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It must be OK to be who we really are

On Life

Ruminations and provocations.

It must be OK to be who we really are

Stephen H. Provost

Violence against transgender individuals must stop now. Do you have any idea what it's like to be told you must be one way even though you know you are another? Of course you do. Society tells each of us every day that we must be this or that, even though we know we are something else entirely. 

We are told we "must" be "housewives" or "breadwinners" or "good Christians" or "patriots," whatever those things mean. (Like so many other sweeping generalizations, their meanings are open to an endless number of interpretations). Yet we are unique individuals, not cookie-cutter caricatures, and dignity demands that we be acknowledged for who we are, whether that involves gender identity, as it does for some of my friends, or artistic identity, as it does for some others.

I often hear people say, "Put yourself in another person's shoes." But we're already there. We wear those shoes today, at this very moment. Perhaps our lives aren't being threatened because of it. But we're there nonetheless: just a heartbeat away from disapproval or marginalization by those who may decide, at the drop of a hat, we don't fit their status quo. Our lives and livelihoods might not be threatened now, but there but for the grace of God - or the luck of the draw - go we.

Who among us can say that no one ever demanded that we be something or someone we're not - that we MUST "get with the program" or be alienated and demeaned? If we're honest, none of us can say that. That's why I stand with LGBT individuals, and that's why I will continue to stand with them. They pose no threat to me. The true threats are spoken by those who say, "You're not allowed to be 'that way.' That “you must conform to our preconceived notions.”

How many times have I been told this? Too often. Yet not as often as many others.

It's easy to make fun of people who aren't like us. It seems to make us feel superior. But that feeling is a mirage bought at great cost: the cost of our own honesty, self-respect and, worse still, at the cost of innocent lives not fully lived. Should we not invest instead in something real: the right of self-expression and the freedom to be who we truly are? That's not too much to ask. Indeed, it's the most fundamental thing most of us ever ask for. And we, each and every one of us, deserve nothing less.