" -- you should, but you won't.
But back to the point.. Why is it a crime to slander someone for their race, but not their sexual orientation? People die every day because of small nuances that make them different -- yet nothing ever changes. Race shouldn't take precedence over orientation. They're all hate crimes, and should be treated as such.
I hope one day my child can live without fear of being who she is; I hope one day everyone will be equal; I hope one day I can tell my family who I am and not feel ashamed or like I'm killing them.
Don't Christians have the saying "Everyone is equal in the eyes of the Lord"?