Why do we fear what we don’t understand? Why is fear the first, easiest response?
In part, because we are wired that way. Neuropsychologist Rick Hanson says our brains are like velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive experiences. We are wired to be on the alert for things that seem weird or baffling in our environment. We want to believe that this will keep us safe. But too often our fear keeps us from understanding others and it makes them feel unsafe.
This has been on my mind since a petition was circulated in my city to repeal the civil rights ordinance which was passed by the city council in August. Last night, we voted on the repeal and fear won.
The ordinance sought to “protect and safeguard the right and opportunity of all persons to be free from unfair discrimination based on real or perceived race, ethnicity, national origin, age, gender, gender identity, gender expression, familial status, martial status, socioeconomic background, religion, sexual orientation, disability and veteran status.”
It sought to “ensure that all persons within the city had equal access to employment, housing and public accommodations.”
Doesn’t that sound like a fair and simple thing?
Yet, Jim and Michelle Duggar used their money and influence with some of the local churches to launch a fear campaign targeted at just one group of individuals that the ordinance aimed to protect: transgender folks.
Why did this campaign work so well? Partly because of money and influence. But mostly because it targeted people’s fear. Transgender shakes us up. It challenges us to accept on a deep level that you can’t figure everything out and put people in boxes. And it forces us to accept that people have the fundamental civil right to live as they see fit, barring criminal activity.
It’s perfectly possible to accept, love and support those who make choices that we don’t understand. So why does it seem like so many can’t understand that trans folks are simply being themselves? If it was really a “choice” do you think anyone would risk losing their jobs, families and even their lives?
I have people close to me who are transgender. I was initially a bit shocked and confused. But I have seen these people that I care about really start to live, embracing and loving themselves with full acceptance. It is a beautiful thing and I am lucky to witness it.
Don’t we all want to be accepted for our authentic selves? Let’s rise up to meet fear and transform it into compassion for ourselves and for each individual in our community.