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#ToleranceMeans Sharing Your Story

Updated: Apr 8

Shiloh Bentacourt, Graduate, Arizona State University

Tolerance is the story of getting my mother back.

We had not talked in a few years after we had “the” talk. It was the talk where I told her that our Christian faith was homophobic and that I was transgender.

The truth is I did not know what transgender was, nor did my mother. But I did know that the word was more in line with how disconnected I felt from my body—with the disconnect between the boy I saw in the mirror and the girl I felt inside. During the years of not talking to my mother, I was harassed out of work and out of house rentals, trained many hours with the Relational Center, and had long conversations with my medical doctor. I realized my own misconceptions of being transgender. When I did, I was able to appreciate my mother’s concerns with me being transgender.

We reconnected. By the end of many hours of catching up, we both had a greater understanding of each other. I learned that I was wrong about my mother; her faith kept her alive while she was in ICE custody. I saw the fear for my safety in her face and heard her love for me when she cleared her throat a few times. The humanity in her silent tears were so alive and loud that it made it possible for me to see her, to see her care and love for me.

Exchanging our fears and concerns through story telling humanized the positions we each took. It was only then that my mother and I were able to reestablish a relationship and triumph our differences. She remains committed to her Christian beliefs. I remain committed to living a full life as a Latina transgender woman, while still being able to be a daughter to my mother and practice my Christian faith.

The Relation Center is a non-profit organization in Los Angeles focused on developing tools that help people relate to each other through café-styled trainings. The trainings enabled me to meet and learn from groups of people, both personally and professionally, that I would otherwise fear to meet. This was possible because the trainings taught me how to use radical inclusion and empathetic listening as tools to cultivate relationships and tolerance.

In short, tolerance is self-awareness. It is being respectful enough to realize you do not know everything, being willing to respect what you do not know, but curious enough to ask. It means listening with an empathetic ear. It is realizing that when people belittle your views or existence, they are simply unaware and unsure. In times when diversity is “canceled,” the humanity in our stories and platforms where we can share that humanity become even more invaluable to maintain a tolerant democracy. Our humanity is what keeps citizens together and the fabric of democracy intact. I invite people to share their stories and to hear the sound of divergent stories, views with empathy. We may just be inspired.


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