It's who you know

Many of us have either been told or directly experienced the “it’s who you know” phenomenon in social, educational or work life. Despite the inequity of such a principle, it is alive and well and inescapable within our culture.

As my state of North Carolina has made national news in recent days after passing House Bill 2, aka HB2, the “it’s who you know” idea has presented itself to my heart and mind, with a twist. Though it contains a great deal more, the headline grabbing portion of this bill has to do with which bathroom a transgendered person can legally use. From my perspective, there is a great deal of fear mongering coupled with true ignorance around a specific group of people that is largely misunderstood and at times de-humanized.

The sign in a downtown restaurant

The sign in a downtown restaurant

Often when these types of events begin trending in local or national news, my personal response is anger. This time, I felt a heavy sadness. There has been a bunch of name-calling and political posturing on both sides. Yet all the while, the people at the center of this drama are our fellow human beings. I wonder how it feels to be one of them as they are talked about and demonized. I can only imagine that each of their roads to the place of choosing to transgender has been paved with pain and suffering.

Which of us has not changed our heart and mind about a particular prejudice toward a “type” of person after truly getting to know them, one individual at a time? Whether it is transgender, gay, poor, homeless, Muslim, liberal, conservative, or any other designation we attach to another, when we truly listen to and interact with someone as fellow human, hearts and minds change. It is only when we keep “the other” at arms length that we are comfortable shouting slurs or disparaging whole groups of people.

Within family, when someone we love reveals being part of a previously feared or disdained group, we almost always move forward together with time, communication, understanding and true love. It is rare to truly renounce someone we love over such matters. When rejection of a loved one is the choice, there is always great pain, suffering and destruction within the one scorned as well as the larger family or community.

I recently previewed a wonderful book by Kent Annan entitled Slow Kingdom Coming – Practices for Doing Justice, Loving Mercy and Walking Humbly in the World. He states, “It’s vital for us to enter into the truth of other people’s lives. We’ll see the world differently.” How very true.

I know and love people who wrestle with gender identity, and I live life in friendship with parents who walk alongside children who are figuring out their own gender, sexuality and place in this world. They are not to be feared nor disgraced but deserve support, unconditional love and grace as they navigate a world that can throw hatred and judgment their way. When much of the vitriol is launched in the name of God, I am most sad and discouraged.

So if there is a people group that makes us squirm or we just don’t get, the challenge is to live a life that will cross paths with such individuals. Sometimes they show up next door, along the path of everyday life or right in our own families. If we open our ears and hearts and form relationship, there is much to learn. It truly is so very often who we know.