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#tolerancemeans that growth and understanding is in the air

Updated: Apr 8

Pheng Lor, Graduate, University of Utah

November 1, 2023

Tolerance is an act of patience and grace, held in tandem with the hopes for understanding and care. In an ever-evolving society of cultural, religious, and political diversity and difference, tolerance can serve as a pause, an opportunity, for learning, relearning, and growing to better be in relation and community with such diversity and difference. In a world of difference and uniqueness, tolerance is a bridge for knowledge gaps, communication gaps, and gaps that naturally arise with difference. It is an ability that, if carefully and patiently embraced, can serve life lessons and purposes of sympathy, empathy, and care. Tolerance was my mother staring deep into my eyes on a high school weeknight in shock, confusion, and pain. I had just confessed to her that I don’t like girls. In a stern tone, she shares that she doesn’t understand and leaves my room. Tolerance, also, was allowing my mom to feel all that she did in that moment and the days, weeks, and years to follow. On the other hand, tolerance is a lifelong hope that my Hmong refugee and immigrant mother and father could one day accept and realize I’m still the son they were once so proud of.

Pheng Lor, Graduate

Multiple worlds, Laos, then Thailand refugee camps, and now America, fostered unimaginable change to my parents. Being gay didn’t seem to exist before, and, therefore, it must be a phase, not an identity, not significant. Being gay wasn’t Hmong, it wasn’t Shamanism, and it had never been a part of their world. While at fifteen and discovering that there are others like me out there, at school, everywhere, I could no longer deny who I am. If anyone asked me at eight years old or even thirteen if I was gay, which was a question I was asked from what seemed to be the age of five, I would immediately deny it. I tolerated that question from childhood until my teenage years. That question haunted me. And to my parents, me being gay, haunted them. Despite such fear, lack of understanding, and even anger, my parents and I, with time and giving each other grace, allowed ourselves to sit in these tensions separately, together, to see where it would take us. Tolerance isn’t always easy, but it can teach us the greatest lesson in life if we allow it to. Tolerance is essential to a growth mindset. It allowed my parents to move beyond judgment and toward deeper care for me, even if that took ten years. Tolerance allowed me to let a part of my identity I had been suppressing for so long, in. Tolerance allows for the complexities of the world, of people and differences, to better make sense, together.


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