Diversity

Up until a few years ago I was among the group of people that thought: All cops are bad. All cops are fascists’, class traitors, bullies, white supremacist’s, etc. Then I started working at my new job. Now I work closely with child protective services and the local police and sheriff’s offices. I even felt uncomfortable about that at first. I was worried I’d accidentally say something to get myself in trouble. I was worried they would be complete assholes, sexists, victim blamers. I was worried they’d find out I’m a liberal, yoga teaching, vegan and mock me or even despise me.

To my surprise, working with the police was not the experience I was expecting at all. It’s honestly left me pretty conflicted about where I stand in regard to law enforcement. As a child, we’re taught that cops are the good guys. They’re here to protect us and help us. Then we become teenagers and cops are the enemy. Now I’m a young adult and I’ve come full circle. Cops are just people. Some are good, some are bad, most are a complex mixture of the two just like we all are.

My sister is still very much in the mindset that all cops should be hated. To her, they are still all racists and monsters. She won’t even listen to me talk if the story involves one of my new cop friends. Which saddens me, because a lot of these guys are just that, my friends. Never in a million years would I have thought I’d ever say that. But I genuinely love interacting with a lot of the officers we work with. They are kind, funny, intelligent people. I genuinely value all that they do to help the children that we meet here. I see how much these cases affect them. I see the big, muscly, tattooed, bald cop tearing up at the story a little girl tells. I see how hard he works to put her rapist behind bars. He shows me pictures of his daughter’s pet rabbit, who loves him. Once he even tried to set me up with his son, and I was hopeful that it may work out and he would be my father in law some day. That’s how much I respect and admire this man!

The point I’m trying to make here isn’t that cops are good and we should all love the cops. Obviously, as we see on the news every day, there are cops killing innocent people for no reason all over the country. In no way am I trying to minimize that or make excuses for it. I’m just trying to highlight the importance of personally getting to know people from different groups before judging them. Just like I was able to be critical of all cops until I personally met some, people that don’t know any individuals of a certain minority group are far more easily able to lump them all together in harmful stereotypes. It’s nearly impossible to generalize about a group of people when you know and work with members of said group.

Ignorance breeds hatred. We fear what we don’t understand. Rather than sit with the fact that we don’t know much about different cultures and ethnicities, we prefer to pigeon hole them through generalizations. I hear a lot of talk about the value and importance of diversity, but I don’t often hear any explanation as to why this is so essential to society. I think my own experience has taught me that. And I am so grateful that I’ve had this chance to learn something so important.

It may be easy to see the harmful biases that others hold, but we can’t control the way the people around us view the world. Perhaps it’s more important for us to look inward. No one is free from biases and prejudice. Some are certainly more harmful and systemic than others, but nonetheless we’ve all got them. Not only do these judgements hurt others, but they hurt the ones who are doing the judging as well. What a crime it is to close ourselves off from the vast complexity of the world by trying to shove everything and everyone into neat little boxes. Keep your heart and mind open. Don’t decide who other people are, let them show you.

The Flower Metaphor

As someone who has a hard time loving their body, I have always really appreciated the comparison between humans and flowers. It is sometimes hard for me to accept that even though I don’t look like the women I aspire to, I can still be beautiful. The idea that different looking humans can be equally attractive in their own ways just as all flowers are stunning even though they have extremely different colors and types of blossoms. For some reason this is the only thing that was really able to reach me and allow me to look at myself in a new light. And I am so grateful for the new perspective it has given me since I first heard it.

While meditating on this idea, I began to realize that humans are a lot like flowers in many others ways as well. Not only should we not criticize ourselves for not looking like others, we also shouldn’t worry about our differences in motivation, energy, talent, productivity, etc. Just like the flowers, we follow different schedules so to speak. Some flowers have many blooms, some just a few. Some bloom multiple times a year, some just once. Some come back again and again, others fade after just one season. Some flowers come more easily than others, some for longer periods of time. Some flowers even bloom at night instead of in the day.

It is important for us to also honor these differences within ourselves. Maybe we can’t wake up at 5AM and workout like our neighbor does. Maybe we don’t have the energy to work full-time and be a mother. Maybe we don’t have as many “productive” days as those around us seem to. Maybe we still haven’t found our passion after 40 years, while we read articles about a child who already excels in theirs. We don’t have to feel bad about these differences. We shouldn’t compare ourselves to others in this way. It can never be a fair comparison.

You and I are two completely different types of flower. We can admire one another without thinking less of ourselves for not “measuring up”. It’s okay to be different. It’s wonderful in fact. Who would want to live in a world with only one type of flower? We need all different kinds to allow our ecosystem to thrive. So never stop reminding yourself that you are an important part of this world. Just as you are. Because you are like no one else, not in spite of it. Biodiversity is a beautiful thing. Don’t you forget it, you incredible flower, you.

Understanding Bisexuality

Up until this past year, I considered myself strictly heterosexual. Apart from looking at women endlessly on Tumblr and having French kissed multiple women on several occasions while intoxicated, I had only ever been interested in dating men. Although, nothing about the male physique was particularly alluring to me. I had always said without hesitation that women were much more pleasurable to look at. But never did I think for a second that my visual interest in women’s bodies or having kissed women before made me a lesbian or bisexual. I reasserted my heterosexuality by rationalizing that I was only doing these things for men. I looked at gorgeous women to learn to emulate them and attract men. I made out with women to sexually excite the men nearby. At least, this is what I had always told myself.

After discovering that a vegan I had been surreptitiously flirting with and his girlfriend were interested in polyamory, I found myself with an interesting dilemma. I wanted nothing more than to become involved with this man, but did I want to be involved with his girlfriend as well? She was bisexual and in order to avoid jealousy as they made their initial voyage into polyamorous waters they were looking to form a triad.

Now don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t as if I was disgusted by the idea of sex with another woman. I really felt neutral to the idea apart from being a bit nervous at the prospect of unfamiliar sexual territory. My main concern was being ingenuous. I didn’t think I was necessarily attracted to women romantically or sexually. I didn’t want to put on an act just to be with the man I already liked and I certainly didn’t want to hurt the feelings of a delightful vegan woman that I already knew I wanted to befriend either way.

For a few weeks I moved slowly and unsurely. I began testing the waters of my own heart. I hung out with the girlfriend a few times on my own and definitely enjoyed her quite a bit. After endless internal turmoil, and me still not feeling absolutely certain, we finally decided to all be together.

And I was so happy! During the few months that we spent together, I was able to peel back so many layers of myself and discover new forms of love I had never fathomed could be for me. I realized that misunderstanding had been with me for so long. I felt that because the feelings for women were not the same as the feelings I have for men meant definitively that I was heterosexual and that was as far as I cared to investigate. But then I learned that there are so many different flavors of love and attraction. While my interest in men is bright and intense, my love for women is soft and ensnaring. But both of these are valid and more than worth experiencing.

While I would still consider myself bisexual with a preference for men, I could never sever ties with the feelings and emotions I have for women. (Thank god I’m polyamorous!) There is something so beautiful and exciting about the different emotions and experiences that we are able to cultivate with others. No two relationships are ever alike and I’ve finally made peace with my own sexuality and am no longer afraid to explore it because of what others might think of me.

I was never afraid that I would be judged as part of the LGBTQ community, but I was afraid that community itself would judge and reject me. I was afraid that if I really was only interested in men but explored relationships with women that I would be viewed as an imposter, as someone desperate for attention, and I couldn’t bear seeing myself in that light. Now that I’ve finally figured this all out in my own mind, I just wanted to share it with others so that it might bring about a better understanding of bisexuality from someone who was struggling with it themselves. I hope that you aren’t afraid to explore your feelings and extend yourself in different directions, because you might find something lovely there, a whole new dimension to who you are.

P.S. – I’ll be at the Pittsburgh Pride Fest this Sunday with said bi vegan goddess. ❤