OK. I admit it. I’m struggling a bit. Let me explain.
A couple days ago I read an article written for “The Good Men Project” entitled, “Please Stop Calling My Child ‘Little Man’.” The article is written by a lesbian woman (is that redundant? I think it is) who is married with a child; what we would traditionally call a boy. One of the points (and what I took to be the main point) she made was that while he is statistically and biologically a boy based on things like boy parts, he’s not a man yet and while statistically, he is likely to grow to be a man, we should not put unneeded pressures such as that on a child. She worded it far better and I’m sure that she’s put far more thought into it than I have since reading the article.
Confession: I have knee-jerk reactions. And my immediate reaction here was a question of whether or not people who call him “little man” are imposing their will on the child or if the mother is imposing hers. It really is not for me to decide because my goal is always to be sensitive how a parent is raising their child; mostly because I know I’m not doing it 100% correctly (it’s possible that 60% correctly might be considered a win in the parenting game), so who am I to question how others raise theirs? I know that this mother loves her child beyond measure and if I were to meet her, I would not call her son, “Little Man.” Incidentally and parenthetically, I’ve never been fond of the term, either, but I have no rationale for it. It’s just been a term that’s bugged me.
Identity is important. And we, as humans are a strange bunch.
It seems to me that we, as a species are conflicted. We want to be identified with a group, but at the same time, we want our individuality. We’d never work in a <geekmode> Borg Collective </geekmode>, but we want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.
We are made up of many different communities and we gravitate toward the one that fits our particular individual needs.
I find it interesting.
So where’s my struggle?
Another confession: I am a 48 year old, Jew-‘ish’ white male. What does that mean? Pretty much that I don’t take a lot seriously, am more than happy to laugh at myself (or my tendencies), and have not (with the exception of once or twice in my life) been the target of much when it comes to hate speech, judgment, or prejudice; at least not any of which I’m aware (I don’t think nerds count in this context. I could be wrong). In other words, I’m probably a pretty insensitive jerk. Since I’m happy to laugh at myself, I’m also happy to laugh at others. It’s not out of spite or hate so much as me projecting the rules I apply upon myself to others. Laughter can make the world a much better place, but it can also make it a dark, dismal place for others. Like so much in the human experience, it can be a double-edge sword.
So, why am I struggling?
I struggle because, at times, I think I am having trouble navigating the waters of sensitivity. I struggle because the world is changing at a record pace. Because of the internet and global access to information unlike anything we’ve ever had before, the amount of awareness we are suppose to have is reaching levels unlike anything the world has experienced. Ever. Three years ago, I lumped gay people in the same group as Transgender and then I discovered it’s not the same. Transgender people are not necessarily gay. In fact, they generally aren’t. That was something that had not occurred to me until someone pointed it out. Then it suddenly was something that seemed so obvious that I didn’t understand why it had never occurred to me. And that’s fine. But some things are not as black and white as that. There seems to be so much gray area as we, as a society, are redefining ourselves (and before we’re done, we start redefining again) and, at times, I feel that I just cannot keep up.
A few months ago, I posted a meme on my Facebook page. *I* thought it was funny. It was a Caitlyn Jenner meme and something about Wheaties. Honestly, I don’t remember much more about it than that. To me, it was funny. But to my friend, who had not yet announced to the world that he was about to go through the transition, it was offensive. I took the meme down. My friendship with this person is more valuable than that.
Back to keeping up. The problem I have is that with so much “awareness” to be had on the internet, I feel like every day this soon to be old man is cramming for a college exam. What is considered acceptable today? What is funny anymore? What isn’t? Do I count on the fact that people who really KNOW me, know that it’s just me being me and that offending ANYONE is the last thing I really ever want to do? That I still want to laugh at things both funny and serious? That it’s my coping mechanism to deal with things that are truly awful in this world?
Looking at my Facebook friends list, I am amazed at how many people in the LGBT Community I have as friends. 10 years ago, I used to sort of “laugh” at the fact that despite the fact that I don’t believe myself to be racist, I have no POC (People of Color) friends to speak of. Today, I have a family that’s 1/2 and 1/2. And while I thought it would be an opportunity for US to teach kids who come from poor circumstance, it turns out that *I* am learning a ridiculous amount; about culture, about race, about privilege and about humanity.
Ultimately, though, I am so terribly grateful for all of my friends in all of these classes. Whether they are white, black, purple, gay, straight or Transgender, I am grateful. I am grateful that they are tolerant of ME, a middle-age white guy who’s just trying to figure it all out and navigate the waters while, at the same time, trying to build and do things that matter. I am grateful that when I ask for their forgiveness because I’ve transgressed in some way, they have, without fail, forgiven me for the transgression. And I am grateful for the learning experience I got out of it (albeit, somewhat embarrassing or painful from time to time).
So, in my mind, this is not about titles. It is not about political correctness. This is not about politics. This is about humanity and sensitivity to the world around us. This is about learning what makes us all tick and not only accepting it but supporting it. This is about us all, individually, being a part of something FAR bigger and more important than any one of us, or any one group of people. This is about humanity. And yes, I’m going to screw up (a lot), but I’m glad that my friends are there to help me with my struggle as I try to figure it all out.