Jordan Rhodes is a senior English major who writes "Shepard’s Corner" for The Daily News. His views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper. Write to Jordan at .
I sat down to write this piece to talk about what it was like being a bisexual liberal man growing up around Republicans, self-described conservatives and current Trump supporters. The result, while not altogether jarring and certainly not too surprising, was something that really hit home for me.
It got me thinking about tolerance, and how we as a society seem to have lost value for it.
My family and friends didn’t need to show me the tolerance they did, but I’m a better person now because of it.
I grew up a “good Catholic boy” with good Catholic friends in conservative Evansville, Indiana. My parents were Reagan voters and quite Christian. I grew up around those ideals and learned to accept them as gospel — forgive the pun.
My whole family is very conservative. Fiscally more so than socially, but still very staunch Republicans.
I remember one time, when I was in middle school, I was driving in the car with my father, fully aware of the truth about my sexuality. During one of our common, middle-school-level political conversations, I told him, “I am OK letting gay people be gay, but don’t let them get married.”
I said that because I figured that was the correct, Republican answer.
To my surprise, my father shot me down, telling me not to say that.
He told me that mindset was what led to bigotry, which he did everything in his power to keep me from being since I was a small child. He told me he worked with LGBT people and that they were fantastic people.
This moment was simple, and he likely doesn’t remember it, but it made me so much more comfortable in my own skin. It’s that memory that helped me be comfortable coming out five years later.
Once I got to high school I came to accept that I was bisexual. I had been subconsciously avoiding realizing it for the sake of both social status and Christian morality. Around this time is also when I started skewing left politically. My debates became less like the echo chambers they were in middle school and more like heated duels — one man versus entire armies of conservative soldiers.
But at no time during high school did I feel attacked or like the outlier I clearly was, even as I started to see myself as one from the outside looking in. I still keep in touch with all of my friends, and we don’t shy away from politics. As viscerally as we disagree and argue politics, they are my friends. We had a sort of cult-like bond in high school looking back, honestly. When junior year rolled around, they didn’t bat an eye when I told them I was bi. One of my friends and another one of my roommates even said they’d always known.
Upon arriving at Ball State, I began to realize how all of my differences really didn’t matter. Turns out I’m just like everyone else: straight, gay or otherwise. I’m even rooming with guys from my old high school.
Ultimately, nothing has changed at all since I was a rigid, conservative, middle-school boy. Just because my family knows I’m bisexual and quite liberal doesn’t mean that they are going to treat me any differently or love me any less.
I realize I am not as fortunate as others, though. I know there are people, some of whom I am very close to, who aren’t always surrounded by the most compassionate friends or family. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but reacting to hate will only ferment more hate. Show them tolerance and find those who will show it back to you. Tolerance saved me from living a life of insincerity to myself.
Maybe that’s the testament of what good Christians are supposed to be. Maybe that’s what reflects the nature of libertarianism and moralism: acceptance and tolerance.
I know my previous posts, both with The Ball State Daily and on social media, can come across as liberally biased or blind to the right wing and other different ways of thinking, but I’ve lived my life neck-high in red waters. I know how most conservatives think and feel and what most evangelicals know and believe. I grew up on it all. I am still a part of it, even if I disagree with the whole lot of them.
With all the social media and the mass communication we have today, everyone has a voice. As a result, we form these tribes against “the enemy.” It’s that tribalism that is the true catalyst to the lack of tolerance and acceptance in our world. For me that’s what’s truly wrong with the world today. I may be on the opposite side of every issue from you, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love or care about you. Those are the values instilled in me since youth. I don’t just assume all Republicans or anyone who is different than me are evil or that all conservatives are stupid. That’s grossly naïve thinking and it reveals a vast lack of knowledge about how the real world works.
I am thankful for the tolerance and acceptance that has followed my life despite my own retrospective perceptions on how it could have been different. I’m still, today, immeasurably thankful for the people in my life who have made me feel welcome despite my differences and for making me realize they don’t define me for who I am, and nor should they for you.
Be proud of who you are, where you are and don’t forget where you came from. It all helped make you who you are. And, so long as they’re not hurting anybody, let others be proud of who they are. A little tolerance goes a long way, and we need some sort of “kumbaya” if we are to function as a society.