You are never too old to need my protection. If I can give it, I do. And I know when I can’t.
I can’t save you from the lady behind the car rental desk who is so miserable and small-minded that she automatically hates you for who you are. Her selective deafness and tight lips are reserved for you and her conversation is directed to me. Her refusal to acknowledge your presence except with curled lip and narrowed eyes is a direct result of her meanness, her ignorance, and her fear.
I can’t save you from the man in the TSA uniform who spitefully decides to study each and every liquid you are carrying…from shampoo to toothpaste…no matter the size of the bottle.
I can’t protect you from the woman in the restroom who looks at your hair style instead of your breasts and orders you to leave the restroom, assuming you are a man skulking in the women’s room.
Your protective shield falls into place before my comfort reaches you. I talk myself down from my head pounding anger and swallow to keep back the tears. I ache for you and for all of the people who can’t fit themselves into someone’s box called “normal”.
It is a long list: my daughter-in-law who is Hispanic and is dissed in Mexico for not being fluent in Spanish; the airline steward who is such a queen that he can’t please the woman in 3a; the black boy who doesn’t understand why the teacher won’t call on him; the handicapped person who doesn’t comprehend the words but understands the tone of the impatient person on the sidewalk.
Such responses are drawn from a deep well of ignorance in people who do not venture out from their small minds to know that there is diversity and difficulty in the world. Their stares and comments are gut-level reactions caused by their failure to adapt and their inability to cope with anyone outside of a proscribed norm.
But is there a cure for my rage and fury fueled by racism and homophobia? What can I do about those who go beyond narrow-minded to mean-spirited? I can’t hit a woman for being rude. It’s illegal. My words, whether angry or rational will probably not break through the barrier of misunderstanding and mistrust that shields those who feel threatened by diversity.
I must find an antidote for my own intolerance of those I see as inflexible and incapable of human kindness to those who don’t “fit”? For my own sake, I must develop compassion and hope for enlightenment in myself and others..
In the meantime, I can tell you without equivocation that there is nothing wrong with you. Someone’s inappropriate response to you doesn’t highlight any flaws but his own. The people who know you understand and value you. Those who listen hear your voice of humor, intelligence and clarity. Those who touch you are warmed by the your openness and tolerance. Those who see you walk through the world know the strength of your love for truth, knowledge and beauty.
Let this be your armor against the visual, verbal and emotional assaults you meet. Be yourself, because who you are is who you need to be.