Getting to know someone happens in various ways. Typically you ask things like, “Where are you from?” or “How old are you?” or “What is your family like?” Yet, as I’ve aged out of childhood (gracefully, I might add) where filters never existed, everything seems like a loaded question. Every idea or spoken thought now comes with a dark cloud of judgement and prejudice. All speculation is guilty until proven innocent. We are all so scared of offending others that our filters seem to be put constantly into overdrive. Normally, I like to be as honest as I possibly can, especially when talking to a friend. Of course, there are times when I opt for a nice coat of sugar, but I like to think I’ve gained the skill of discernment in this department. I find that I achieve more understanding when I begin a conversation with sincerity.
I was talking to my friend, Kyle, over dinner the other night about his new boyfriend. He had never officially come out, but rather he simply did not deny his new relationship to anyone. Being in high school, even in present day Massachusetts which has proven itself to be extremely liberal, I figured coming out would be no big deal and therefore I wondered why Kyle wasn’t outright about his sexuality. So, as we began to eat our meal, I asked with no hesitation, “You’re gay, right?” He put down his fork and looked up at me. His face showed he was trying to find the right words to explain himself.
“Well, honestly, I don’t want to say that. I don’t know what I am. To me, it’s always and only been him. I’ve had feelings for girls before, but, when I picture love I only picture [my boyfriend]. I don’t really want to label myself as anything because for me, it isn’t about the gender but more about the person.”
I have always thought of myself as very perceptive. Yet, this made more sense to me than I ever thought it could, being self-defined as straight. I have always been pretty sure of my sexuality. I’m attracted to boys. But, with our world becoming more and more accepting of the large spectrum that encompasses sexuality, I have always been eager to recognize and learn about how others define themselves. In this moment, however, I didn’t realize how beautiful not defining yourself could be.
Kyle was attracted to a person. Another human being. He found comfort, connection, and passion with someone. Gender was a component completely separate. I had always heard this concept and even believed in it, but this was the first time I truly understood it. And, this new layer of understanding was formed through discarding my generation’s ever present filter.
When we constantly try to trim, edit, and even shut down our thought process, it makes it impossible to expand our minds to a place of understanding. Therefore when everyone is paranoid about offending someone or a group of people and we filter our thoughts, we are actually closing our minds to a point that hinders us from building upon the foundation of knowledge that we already have (however limited that foundation may be).
Ask questions. Discard the filter. Initiate discussions. Understand. We can preach all day without being accepting and empowering; but, how to actually implement acceptance and empowerment is by getting to a place of understanding. For those people we are afraid to offend: Be open to our questions. For those who are afraid of offending people: Be open to their answers.