Class was cancelled today and so this morning I sat in the library trying to complete my homework. Since I was reading documents about slavery I was completely engrossed and therefore have been oblivious to those around me. Sadly, that is normal for me. But a few minutes ago the student next to me sneezed. I immediately raised my head to say bless you. It is a habit that I refuse to break. But as I raised my head, and saw the person I stumbled over my own thoughts.
It was just one of those thoughts that whips through your head in the blink of an eye. I had heard the sneeze and assumed the student who had sneezed was a girl. I don't know why, but in my head it sounded feminine. So when I raised my head and saw the person my thoughts stalled. You couldn't tell the gender of the person sitting across form me. It threw me for a minute. Not that it changed my actions in anyway, but in my head I was trying to place a label on this stranger.
It took just a few seconds for all of these thoughts to go through my mind but it changed my whole focus this morning. As I tried to place this stranger, I stopped and wondered why it was necessary. My actions would not change due to a difference in gender. They should not change, to me that is what affirmative action and the various right's movements were all about. It is not that we are colored or gender blind. It is that these things should not provide a label for an individual. Our actions should be dependent upon the individual we are conversing with, not with the color of their skin, their religion, their sexual preference, or their gender.
Yet, as I stuttered this morning, I realized that we all use these labels to define the world around us. People can define me as a single, white, Mormon. Yet that doesn't tell my whole story. We must learn to see the world as individuals that are making choices according to their circumstances, not according to the labels that society assigns.
I am not saying that the labels are always wrong. Stereotypes are there for a reason. BUT we must step away from the thought that we can define the world by labels. One step away from that takes us a step closer to accepting people for who they are and helping them to become who they want to be.
Yes, I sound naive. This doesn't mean that I am going to trust the scary guy who is lurking in the parking lot at the end of my shift. But it does mean that I wouldn't trust the scary girl either.
What it really means, is that I am going to try to stop trying to fit everyone in a category of society. If I don't fit into a category, why would I expect anyone else to?