Mr C attended the annual breakfast run by The Reach Foundation today. For those of you that don’t know Reach is an amazing organisation that works with youth to help them get the most out of life, to feel less like a fish out of water and more like they have a valuable contribution to make. They do amazing work.
Mr C phoned me after the breakfast, as he does every year, to enthusiastically let me know what it was like. Our son has benefitted from this organisation’s work, so it very much has a place in our heart.
This year, they spoke about how children are put into boxes, and once they are put into those boxes, how these children are expected to act according to that labelled box. An example given was of trangender – children who are born as one sex, but actually desperately align themselves with the other sex. Mr C told me that there were two transgendered youth that spoke today – both of whom were born females, but are transitioning to males. They spoke of how the largest barrier for them, was the inability of their families, driven by society, to accept where they fit into the world with some devastating consequences.
40% of children who identify as homosexual or end up self harming. A whopping 40%!! It is suspected that this figure is even higher for transgendered youth.
This morning, I read this amazing post by Carly Findlay. In it she speaks of how people offer her unsolicited advice about her condition, how people will walk up to her and say that they couldn’t live with what she has, how they make comments about her appearance without even thinking. Then, when she points out the insensitivity of these people, she is accused of asking for it because she is a blogger, and that because she looks differently she should just accept that people will make comments.
I, myself, am bald. I have female pattern balding, otherwise known as Androgenetic Alopecia. This means that I don’t have a completely bald head, but that I lose my hair in the same way a man usually loses his hair (on the top and around the sides). It got so bad that I chose to shave what little hair I have in order to wear a vacuum wig. Part of the reason to take this route was because of the constant stares and unsolicited advice that I kept getting. People would stop me in the street to tell me about a hair loss remedy they “knew for a fact works”. I even once had the owner of a nail salon, whilst getting my nails done by one of her employees, walk up behind me, run her fingers through the thinnest part of my hair, shake her head and say “What an awful thing to have happen to you. How do you live with it?”
I have even had one person, who has Alopecia Universalis (total balding all over the body), tell me that I shouldn’t complain because “at least I have some hair.” Because balding is a competitive sport apparently.
There is something gravely wrong with our culture.
Increasingly we seem to think it is okay to blurt out or do whatever comes into our head. There is this narcissistic thread that runs through society that says that we are special little people entitled to our opinions, dammit, and as such we can say and do whatever we like without thinking about the consequences of our actions.
Well, actually, no.
There are 7 billion (and increasing every day) on this planet. We are ALL DIFFERENT. Not one single one of us is the same as someone else.
The media have sold us a lie. And if you think for one second you are not influenced by the images you see on a daily basis you are deluded.
At the breakfast that Mr C attended, they showed a small clip of popular culture that our youth are subjected to numerous times a day, in particular music videos and adverts that pop up online all the time (think you tube videos and the like). In all of them, women were portrayed as sex objects wearing skimpy clothing exposing their crotches and bum cheeks gyrating as suggestively as possible, not looking productive or intelligent at all, and men were portrayed as ripped, bad boys who were in total control. Is it hardly a wonder we have a burgeoning domestic violence issue? Is it hardly a wonder some freak thought it would be a good idea to start a school on how to pick up women and use them for nothing other than as sex objects, and that men pay thousands of dollars to attend said school?
But I digress.
This is about difference, and embracing it, rather than shunning it. We all like to think we are different, yet we rush to let someone else know that they just don’t fit in.
I don’t fit in. I am overweight, I have balding hair and I have an accent that means I don’t have a home country either. I am an outcast in my own existence.
Why is this? Why is it that the youth of today are being pressured to fit in, to be and act a certain way? Why is it that middle aged men and women, rather than embracing their mature-aged wisdom, are clinging to some image of what they might have been had they only been prettier, thinner, more fit, more career minded? Why is it that the mental health issue across the world is bursting at the seams?
Because it sells. Marketers have discovered our propensity for patterns and tribes and have created a culture in which we fight to fit in for fear of missing out. There’s even an acronym for it – FOMO. Everything, no matter what, is up for sale. Even families on TV who do nothing other than appear before the camera in a tell-all scenario are held up to us like some beacon of what we should aspire to be.
The fall out from that is that those of us that don’t fit the mould are cast out, and those that do fit the mould are sure to let us know about it.
In the last 40 years a culture of us and them has been created. A culture of narcissism has also been created which dictates that if I want to say something, then I get to say it, regardless of the consequences.
Except it is all a lie. Because we are all different. Every. Single. One.
You don’t get to tell someone who has Ichthyosis how they should manage their own condition, you don’t get to tell a transgender person that they shouldn’t want to be a member of the opposite sex, you don’t get to tell a woman who is losing her hair that she has no right to be upset and you certainly don’t get to tell all of these different people that they don’t belong because of some image that you have bought into sold to you by a society-crushing ravaging media. You just don’t.
So I challenge you today. I challenge you when you see someone that is strange or different, or acts in a way that you wouldn’t, or is just simply not a member of your tribe, I challenge you to embrace them, to get to know them, the person. Resist the urge to enquire about their condition, about their appearance, about their choices. That is all just wrapping. Get to know them. It may just make your day.
Go on, I dare you.