[This is an old post from Tumblr, first posted in July 2014]
The definition of Prejudice is : “preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.”
In this post, I am going to discuss my personal experiences with prejudice, and why I think it’s important for people to challenge the way they think about things, that is, if their opinions are hurtful to other people’s freedoms.
I used to be a very critical, judgmental person, who didn’t think twice about cringing along with the rest of them whenever I heard or saw something that was considered ‘taboo’ in society. This only changed when I realized that I was actually ‘one of them’ (potential target) and that I was in denial about it for the longest time because of the fear of being judged. My personal experience has proven to me that it is possible for people to overcome prejudices, even if they are surrounded by them every day from all directions.
How do you do it? You simply begin to think for yourself.
I am going to list here some lifelong prejudices I’ve carried around in my head from childhood to adolescence, and some into adulthood. Then I will go on to explain how I overcame them:
Prejudice #1: True love can only exist between two people, otherwise it’s not true love.
Prejudice #2: Same sex couples shouldn’t raise children, because it would be unfair to the kid, who would either never have a mom or never have a dad.
Prejudice #3: Consanguinamory of any kind is wrong, because you’re not supposed to do those things with family members. Family relations should be chaste at all times, like friends without benefits.
OK. That hurt to write… Because I no longer think that way, about any of it.
╰☆╮Let’s take #2 for instance. When I asked myself why I felt that way, I saw that it was because of how I’ve been raised. I never knew things like divorce or single-parenthood. In my culture the family is a very tight unit that cannot be broken once it has been made, no matter how dysfunctional it may become or how unhappy. Spouses are just resigned to stick it out till death. There’s no such thing as second chances, and divorce is looked down upon… But as I grew up, I got to know people that came from different family structures, and saw that they were no less stable than I was. Yea, there might’ve been a void in their hearts due to the absence of one of their parents, but some of the nicest, most intelligent people I’ve met have come from what would be thought of as ‘broken families.’ It really opened my eyes to the possibility that a kid can grow up healthy and happy outside of a traditional family arrangement.
The family of a same-sex couple would be no different. In the end it’s not about having one of each gender to raise you… it’s more important to be loved by whoever raises you–whether two people, one person, or a group of people. I suspect that those children whose parents were absent weren’t sad because they didn’t have ‘one of each gender’ as a parent… they were sad because they felt unloved by one or the other. Just because you have one male and one female parent, doesn’t automatically mean both will cherish you equally or be responsible or stable. Gender has nothing to do with the characteristics that make a great parent. Those characteristics (reliability, knowledge, understanding, emotional stability, affection, selflessness, etc) can exist independent of sex and gender. Therefore, a same-sex couple has just as good a chance at raising a healthy family as any two people of the opposite sex.
╰☆╮Now, for #3. This one is a little strange… I’m not sure at which age I developed this opinion. I think it sort of grew on me overtime. I remember hearing that brothers and sisters get separate rooms when they hit a certain age. The explanation I always got for this was that they were growing children, so they needed their own spaces. Yet, it was never a big deal for siblings of the same sex to share a room well into their teens.
It was only later, when I learned that many people first experiment within the family than would like to admit, did I begin to see that arrangement in a different light.
Maybe it was a way to suppress something that might have naturally occurred between siblings without social conditioning. So no matter how much people try to act like it’s ‘unnatural,’ they seem to know deep down that it is natural. They create stigma to discourage young people from acting on whatever tendencies they may have growing up, without letting them think for a second that it might be natural to have such inclinations or thoughts. This creates guilt, fear, and self-censoring from a young age–which these same kids then pass onto their own.
When I was growing up, I didn’t have to wonder at these changes since I didn’t have a sibling of the opposite sex, so my arrangements were different. Yet even for me, the self-censorship was hard to challenge. So what finally changed my mind? I might go more into this in another blog, but simply put, it was a story. I used to roleplay with someone while growing up and one of my main characters was a boy who fell in love with his cousin (the other player’s made-up character). It wasn’t meant to happen. I was about 14 when this twist happened in the story. And even back then (in the start), I had the vague, unsupported opinion that it was wrong… Yet their relationship (though fictional) was the most beautiful one to me in the whole story. The boy continued to love her, so deeply that I was gradually persuaded to think differently about consanguinamory altogether. I don’t know if someone might laugh at that–if they might say that fiction is not reality. But I believe that you’d have to be the worst kind of hypocrite to accept something (related to human rights) in fiction while denying it reality. That is nothing less than exploiting a serious subject for entertainment, while ignoring real people’s real trials in the world.
I believe in the power of Fiction because it compelled me to educate myself more about the reality of these kinds of love, and support others who are like my character in real life. Which is why I’m here now.
╰☆╮Addressing prejudice #1: Unlike the above two, this one was largely a personal opinion. I didn’t realize that I was projecting my own idea of what makes a relationship onto people whose minds and hearts worked differently from mine. There was someone in a discussion group I attended once, a guy who said he was polyamorous. He was trying to explain what that meant, saying that he had several lovers and that he loved them all in different ways; that he tried to give them all as much of himself as he could, and that he always felt he had more love left over to give to another person. I couldn’t for the life of me wrap my head around this… because I’ve always believed that if you needed more than one person it meant you hadn’t yet found your Soul Mate.
But now, having been through my own life struggles and developed as a person, I see that I had misunderstood him. Polyamory is not for me because I am a possessive, monogamous person who is apt to jealousy. But polyamorous people don’t feel this way. I learned that they are actually more than happy sharing their lovers with new poly people, and that they’re not really plagued by any feelings of jealousy. Most importantly, they are always honest with each other, so there’s no deception going on, no cheating. Their relationships are mutually agreed upon, and there are no secrets or lies between them.
Now whenever I get disturbed at the thought of sharing the person I love, I remind myself it’s because I am monogamous. It doesn’t work for me, but that doesn’t mean it can’t work for someone else.
Why was I so full of judgment?
For the same reasons so many others still are – Social conditioning and sheer ignorance. And.. fear of not fitting in.
What did I learn about overcoming prejudices?
I learned that overcoming prejudices didn’t invalidate my identity in any way. It just made me a more open-minded person. It freed me from the maze of inner-contradictions, from the tensions of trying to hold onto beliefs that weren’t really mine to begin with, beliefs that were put into my head from the outside world before I learned to think for myself.
I learned that I don’t have to be polyamorous to support polyamorous rights, that I don’t have to be a gay parent to empathize with and support same-sex families, that the freedom to have romantic consanguineous relations is as much a human right as anything else (because blood is just another physical detail; like skin tone, age, gender or sex).
I have come to believe that if you want to change the way the rest of the world works, you have to begin with yourself first. If you don’t work on identifying and overcoming your own prejudices, how can you expect other’s to do the same for you? Maybe right now you are happy being a conformist, but someday you may find that you desire something that is considered ‘unconventional, taboo, unnatural’ by the rest of society. You shouldn’t have to wait till that day to make a path for other people… a path that you yourself (or your children) will also be able to use, if you ever have the need.