Exit the Terrarium: Why Your Community Needs You!

IMG_20160613_191409.jpgI’m not going to lie, since the tragedy in Orlando, I’ve been having trouble mustering up the emotional energy to write a blog post. Instead, I found  myself furiously Googling and making plans to build a terrarium. It’s not TOO strange when you consider that I am a proud lizard owner (see Dandy, pictured above), but it is a weird thing for my mind to be mysteriously fixating on in the wake of this tragedy. However, I think the feeling mirrored my desire to close myself off in my own social ecosystem. In times like these, it is very easy for us to choose one thing to focus on, and huddle up with like-minded friends in a miniature version of the “real” world.

The thing is, when we do this, we are doing ourselves and our community a disservice. When we keep ourselves in a small bubble of close, loving, and supportive friends, we sometimes forget that the larger community needs us. Here is a list of some of the many ways that your community needs you to help make life better for all of us:

  • We need your advocacy. There are many things that a person could blame for this tragedy – lax regulations on firearm purchases and cultural demonization of LGBT folks both play a big role. It’s easy to talk about these social issues among friends who you know share your opinions on these subjects, but they are not actually the ones who need to hear it the most. Having respectful discussions with people who disagree with you is healthy for the public discourse, and will enable our community to look for a solution together.
  • We need your support. When your friend comes out as LGBT, of course the right thing to do is to be supportive of them. However, what about those LGBT people who don’t have any close supportive friends, and may have trouble mustering the courage to come out? Acts of violence make it harder for them to be themselves and feel safe in their community. If you really want to make your community safer and more supportive for LGBT people outside of your close circle of friends, you have to be careful to use LGBT-inclusive language no matter who you are speaking to. A small donation to your local LGBT center wouldn’t hurt either.
  • We need your friendship. Regardless of whether we are discussing race, gender, sexual orientation or any other human quality, one of the biggest obstacles to real inclusivity is the human tendency to gravitate toward people who are similar to us. This tendency, coupled with the tendency to label people as “outsiders,” builds walls between us and prevents a peaceful coexistence. If you really want to help make your community a better place, help tear down those walls and reach out to someone who is different. It may make you uncomfortable at first, but trust me, nurturing these friendships will pay off.

Do you have any stories about breaking out of your comfort zone and befriending someone who was different from you? Tell us about it in the comments! As always, thanks for reading!

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