Tolerance. I fucking hate that word.
First of all I always spell it wrong and it gives me the squiggly red line and I have to go back and fix it which throws me off my writing. Second, it’s the lowest level of being a good person. Alright no, the lowest level of being a good person is admitting that gay people exist. Alright no, the lowest level of being a good person is admitting that Anne Hathaway is gorgeous. Then gay people need to exist (looking at you Ahmadinejad), then tolerance.
Tolerance (fuck I really do spell it wrong every time) is something you have to do but only because your parents told you to. It’s like, those poor gays can’t help it, so we should be nice to them, I guess. It’s going to be hard to convince everyone to be nice gays, but are we really okay with a recalcitrant “Fine, I guess suppress my disgust with you if I have to.” Can’t we do better?
Sure there will be holdouts but they will fall into one of two categories: assholes and some old people. If we continue to set the bar low at “you can’t fire someone just for being gay or trans” younger people will get the impression that this tolerance bullshit is appropriate. Tolerance (fuck) is when you can barely contain your disgust when I walk down the street with my husband. I get anxious when I walk down the street holding his hand. It doesn’t make me anxious that I’m not being liked, it makes me anxious because I’m still terrified that someone’s tolerance (ha nailed it) will run out. That in a group of drunken idiots one will “slip up” and beat the shit out of me. Or worse, out of the people I care about.
I was reading Hey Notradamus! one day in highschool and I had the realization that if someone started shooting up the cafeteria, I would rather get shot than watch one of my friends die. It’s not noble, it’s practical. At the time, my self-loathing meant I couldn’t picture a happy future for myself. My friends would all graduate, get married, have kids and I was a dead end anyway so hey Mr. Gunman, pick me.
That’s how I grew up thinking that I would die in a world of tolerance. Even though gay marriage was an option and I was out, I still didn’t have the sense of self-worth to acknowledge that “it get’s better”.
It Get’s Better
It get’s better is another kind of tolerance that bugs me. Telling someone it gets better is an important, hopeful sentiment but is also a little condescending. It’s like telling someone not to panic or to calm down while their house burns down. It get’s better might give some people hope but it’s also a trendy way to absolve people of guilt. I’m not guilt’s biggest fan, but it does serve a kind of weird evolutionary role in that it tells people to do something about it. Guilt is what you get when you tolerate a shitty situation.
You didn’t call your mom on her birthday and now you feel guilty? Call her. Your crush wants to hang out but you already made other plans? Reschedule. A bullied kid commits suicide? Get angry and do something about it. Call on politicians to support anti-discrimination measures. Help get anti-bullying measures which explicitly protect sexual identity, perceived sexual identity, gender identity, and gender expression adopted in schools. Better yet have them include LGBT people and issues in the curriculum.
In a tolerant world, gay people exist, but only when you’re older.
I suppose I’m projecting my definition of tolerance a little when it comes to this last point. Gay people should be tolerated because they can’t help it and at the same time they’re written out of society entirely because somehow mentioning gays to children will turn them gay. This Orwellian double-think held by people is probably the worst part of everything ever. Gay’s should exist but we can’t talk about them to kids because of some old-school, asinine belief that gays are depraved deviants and we don’t want to corrupt the children. It’s supremely fucked up. It’s confusing to me. I can only imagine what kids think. Oh no wait, I was once a kid who had to deal with this kind of erasure. It made me suicidal.
So how can we talk about gay people without talking about gay sex, which I think is the icky thorn in most assholes sides. Strangely enough, there’s more to gay people than the super fun sex we have. At a policy level it means that if you don’t want to explain to kids during sex-ed that gay people exist, tell them that gay people exist before sex-ed. There is more to being gay than having sex with men. Reducing it down to it’s most basic meaning, being gay means that I can love another man. That is it and there are a million – or a dozen – picture books on the subject so even if you aren’t comfortable with gays you can let them read about it. Once we get over our societal inability to talk about the gays except for in hushed tones as adults, the kids who actually are gay won’t feel like lepers. In fact they might even be just as happy and healthy as everyone else.
If we’re aiming for a tolerant society, I’m afraid that we’ll all fail and that it’ll suck. Instead, let’s raise the bar a little and aim for a time when I don’t have to ask you to pretend I’m not straight to get the respect I deserve. I don’t know what the word for this is just yet, but we can get there together. Otherwise people are going to have to tolerate more snarky rants.
Also the last few times I spelled tolerance/tolerant I spelled it right. So yay tolerance. Fuck I misspelled it again.