Although I know I do specifically have a few close friends who are generally people I would consider to be "mildly intolerant", I more or less like to think of the people I try to surround myself and my family with as rather open minded individuals who are not hateful or who, at the very least, understand and accept that the lifestyle choices of others may not coincide with their personal beliefs, but that doesn't make them wrong.
Unfortunately I'm sometimes wrong, and when I am it seems like I'm wrong in the most horrific way.
I'd like to put a big disclaimer on the front of this because this post is going to involve religion on a pretty heavy scale, and I don't want anybody to think I'm walking around spewing my own degree of intolerance because it's more convenient or because it's somehow okay when it's me and not someone else. So let it be said that while I typically tend to dislike some of the more vocal adherents of certain religions, I DON'T dislike the religions themselves. I realize that there are negative representations of every religious circle or belief system, and that those who unfortunately choose to be the most hateful tend to give the remainder of the believers a pretty bad name. Even the most demanding religious people I know still very specifically will not go out of their way to purposefully discriminate against people that believe differently from them (for example, I'm darn good friends with a beautiful, wonderful Mormon who is only a few weeks - squee! - from welcoming her first child with her awesome hubby!) and I'd like to think that that's the kind of world we need to have, one where people can agree to disagree (but maybe also agree that disagreement doesn't mean denying basic human rights from anybody).
That being said, I also know that there are, sadly, a rather large group of people in general who are out to ensure that the rest of the known world - our country especially - adheres specifically to their own religious beliefs and interpretations of their scriptures. They aren't at all gentle or politely suggestive; they don't offer information but instead end up not only openly allowing but encouraging and enforcing policies like those at schools in a district in Minnesota that ended in the eventual suicides of nearly ten openly LGBT and supposedly "straight" students in one year because school policies kept teachers from addressing the bullying they experienced by name.
And to that sort of thing, I say, what the fuck? I don't often and openly curse, especially when I have two kids who now happily and contently repeat everything I say (and one of whom is old enough to scold me on my language and send me to time out), but really now. I'll let you read the (admittedly rather long) article yourself, but to TL;DR the whole thing, religious conservatives in the district pressured school board members to enact policies that specifically stated that teachers and other employees were not to mention or bring attention to LGBT issues, and that ended with teachers being afraid to address bullying in their classrooms and halls. It ended with kids getting called horrible names and even being physically abused by their classmates, and allowed multiple teachers to even emotionally and verbally abuse their most vulnerable students because nobody was allowed to bring up the abuse. It ended in multiple suicides because there were a lot of (sorry) really pig-headed Christians who decided that talking about homosexuality would encourage supposedly straight students to "try it out", and that it would end with an epidemic of AIDS and homosexuality.
Without rereading the article in full and counting every single death, I want to say that seven kids died in that school district.
I'll let that sink in for a while as I head back to my original point.
Anyway, I'd rather my children grow up surrounded by the sort of tolerance I want them to express to others, and only see the other type from the "right" side - to understand that being hateful is ugly, and that intolerance is a form of bullying. It's something I hope they never personally experience, but I know that they will eventually - maybe because one or both of them are gay, or bisexual, or transsexual, or "too skinny" or "too fat" or not smart enough, or because either one decides to wear "girly clothes" or keep their hair long or end up with glasses. I know from personal experience that children raised in an environment where there is bullying in the home or where it is encouraged through a complete lack of tolerance on the behalf of the parents. Until that day comes, though, I'd rather show them what I want them to see, and live the way I'd like to see them try to live, so that when the day comes when unfortunately someone does choose to bully them or show a complete lack of tolerance for something one of my children says or does, I want my kids to see it as what it is - blatant discrimination and bullying - and understand why it's happening and how to deal with it.
I want to surround them with people who will love them, and show them what it is to love other people, regardless of sexuality, gender, race, education, income, age, disability, size, or any other factor viewed in a way that doesn't simply make a person unique. So when we found an opportunity to interact with a local SCA group (Society for Creative Anachronism, for those who aren't aware) I was thrilled. The last had recently disbanded and we had a great time with them, even as non-paying members, that I was excited to get my kids involved and let them start to experience the world that I live in in my mind.
We found out about it in an oddly roundabout way; a former participant of another group who also happened to be a "friend of a friend" who was also an SCA member from the former local group found me on Facebook and we struck up a happy little friendship. When we first got to meet him at the first (and only) meeting we went to, I was reaffirmed that the guy in question is pretty damn awesome. He liked us, we liked him, he was easygoing and a lot of fun. We and another girl who was there with her daughter had a pretty good time together, even though the fighters more or less ignored us. We made plans to try to pay at some point for an actual family membership and to come back for as many meetings as time and gas money would allow us to.
Then everything exploded.
Some general stupidity ensued; accusations were thrown around by the guy who started the group (who is a hardcore Christian) and a similarly-minded girl who ended up being the new head honcho, and without warning or discussion by anyone our new friend was ostracized from the group (specifically, he was "voted out"). Once information was eventually offered, he was given the runaround, told that "some parents" complained about how he acted at some random point around children in the group, but he wasn't told when the complaint happened - so of course when he asked the only other parents who were present the night we were there as well if they complained, we all answered no. We hadn't. None of us had. The truth is that we all acted as we normally do around our kids, which is to say that we all sort of act like big goofballs.
It turns out that, after a lot of prodding, the incident in question was unrelated to our kids or anything that we had even been there to witness. It was something that, in the end, had absolutely nothing to do with him acting inappropriately toward a child of any kind, but instead had everything to do, more or less, with the fact that he isn't Christian.
The group "leaders" are.
And I'm not sure how to react to their perceived intolerance because he may "act gay", so this has taken me a couple of days to write. It makes me angry. It makes me want to roll my eyes and try to explain to our kids (who are WAY too young to care or understand) that when people act this way, it's unacceptable. They won't get it, but I want to try to make them get it anyway. This has nothing to do with the SCA itself, and everything to do with the unfortunate mindsets of the people in our area. This is not representative of the SCA (in fact, the response from the higher ups he has spoken to has generally been that they have no right to tell him he can't be part of a local group, and that's something that needs to be decided on a larger, "kingdom" level). This is representative of stupidity, of fear, of intolerance and a lack of understanding and education.
This is what happens when you hate, folks.
People get hurt. Luckily, our new friend isn't too personally concerned about the situation beyond the personal attacks on his character. He knows they're being douches. Everybody else seems to know they're being douches. Hubby and I immediately left the Facebook group that had been created and don't plan on attending again. We don't want our kids around people like this, and frankly, I'm not a nice enough person to be able or willing to force myself to be around people like this.
So there you go. What the hell.