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#Tolerancemeans the first step to Acceptance

Updated: Apr 8

Elizabeth Kazmierczak, Undergraduate, TMD UIUC

I am a closeted bisexual woman. I chose to be because it’s easy; easy for society to accept. I’m scared to be judged and discriminated against. I know I should be brave and not ashamed of who I am but tolerance among people that are “different” isn’t something our society is very good at.

I was a very different person in high school. I was in my school’s Republican Club, went to Pro-Life marches, only sought friendship with people who looked and did the same things as me and was homophobic. I guess the joke is on me because now I am a Democratic, Pro-Choice, bi-sexual woman. Not to say these things changed overnight, but during that time in my life I was in an environment that was not tolerant. I didn’t have outside perspectives being shared with me, and when I did, I didn’t give them the time of day because I believed I was right and they were wrong. I was ignorant, and I feel guilty for being intolerant.

I don’t have all the answers. My faith may tell me that I live in sin, but it also tells me that we are all sinners; God welcomes and loves us all. Tolerance, for me, is full-heartedly believing that above all else, we are humans and God loves us. The lines in the Bible that are twisted to discriminate are taken out of context and used for hate. I am tolerant not because I understand everyone’s struggles, pain, and perspective, but because I believe that everyone is valid for having them.

In every ecosystem in the world, diversity is valued and necessary for the survival of all organisms in the environment, a more diverse population has a stronger fitness. There’s one exception to that rule and that's with human society. We think diversity makes us weaker.

Again, I don’t have all the answers, but talking is a great way to start. I’m not going to get my church to fly the rainbow flag anytime soon but talking to the people in my faith about being part of the LGBT community can foster some kind of dialogue. Maybe they’ll discover we have more in common than they thought—like I did coming to college. Strip away the ignorance, allow yourself to be uncomfortable, and accept that things aren’t as simple as they might seem.

Tolerance is the first step, then comes acceptance. Sure, I would love everyone to tolerate me, but more than anything I want people to accept me for who I am. I don’t want to have to feel that the closet is the best place to be; I don’t want anyone else to feel that way either! Let’s all try today, and each day; try not to make a judgment about someone the first time you see them or meet them. Embracing that diversity makes us all stronger—and God loves us all. Changing tolerance won’t happen overnight, but it can happen the second you open your heart.


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