“Imagine no possessions / I wonder if you can / No need for greed or hunger / A brotherhood of man / Imagine all the people sharing all the world / You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one / I hope some day you’ll join us / And the world will live as one.” —“Imagine”
I think it was 1971 when John Lennon recorded that song.
I think it was 1994 when I was a rambunctious kid who shot three-pointers at Groesbeck Park’s basketball hoop from 8AM to 8PM. My brother was the middle child and my sister was four years and eight months my senior. We lived in the suburbs of San Jose, California. My brother and I were typical siblings – best friends one minute and fighting over the Sega Genesis video game controller the next. He’d cheat in “Street Fighter II” and still lose. My sister was a bit older so she did her own thing. Her high school prom was approaching and I remember my mom and grandma making a fuss about my sister getting a date. She was a pretty girl so I didn’t see what the problem was. Eventually, she’d be set up with some random guy from my grandma’s church that she hardly even knew. Their prom picture sat on a shelf next to the TV in the living room. They were in that corny couple pose that photographers force you into. But it didn’t look right. Something was wrong.
I guess she’d already told my parents and my brother, but I didn’t know yet. My sister brought me into the downstairs office and told me she was gay. I was 12. Why the hell was she telling me? My heart was cold. I was embarrassed, confused and felt sorry for her. I asked her a few questions and then I despised her. She was no older than 17 and being gay was still taboo and ridiculed. It caused some family issues and I grew up homophobic because of it.
For years, my close friends didn’t even know I had an older sister. She got married to a woman four years ago and I didn’t show up to the wedding. My only understanding of homosexuality was that it caused family division. I never had the chance to judge any of my sister’s boyfriends or beat up any of the bad guys she dated. That’s every brother’s dream. I was selfish. I hated her lifestyle. I was torn. I was a Christian. I still am.
A lot of the people preaching tolerance are the most intolerant, both heterosexuals and homosexuals. Some preachers preach peace from pulpits, but practice hate and division when it comes to homosexuality. Some homosexuals harp about harmony and acceptance but won’t accept those who don’t accept their lifestyle. Particular prominent politicians persecute homosexuality based on Biblical principles of marriage, but separate church and state when it’s convenient. This is hypocritical on all sides. If you believe homosexuality is a sin, understand that you sin as well. We all do. Don’t judge someone else because they sin differently than you. No sin is greater or lesser than another in the eyes of God. Even the most conservative Christian who believes homosexuality is a sin, knows that being a sinner doesn’t eliminate one from God’s grace. God doesn’t love a heterosexual any more than a homosexual. His love is sufficient for all. And if Christians are to be Christ-like, then we need to stop judging and start loving. Don’t just tell people what the Bible says, show them what the Bible says. Every time you point a finger at someone else, three of your own fingers point back at you as a reminder of Matthew 7:1 – “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”
I have friends who are atheist, Muslim and Buddhist and may not agree with their lifestyles, but I love them and treat them no differently than anyone else. I know women born with hirsutism who choose not to shave their excess body hair. A hairy woman may be unacceptable to society, but I love them and treat them no differently than anyone else. Whether you choose a different religion or are a woman born with hirsutism and choose to keep your mustache, you’re entitled to the same rights as all Americans. And whether you choose to be gay or straight or are born gay or straight, you’re entitled to the same rights as all Americans. Nowadays, I spend less time concerned about someone’s sexuality and more time concerned about their soul.
Live and let live and love despite differences. Love without judgment. We’re not all the same in this world, and we’re just going to have to accept that. Don’t deprive me of my right to think freely and be who I want to be and I’ll never deprive you of your right to think freely and be who you want to be. I don’t need your permission to be straight and you don’t need my permission to be gay. People are entitled to respectfully disagree with homosexuality without being condemned for it and homosexuals are entitled to be themselves without being condemned for it.
It took too many years for me to finally accept my sister and her amazing wife without judgment–beautiful time wasted that I can’t get back. She accepted the invitation to be a bridesmaid in my wedding standing alongside my bride. I’m honored. I’m glad she’s not as selfish as I once was.
Maybe we can all sit down over wine and Chick-fil-A.
– Enitan Bereola, II
Bereola is the go-to style and etiquette impresario, public speaker and entrepreneur. He is also the bestselling author of BEREOLAESQUE: The Contemporary Gentleman & Etiquette book for the Urban Sophisticate. He is working on his follow-up book – “GENTLEWOMAN: Etiquette for a Lady from a Gentleman.” Check his Website Bereolaesque.com and @bereolaesque on Twitter as well as Facebook.