So, I answered an invitation to fill out a Nielsen survey, which I usually don’t do; but, this time I did. No major problems with the survey itself. But I filled in the comment section at the end, which I almost never do, even in the rare moments when I actually do fill out a survey. But I have this issue with being labeled and I don’t like labeling others. I think stereotypes are dumb. I love people, regardless of color. (Seriously, I heard one of my favorite Indian actors differentiate between himself and “white people” and I honestly, I suppose ignorantly, surprised! When I do notice color, I don’t think of it as a negative.) I know I probably fall into the trap of judging people far more than I realize, but it isn’t something I like doing.
I don’t mind someone asking about me. I would love to discuss what I believe, and hear what others believe in return. I don’t even need to try to convert anyone. (I know, how ’bout that!) On my end, it could just be about sharing, understanding, and knowing someone better. I honestly believe knowing about someone else, even if he or she is different or believes differently, makes me stronger, helps me know him or her better, and helps me love others more. I appreciate the differences. It doesn’t threaten what I know, or what I believe.
So, my question: Why ask someone to self-identify (lifestyle, sexual orientation, political affiliation, or faith) if the person or organization asking isn’t willing to accept his or her own self-identification at face value regarding what he or she believes about said self? Lifestyle, sexual orientation, political affiliation, and faith: this survey asked me to share all these aspects of myself. I could be hetero-, bi-, lesbian, trans-, undecided, “I don’t know”, or “I prefer not to answer” about sex. Very open and accepting. This survey asked my religious affiliation, but I didn’t exactly fit into the prescribed selections. I left this comment at the end of the survey:
“I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, commonly referred to as being “Mormon” or “LDS”. As the name of my Christian denomination clearly states, I am a Christian. I wish others realized that. When I found (in this survey) that my church isn’t listed as a Christian denomination, I nearly selected Christian-other; then I saw MORMON down the list.
Whether other people know about my religion, or believe I am a Christian, the question in this survey clearly seeks for clarity on my self-identification. I am a self-identified Christian, and an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. (The term Latter-Day Saints simply means modern-day followers or disciples of Jesus Christ, as it is His church.)”
It isn’t a big deal maybe, and I’m not bent out of shape; but this is a moment to clarify. Someone asked me to self-identify. Should I just choose a selection and be happy I “sort of” fit in one? There wasn’t an option to select two…
Now, I know not everyone is religious. Not everyone wants to belong to my church. Not everyone is Christian. Not everyone believes in a God or Gods. I get it. (I have family members, whom I love and respect, who are emphatically atheist, including one who went online seeking “ordination” to the order of some flying spaghetti monster.)
I have no choice but to accept them as the amazing people they are because I love them. I cross that out and take it back. That phrase implies I accept under duress. I choose to accept the differences between us because they are important to me. People are more than their politics and religious affiliation. I do accept their choices and who they say they are. That is the reality in which they live. It doesn’t have to be a “him or me”, “us-vs.-them” situation. It is just a difference in the space between us. And, it doesn’t have to consume a relationship!
So, I get to choose my own too. If it is politically acceptable to identify as they do, it is for me too. I’m not about to tell my friend he’s “not really gay”; I’m not about to tell my family members which political party to support; and, not even the Nielsen survey (whether intentional or not) can tell me I’m not a Christian. I am not trying to pick a fight- honestly, I’m not. I am not stating superiority. Just stating my reality. That is the reality in which I live and no one will ever get to know me, all of me, while insisting I am not what I say I am.
What would the world be like if we could accept, respect, and love each other at face value? Build on the things we all have in common and cherish how we find unity? What would it be like to value what each of us has that is different for the richness, variety, and depth it offers? What would it be like to know I am known, really known for all my good. quirky, and not-so-great humanness, and still be acceptable as a friend, family member, neighbor? After all, if we were all the same, we would have nothing to appreciate, nothing to learn, no way to grow or change! Our choices, preferences, personalities, our agency in every aspect of life, depend on variety and opposition. I want to embrace them, whether I choose them for myself or not, because all these differences offer me experience. options, and what I do with them personally is what matters most to me.