A recent tweet from the ongoing reality show flowing from the White House announced that transgender people would no longer be able to serve in the US Military, despite the sizable numbers of transgender people already serving. The reason given had nothing to do with the ability of the excluded people to perform the duties of a soldier. The tweet declared that it was too expensive to provide them with the hormones and surgeries needed to change their bodies into the form the transgender people desired. No mention, of course, was made of the cost of waste in the military, of unreasonable profit made by the military-industrial complex, or of the reputed provision of Viagra to soldiers who desired to receive it. (The latter information is from a source quoted by Stephen Colbert on a recent show.) Banning the provision of expensive sex change surgeries AND libido-enhancing substances is understandable; banning the recipients of these benefits as a solution to the problem of expense is not.
We humans seem to have made little progress towards healing our discomfort with whatever is not the same as we are. Expressions of hate, discrimination, or diminishment are an obvious symptom of that discomfort. Less noted – and even socially approved – are the many attempts to make into SAME that which and those who are different. Sanctioned by such goals as non-discrimination, equal justice and opportunity, we can mask our discomfort by declaring the other SAME. It is a surface illusion, and the fervor with which we pursue it is in itself an indication of how deeply rooted our dislike of “other” or “not same” is.
Truly treating people with equal justice, equal opportunity, equal recognition and acceptance demands as a prerequisite that we acknowledge that we are not same – we are all different, from differences in personality, education, nationality, gender, color or race, religion, sexual preference and any number of identifying traits. To treat a black person as white, a gay person as straight, a man as a woman or vice-versa, to make them same, is to beg the issue of equality in favor of sameness. To do so denies the other the right to his or her own identity, fails to acknowledge the differences that actually exist, and demands that the other be just like us. This position is no more honorable than the one which hates, discriminates against or diminishes the other. It is simply quieter, less obviously aggressive.
The healing must first occur within ourselves, at the level of our discomfort. We must reacquaint ourselves with humility. Contrary to what many assume, humility does not mean debasing ourselves or thinking we are less worthy than others. Such thinking simply exacerbates the problem. To be humble is to recognize not only that we ourselves are valuable, but that all that is different around us is also valuable, of equal value with ourselves. The diversity is myriad; the value is constant. To recognize the value of that which is different does not negate the value of oneself. They exist side by side. We need to learn to appreciate diversity, and not try to make us all same, either in our minds or by virtue of legislation.
Can we not exist in harmony side by side, not same? Can Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist and atheist not live together, respecting the other’s position, allowing the differences, and recognizing each other’s essential value without trying to make us all SAME, in whichever way we think we can? It is possible to do this, even when we disagree. Why can transgender people not be soldiers? At what time was being SAME a qualification for that profession (even though killing the “enemy”, which requires that the killer first make the other mentally less human, is not exactly a formula for harmony)? Transgender people have their own set of problems; we have ours. We do not have to be SAME, nor do we have to agree. We simply need to recognize each other’s value.
Since when has marriage had nothing to do with children? For ages, marriage has been the expression of union between male and female, a union both generating bonding and pleasure, AND producing children. “Gay marriage” then, is not marriage, no matter how many laws say so and no matter how many legal penalties are levied against those who do not agree that they are SAME. Does that mean that gay unions need to be persecuted, or given fewer legal rights to things such as inheritance or joint tax filing, or employment? Not at all. Gay unions simply need their own word, an acknowledgement that theirs is a different kind of union, which can be recognized and treated with respect even by those who disagree whether this kind of union should be legal. It is not necessary to redefine marriage, eliminating the aspect of children and negating its original meaning in order to make all SAME. We can be different without hating each other, not forcing each other to agree to one set of ideas or another, or to act as if we agreed. We can drop the conflict. We each have our own sets of problems.
Is there never, then, a way in which we are all same, human, animal, plant, mineral? The answer is yes, and the answer is difficult to perceive. We all come from the same Source. Perhaps our clinging to the comfort of sameness is rooted in the memory of that Source, from a time before all that is came to be. In that broad and overarching sense, we are same. The energy of a star can be in a drop of water or the splendor of a tree; the beauty of a flower can be in our own bodies. Perhaps finally realizing this basic and timeless unity, reconnecting with it, will enable us to finally detach from the endless pursuit of either making the endless variety around us SAME or making it less valuable than ourselves. We can wonder at and appreciate the limitless distinctions that make us each who we are because we know that at the infinite level we are same. No law can make that true; it is simply within the endless variety of Creation.