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#ToleranceMeans that there should be an appreciation of every diverse person and everyone should have the ability to live theirs life normally, while letting others live their own lives normally.

Updated: Apr 8

Crystal Smitherman, Graduate, TMD Alabama

When I signed up for the SafeZone training, I was just doing it because my law school best friend dragged me along and they were feeding us lunch. I sat thinking, “Everyone knows how to treat the LGBTQ+ community with respect and we only know how to tolerate their lifestyle.” Well, I was wrong. I learned how my bias and stereotypes about transgenders may not have physically hurt anyone, but it did distort my view of the community. I just thought tolerance meant even though I do not agree with you, I just let you do what you want and not say anything to you. Yet, after I went through that SafeZone training, the word tolerance means so much more to me.

I am black. I am a female. Since I am a black female, I am always asking for me to be tolerant of my race and gender. Now, I was being asked to be tolerant of another minority group, where a lot of people do not agree with their lifestyle and choose to retaliate against this group because of who they are. That is not tolerance but the destruction of the societal balance and what makes America so promising to so many groups of people over the past centuries.

Tolerance means accepting people for who they are and what they believe in and trying to understand their identity and beliefs. Tolerance is about not allowing others to make someone feel bad, because of their gender, race, clothing, religion or sexual orientation. It is truly acknowledging and practicing the golden rule we are taught as children that “we should treat people the way we want to be treated.”

After going to the SafeZone training, I made a promise to myself to always be a lending ear for any person I knew that was a member of the LGBTQ+ community. I put myself into the transgender students’ shoes and imagined how it would feel if I could not go to the restroom all day or making myself dehydrated in fear of what would happen to be if I used the restroom at school. I realized that the privilege I had as a heterosexual was something that still has not been extended to members of this community.

After being training to be a counselor to students of the LGBTQ+ community, I wanted to educate my family and friends on what the LGBTQ+ community was about and how we could be more sympathetic and helpful to young people that identify with this community. As a minority, I can empathize with them. As a heterosexual, I can help other heterosexuals treat the LBGTQ+ community like normal people and be understanding towards their feelings, beliefs, and thoughts. Everyone has something unique about them, which makes all of us a piece of the puzzle that creates America.

So, what is tolerance? Tolerance is the appreciation of every diverse person and the ability to live my life normally, while letting others live their own lives normally.


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