Why Accepting Differences Matters

Yesterday, President Obama came out in favor of letting same sex couples legally marry. The so-called evolution of his opinions on the subject matters to me for a reason – it echoes how people have come to accept autism.

You see, I skipped doing my usual Autism Awareness Month posting this year. I’m more than aware of autism – my 11-year-old son has it. There’s really no avoiding it, even for people who are just meeting him in passing. But the ones who get to know him are the ones who have to make the changes in their mindset. We can’t change his autism, but we can change how we view it. That’s what acceptance means. Even if something initially makes you uncomfortable, or isn’t what you’re used to, you learn to deal with it. The people who’ve learned to accept Number One Son have learned to love him for him. But they had to get to know him first.

We were in the waiting room at the doctor’s office a few weeks ago. A group of children were sitting around watching a movie together. After a few minutes, one little boy turned to NOS and asked him why he was wearing his PJs. NOS replied that he always wore them. (Truth – we gave up asking him to wear other outfits except when the situation dictates more formal wear. It helps with his sensory issues – he’s more comfortable and therefore happier.) The little boy then told NOS that he was annoying.

Annoying? How, by being different? Really? That poor kid. He’s in for a real shock once he sees more of the world. For the record, I told him to stop being rude. There was no parental intervention on his part – for all I know his parents orphaned him in the doctor’s office. With the kind of wait we had and as much of a little shit as that kid was, not sure I’d have blamed them.

On the other hand, NOS’s classmates clearly love him. Last week, he earned his first good citizenship and study habits award. He came home, positively glowing, and told us that not only did he receive a standing ovation but he got more applause than any other kid who had received an award that day. How wonderful was that? His peers are well aware of how different he can be, but they still accept and nurture him. The differences aren’t that big when you get to know someone.

Which brings me to President Obama’s reasoning for his change in opinion:  “There have been times where Michelle and I have been sitting around the dinner table and we’re talking about their friends and their parents, and Malia and Sasha, it wouldn’t dawn on them that somehow their friends’ parents would be treated differently. It doesn’t make sense to them and frankly, that’s the kind of thing that prompts a change in perspective,” Obama said.

The better you get to know someone who is different from you, the less the differences seem to matter. It’s a huge change in perspective. My son’s classmates have made that change. The little boy in the waiting room hadn’t.

To me, Autism Acceptance Month represents the tip of the iceberg. By learning to accept someone for who they are, not who we want or expect them to be, we enrich our own lives. Letting a person be who they are doesn’t take away from us being how and who we are. That is, unless we decide that it does.

Opponents of letting gay people marry are doing just that. How does letting a same sex couple marry take away from my marriage? It doesn’t. It’s not a different kind of marriage than straight people experience. Does NOS’s autism takes away from our “normal” family life? No, nor does it affect anyone else’s family life. It’s ours, not theirs. It doesn’t make our family better or worse. Just our own.

We have a saying in our family – different houses, different rules. It tells the kids that what goes on in other people’s homes does not affect how things are in ours. Just because their friends do something doesn’t mean they can do it too. Marriage should be the same thing. BUMD and I married each other. That’s our business. It is not our business who someone else marries or divorces. Their relationship doesn’t change ours, or make it more or less legitimate, any more than my child’s best friend’s bedtime affects her bed time. Different houses, different rules. Let people decide for themselves.

Interlude: Goodness, I sound like a Libertarian. I started as a Republican, morphed into an Independent, then started leaning toward being a Democrat. I might be taking this Gemini thing a bit too far.

So here’s the thing – just let people be who they want to be and live the kind of life they want to. If it’s not hurting you, why do you care? So what if they’re different? My son is very, very different. He’s also quite wonderful. Are you telling me that his difference is bad? Probably not, because the trend toward dealing with people with autism and other disabilities is all about acceptance. Can’t hate on them anymore. Minorities are out too.

So now people have to find someone else to hate. Cue the Gays.

“Homosexuality is against the Bible, it’s an abomination.” I call shenanigans on that one. Quit using the Bible to justify your prejudices. There are too many things in the Bible that have already been rejected for people to legitimately hold it up as the final word on any sort of behavior. It’s a wonderful guidebook, but it cannot be taken as a word-for-word guidebook. Unless, of course, you decide to, in which case most people are doomed for eternity. Have fun with that.

Stop the hate. Stop treating differences as a bad thing. Acceptance is love. Love one another.

2 thoughts on “Why Accepting Differences Matters

  1. I love it! Reposting.
    Also. Tell your husband, the wordsmith, its eloquent with an o. And that I fully expect next week pisces prediction to not suck. I’m tired of all these diseases he keeps throwing at me…

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