on differentness and acceptance

Now we look up into the eyes of bullies breaking backs. They seem so very tough (it’s a lie, it’s a lie), they seem so very scared of us. I look into the mirror for evil that just does not exist. I don’t see what they see (tell them that, tell them that).

— from I Was Married by Tegan and Sara

Have you ever felt like you didn’t belong? Like there was something strange or unusual about you? I’m inclined to believe that many people have never felt this way, but at the same time, I think that that might just be naivety. Perhaps everyone feels a sense of differentness to some extent.

Differentness is particularly apparent in high school cliches: the band geek, the science-fiction-comic-reading-nerd, the effeminate/sensitive male, the tomboy, the goths/emos, the kid with bad acne, and the obese, just to name a few – anyone who doesn’t fit in with the dominant majority’s conception of “normalcy”.

Perhaps in some ways we are all “normal” and “different” at the same time. But differentness, I feel, seems to be something that is frowned upon much in our society. In some ways, the disapproval is institutionalised, such as with marriage inequality, for example. In others, it is internalised in our subconsciousness and comes out only through our speech and attitudes towards people who are “different”.

I know that I myself am guilty of judging people and thinking that they are less of a person because they are different. I know now how it feels, however, to be on the other side of that and I hope to be more accepting of people and their differentness now and in the future.

When I was thinking about this post, I came across this website called “Teaching Tolerance“. It brought to mind the radical (and I say that somewhat sarcastically in case you cannot tell) idea that tolerance should be a subject that is taught in schools and included in school curricula. Knowing that I plan to be a teacher one day, I truly believe that this is one of THE most important lessons that a kid can learn. Sure maths and english are important and all, but it’s also important to educate our kids to be decent human beings! Maybe we would even see a decrease in teen suicide as a result.

I really do believe that the world would be a better place if we could all be more accepting of one another’s differentness and treat each other equally as human beings; if people didn’t have to fear social rejection or ostracism; if people didn’t have to feel guilty or ashamed of who they are; if people didn’t have to suffer the consequences of hatred and discrimination; if differentness was celebrated instead of condemned.

“Celebrate who you are. Celebrate differentness.” — that’s a motto I could live by.

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