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Seeking Similarities

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Jul. 16th, 2001 | 02:16 am
mood: contemplativecontemplative

"You know, from hearing you talk... and don't take this the wrong way... it sounds like being a Jehovah's Witness is a lot like being gay."

The remark stunned me. It was a parallel I had drawn for myself before, a way of understanding a lifestyle and a way of being so different from my own, but a parallel I would never have dared to draw aloud for fear it would be offensive to others. But upon hearing those words, instantly my mind drew parallels. Among my extended family, I am a part of "that goofy religion" and gays are referred to not by any politically correct term, but simply by the term "queers," if they are mentioned at all. And in the Nazi concentration camps, the only thing separating witnesses from homosexuals was the color of the triangle they wore -- purple for the former, pink for the latter.

Further mental inquisition brought forth a memory from last fall. Outside the Nederlander, the theater were RENT plays on Broadway, a friend was videotaping the "RENT lotto experience" and had me with her. She, for some reason, felt it appropriate to loudly proclaim to the whole group standing there that I was a Jehovah's Witness and developped an obsession in her "interviews" with me of asking me questions about homosexuality and so on and so forth. (And now, before I sound like a homophobe, I believe the Bible, and the Bible says the act is wrong. Therefore, in my life and for me, the act is wrong. But this is not a judgement upon people who are gay -- to have love for all people is more important than to judge them by an act, threfore I must love all people, regardless of race, religion, background, sexual orientation, gender, etc. etc. etc.) I smiled politely and told her this was not the place and repeated a soundbyte similar to "hate the act, not the people." Inside, I wanted to slap her. Not because I am ashamed to be a Witness, and not because I don't want people to know that I am a Witeness or because I try to hide it, but because there are stereotypes about what Witnesses are like and what they believe and how they behave and I was in no mood that evening to either live up to or refute any stereotypes.

In the context of the opening quote of this entry, the whole experience reminds me of when a good friend of mine (who happens to be gay) pointed out to me that you don't "come out" to people right off when you meet them. You don't say "Hi, I'm so and so and I'm gay." Because of the stereotypes -- because no one wants to set herself up for persecution and false assumptions. And it is for that reason that I don't tell people the moment I meet them "Hello, I'm Liz and I'm a Jehovah's Witness." I don't hide the fact or deny the fact, but it's simply not the first thing I tell people because so many stereotypes exist.

The realization and the parallel startled me.

In a later conversation discussing love and soulmates and the usual things that girls discuss (though on a more deep and intellectual level than is the likely discussion of most 19-year-olds), a friend described a situation with an ex-boyfriend/love/hope for the future. In attempting to understand it, I again drew parallels. I took a situation from my own life which, though not identical, had enough parallel emotions and reasonings and so on that I was able to better comprehend and to compassionately understand her situation.

I find that I do this continuously. My greatest wish is to truly understand the people whom I care about. I continually seek to find the similarities, the parallels between myself and others, to find events in my own life that will allow me to put myself in another's shoes. Not in the way of being who they are or living their lives, but in a way of putting their lives into my own context from which I can understand and grow in knowledge, both of myself and of another person. Yet, for all the similarities I seek, I crave diversity.

I crave diversity, I suppose, because it challenges me. It does not challenge me in the sense of a personal need to overcome stereotypes or break down barriers, but it challenges me mentally. By having friends of all different backgrounds, I must bend my mind, I must twist my mind, I must stretch my mind and even expand my mind to find common ground. It is easy to understand those who are like me, those who have had similar life experience. But I gain more and I grow more from seeking to understand those who are unlike me. I can learn as much, if not more, from their experiences than I can even from my own and my overanlytic nature.

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from: glitta
date: Jul. 16th, 2001 10:39 am (UTC)

I can understand your thoughts on your religion and not feeling the need to share it with everyone because they don't understand. My sister-in-law is a Witness also.

I would like to know where it says in the Bible that homosexuality is wrong. I think that it is see in the eyes of God as injust as having sex out of marriage. They are equally wrong acts. That is my opinion though.

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from: stellae
date: Jul. 16th, 2001 02:12 pm (UTC)

Romans 1:26 and 27. And yeah... it's pretty much viewed on the same plane as sex out of marriage. :-)

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