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#ToleranceMeans having the courage to accept the beliefs of the people around you, even if you don’t understand them. All we need is to listen and be kind.

Updated: Apr 8

Emma Baehrens, Undergraduate, TMD CWRU

What is Tolerance to Me?

Tolerance is a risk. It takes bravery, on some level, to be tolerant. The word itself can be applied to many different situations. One may build a tolerance to substances. One may be tolerant of an unfortunate situation they are in. I think the type of tolerance I am trying to make sense of is bigger that that. It is acceptance. Someone who is tolerant is brave enough to trust that the world, and the people in it can be good.

I didn’t come out to my father until I was twenty years old. I was terrified of what he might say. He was born and raised in Mansfield, Ohio by a war veteran and a woman who grew up on a cotton plantation. In my psychiatrist’s office, when I finally choked out that I was gay, he stood up and hugged me. I learned something about him that day. Even though my father didn’t quite understand the struggle happening in me, and I hadn’t completely come to terms with my sexuality, he told me that he accepted what I told him. He told me that he loved me even more for sharing something so personal with him. I am so fortunate that my father is brave enough to believe that what I am is not dangerous or destructive to how he lives.

When I see or read about a conservative person that supports LGBTQ people, there is an odd discomfort I feel. My entire life, I have seen such a divide between conservative and liberal values. It’s presented in media, and is taught in schools. There are many liberal people that I know who would spit at someone who admitted their conservative view points. I used to think like that as well. It’s not the fault of the individual. It is the way we were raised, and the media we have consumed since birth. It is faux tolerance. I thought that I was tolerant because I was accepting of liberal beliefs, but I still frowned upon conservative values without trying to understand why people held these beliefs. I had never tried to understand both sides of the war between religious freedom and LGBTQ rights. Now, the new conversation is how the two parties can coexist. In the short amount of time I have been alive, there have been so many changes in the US for the rights of the LGBTQ community. Kids like me are lucky enough to come out to their parents without fear of persecution.

In a perfect world, tolerance would go both ways. It seems no one can ever be on the same page. I get so sad sometimes when I think about how much hate exists because of fear. Maybe, one by one, through conversation, we will be able to accept one another and be at peace. Maybe we can be brave and try to understand people who are different from ourselves.


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