As a child, I had no experience with discrimination so therefore I did not have any prejudices (other than food). Around the age of five or six while vacationing with my family in Truckee, California, I saw my first transgendered person. I was playing on a pile of lumber (yes, my parents let me play in a lumber pile which is more dangerous than the hello I shared with the transgendered stranger) and a deep orange VW bus putted along the back road as the passenger took in the breathtaking scenery that the Truckee River offers. I was immersed in my own world of play as the Doppler Shift of the hippie music pulled me out. I turned around to see the passenger’s hand making hand waves out the window as the VW bus inched closer to my makeshift playland. The Dr. Frank-N-Furter looking person watched me watching him with a curiosity that was frightening. As his/her face softened into a loving smile, my scared feeling faded into a safe smile and I turned to run into the house.
Initially, I was afraid of the stranger because he/she was different and I didn’t know why he/she looked like that. As the hippie music moved closer and I saw my first transgendered person, I can’t say I innately had any prejudices other than why is this person different looking? With my own experience, THAT moment was a defining moment of whether or not I would be a product of my environment and carry on a legacy of discrimination because my experience was a smile and a ‘Hello little one’ out the window. My experience wasn’t hate-filled, but it certainly was one I had never experienced before.
My mom told me that just because someone is different from me doesn’t mean they don’t feel the same things I feel. I asked but why did the boy look like a girl. She told me that sometimes people have to figure out who they are in life. In a defining moment, my mother asked me if the transgendered person scared me.
“Why?” She asked.
“Because he wasn’t like us,” My sponge-like brain awaited answers.
“Did he do something to hurt you?” She hugged me.
“So then why are you scared?” She continued.
I thought of his different face and how his soul beamed through his eyes as he looked at my fear dead on and with a caring heart smiled a warm smile at the little girl in shock.
“He smiled at me.” I answered.
“So even though he was different he was a nice person, a good person maybe?”
I thought for a moment and replayed it in my head, “yep, he was nice.”
There is a moment like that in every one of our lives; a moment that shapes our perception. Truth be told, I later found in life I was the one different and having been on both ends of the potential discrimination table I can tell you that discrimination is inherited.
I feel very fortunate that my mother, A TRUE CHRISTIAN, had an infinitely open heart to teach mine to be just as open and is currently teaching my little brothers the same. Many parents are not like her and hand down discrimination to their children and so on and so forth. I told you this story because deep down somewhere you too have a moment like the above and if we can educate children about the facts of discrimination and stop spreading it, the world will be one big open heart.