In short, tolerance implies that one of us behaves in such a way that the other one has to be willing to put up with it for the sake of the relationship.
- I tolerate your constant tardiness.
- You tolerate my bad driving.
- I tolerate you always being on your mobile phone.
- You tolerate my repetitive storytelling.
But tolerance is about behaviors, not characteristics. It is not for me to tolerate someone because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, or other personally identifying trait.
Get the difference?
There is nothing wrong with someone's race. It is what it is. The same goes for their gender. And their sexual orientation. And their religious identification.
These are things that people use to define who they are. And who they are isn't for me to "tolerate," like my personal identification is somehow the right one and theirs is something less.
The entire concept of tolerance with regards to someone's definition of self is absurd. If Jane identifies as a man and is seeking to align her physical self with who she knows herself to be, good. It isn't for me to "tolerate" her as a transgender man.
It's not for me to "tolerate" Joe as a black man, or Kim as Asian lesbian, or Pat as an asexual person.
I'll say that again. It's not for me to tolerate these people.
I do have a responsibility to them, though. I have a choice, really. I can either remove myself from their lives or I can accept them, fully and completely.
What I do not get to do is stay in their lives, feign acceptance, but continue to judge them harshly for being wrong and myself as loving because I tolerate them.
It's pretty basic, folks. I can choose to tolerate (or not) the way a person behaves to and around me. If I am bothered enough by their actions, I can opt to confront them or I can choose to no longer allow them in my life. Easy enough.
But I don't get a vote on who a person is. I need to either accept them as they are or have the courage and decency to remove myself from their life.
The other side of this is important, too. I am who I am. I am a forty-eight year old white gay man. And if you think I chose any of those traits, or you find that you must tolerate any of that, it's time for you make a change.
I will not be tolerated for being the person I am. I am me, without apology and without justification.
(And to my friends, if I have made you feel tolerated instead of loved and accepted, I have failed you. But I promise, I will continue to do everything in my power to make sure that you know that our friendship is important to me, YOU are important to me, and I will do better. Because we both deserve that.)