Deer medicine includes a great capacity for compassion.

I like to hang out with all different kinds of people.  I have used the term queer to describe myself because I am comfortable with people who see themselves that way.  I feel like I fit in with GLBT, Pagan, Multi-ethnic, counter culture fold.  I am comfortable being myself in environments that tend to be inclusive and nonjudgmental.

I recognize what it feels like to be alone in a class and discriminated against because of it.  I was bullied mercilessly in Jr. High School.  I have experienced discrimination as a woman, because of my weight, and in relationship to my special needs child.  I have had nasty and rude comments directed at me because of all of those things.  I have also traveled enough to have experienced being the only white, only tall, only large female person in a culture where I didn’t have either the language or the cultural background to really get by.  And I have been treated in such cultures as “not quite civilized.”  I’ve been excluded from groups I could have contributed to simply because I didn’t have the appropriate credentials, regardless of my experience.

"What are YOU doing here?"

I also know privilege.  I take advantage of doors held open and offers to carry my bags.  I have been moved to the front of the line to accommodate the wheelchair.  I have been accepted into business establishments because of the color of my skin and the way I carry myself, rather than being watched like a criminal.  It is not infrequent for me to have extra space, because people are reluctant to squeeze in past me or next to me.  I know I have an easier time with social services for my son simply because of my class and education.

Motherhood is held in common even when parenting styles are not.

I have an advantage because of my broad travels, reading, education and olive toned skin.  I can pass in places many white urban Americans would be less than welcomed.  People often assume that I am “one of them” and if they are not explicit in asking I do not correct them.  This holds true not just in ethnicity, but also with “shop talk” in specialty careers.  I have been mistaken for a nurse, a teacher, a social worker, a psychologist, an artist, a musician and before I had kids a parent.  I fit in, and if I really don’t I’ll often bow out.   I’m not trying to fool anyone.  I just “get it.”

I appreciate being with people who “get it.”  I know talking parenting is different with other parents of special needs kids.  I know talking about medicine or life and death issues is different with other cancer survivors.  I know that being with other women is different than being in a mixed group.  Even being with a group of women “of a certain age” is different than being in a multigenerational group.  Talking spirituality with other Pagans is different than talking spirituality with Christians or Jews or Muslims.  Shared experience does count.

So how do we graciously allow ourselves exclusive space?  When is exclusion appropriate and when is it objectionable?  How do we determine exactly how exclusive we need to be?

Hibiscus, a gentle beauty with no strong emotional meaning attached.

I expect I’ll write more on this, but I’d really like to encourage you to leave comments, and to pass the word to anyone you might know who would like to get in on the discussion.

About lisaspiral

I've been writing and speaking about spirituality to small groups for years and am looking to expand my horizons. Hopefully this blog will inspire you to expand yours as well.

Posted on March 13, 2012, in Acceptance, Bio, spiritual and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I liked the way you listed all the ways in which you get preferential treatment, legitimate or not. You deserve to go to the head of the line in the wheelchair. Or park in the good spot, all the little things that help compensate for life itself being unfair.

    Thanks for a great essay. You raised so many good issues around the central one. As a white male pagan one of the things I need to do is redefine what my manhood means – what is man when woman is equal? There are big things and there are subtle things, I’m working on an essay right now about one of them.

    Thank you for a wonderful, thought provoking essay. The best kind asks questions and leaves it to readers to answer for themselves! I’m so UU, this reminds me of the best type of sermons – the only type of sermons I’ll show up for in an actual church.

    • Thank you for your kind words. This is not a simple issue and often I see it addressed as though it were just two dimensional. Hope you continue to read the blog.

  2. Your point about allowing yourself to “blend” in to a situation is something I can relate to personally. As a gay man, it’s easy for me to “out” myself, and create a division between me and a group of men (or women for that matter). I like to think of myself as NOT being obviously gay, and many times catch people in shock when I (most of the time without thinking about it) say or do something that reveals that part of who I am.

    Since I live in the South, I often find myself included in discussions that are VERY inappropriate (at least in my opinion) involving bias against gender, race or most likely, political affiliation. Just because I’m a successful, professional white male, many people assume that I’m a “good ‘ol boy” and that I share their leanings.

    Outwardly, the whole concept of “exclusion” looks very different for me. Again, because I have the appearance of a “good ‘ol boy”, I think I’m judged prematurely (and usually unfairly). It is assumed by many that I am not tolerant, understanding, or even accepting of cultural, gender, lifestyle, or even professional differences between myself and others. Therefore, I tend to get dismissed by people before I have a chance to let it be known that I’m accepting, or even interested in them.

    I think the best explanation I can offer is that most people (I’m not judging, but merely observing) aren’t fully comfortable with themselves. They sense that their unique characteristics stand as an obstacle between themselves and others.

    Case in point: A wheelchair can be VERY intimidating to people. Yet some of the most fascinating, and truly funny people I’ve ever met were in wheelchairs. But stand aside and watch the general public’s reaction when a person in a wheelchair enters a room. Or someone who is obviously gay and is very effeminate. Or someone of color enters a room of mainly white people. It’s an insidious, yet deeply ingrained behavior pattern.

    My answer: Look people in the eye. Smile at them.

  3. Great post! As a lesbian with bipolar disorder, I have experienced both wealth and poverty and exclusion/inclusion at either end of that continuum. I appreciate you nuanced insight into this important issue.

    (Thanks also for stopping by my blog yesterday and subscribing. Hope to see you again soon.)


  4. Exclusion is a survival trait. Our pre-historic ancestors sorted “us” and “them” to protect the young, secure food and resources. The human ego keeps judging and sorting now to keep itself intact. Accepting each other as we are, and realizing that we are all one, threatens the ego’s very existence.

    • It is true that we are predisposed to create groupings of us and them. The point I think is to be aware that sometimes this serves our needs and sometimes it excludes people and ideas that would be of great benefit. The question is how to determine when to be inclusive and when to be exclusive and also to find ways to protect our own space that are not aggressive or inherently insulting to others.

  5. Thank you for this beautiful post, Lisa. (I thought I had replied before, but must have only thought about it.) I have felt excluded, too, and still do sometimes. I wonder how many people always feel part of a group, included? How exclusive need we be? It is worth much thought, thank you.

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