You do not need to understand something to accept it.
Despite being told all about it in school, I still do not understand how airplanes stay in the sky. I’ve been educated on the shape of the wing, the difference in air speed and pressure, and how aerodynamics work. In my own head, however, I’ve only come to the point of understanding aerodynamics are a thing, and somehow they work, and this metal contraption can get me from Atlanta to Los Angeles in a little over 4 hours. It’s fine that I don’t understand it, because I accept it.
The same goes with people. You don’t need to understand transgender identities, homosexuality, or the ins and outs of another race or culture, to simply accept they are who they are. If the net result is they’re fun to be around, go have fun with them. If the net result is they’re funny and smart, laugh and learn with them. Or, just leave them alone and go do your own thing. That’s also part of acceptance… Acknowledging that the thing you’re considering doesn’t need your permission or understanding in order to exist. You CAN just, you know… Leave them be.
I am an absolute believer in the saying “You cannot control how you feel, you can only control how you behave” — I think it’s only fair to acknowledge that there are folks out there who cannot help feeling negatively when they meet someone who goes against the grain of everything they’ve been taught, or what their segment of society has imprinted on them. But I also think it’s fair that they be held to account for how they behave based on that.
I don’t understand racists, but I accept that they exist. I don’t understand homophobes, but I accept they exist. And I can’t help how I feel about them (sad mostly… I feel pity, which is, to me, the lowest possible emotion I could ever feel for a person). But I don’t go bash them in the face with books about gender studies, feminism, race relations… I just walk away.
Unless, of course, they behave in a way that harms people, in which case, I fight them.
Or, if they decide to challenge their feelings by behaving in a way that says “I’d like to learn.” Then I’ll try to share what I know (which, as a cis-gendered straight white man, is almost entirely conceptual, and exercises in empathy). And when that does happen, one of the very first things I try to express is that, in my experience, non-cis-gendered people, non-white people, non-males… You know, the people who have not historically been in positions of power and thus framed the perspectives, both through politics and through television, magazines, newspapers, and other forms of media, from a white straight male point of view…
From what I have learned, these people have already accepted white people, straight people, and males, for who we are. They’re not judging our skin color or our penises.
They’re judging how White Straight Men behave.
They’re reacting to how our behavior, since the formation of this country, has affected them. They’re judging the establishments we’ve built, the frameworks we operate under, and the rules we’ve put in place that make being white, straight, and male, the default benefactor of the system.
And they’re talking to you, as an individual, on an individual basis, trying to reach you. And you can’t listen, because no one ever taught you that acceptance and understanding are two different things, and while understanding doesn’t necessarily beget acceptance, acceptance absolutely makes understanding easier.
It was a hard thing to get my head around. And I’m still working on it. I wanted to share that with you, on this Friday, as something to just stir on a bit as you have some Saturday yardwork and some Sunday morning brunch. I wanted to plant a seed that, for me, has borne fruit, in the hopes maybe it does so for you.
But if it doesn’t, I accept that. I don’t understand, but I accept it.
long thing i wrote