Freedom of the Individual by Shea Balik

rainbow flagThere are over seven billion people in the world and yet with all those people across the world there are no two people exactly alike. We are individuals with our own ideas, our own beliefs and our own interests. No matter how closely related or how similar our interests are we are still our own person. So why are we trying so hard to fit those around us into a certain mold?

Cultures around the world don’t allow people to be who they are. Some are more accepting, but there are always limitations as to what is acceptable. From the day we are born we are stereotyped into male and female roles, no matter the nationality or religion. In some societies another stereotype is given based on skin color or even economic class. As the years go by, it only gets worse.
Mitigating factors give us our opportunities and tell us what we should and should not do with our lives. Things like what sex we are, what our skin color is, what class we are born into, what area of the world we live, religious beliefs we are raised in and of course, sexual orientation allow us to live in wealth, poverty, fear, or happiness.

We are rarely told by believing in ourselves we can accomplish anything we set our hearts on. In many cultures around the world parents are still deciding the future of their children. An example of this is the practice of arranged marriages. At first this seems a bit barbaric, but when one looks at society as a whole, it is no wonder parents push their children into a certain type of life.

When we push our individuality to the background, we lose a part of ourselves.

Too often we judge others based on where they live, who they marry and what type of job they have and parents only want their children to be happy. For the last twelve years a friend of mine in Chennai, India has debated with the question of an arranged marriage for his children. As they are reaching the age where decisions need to be made he is grappling with allowing his children to have the freedom to choose their own spouse, or picking one for them. Each side has its positives and negatives but ultimately he just wants his children to happy.

But what is happy? For those parents making the decisions for their children it usually means a certain amount of money, but even more important they want their children to be accepted by the society they are used to. But as the saying goes, you can’t buy happiness. When we are forced to measure up to the standards put forth by the masses, we set ourselves up for failure. When we push our individuality to the background, we lose a part of ourselves.

It is because of the constraints developed by society that we aren’t encouraged to believe in ourselves or our dreams for the future. Yet those dreams are one of things that make us human. We need to embrace our uniqueness and believe that who we are is who we are supposed to be.

Our differences need to be celebrated instead of criticized. No one should ever have to hide who they are inside. Humans as a whole have a tremendous “fear of the unknown” mentality called the social identity theory. It’s primarily driven by our need to be a part of the “in” group. By creating a set of values we can now define whether or not, we fit the criteria to be included in the “in” group. But for those who don’t fit the criteria, they are put down and ridiculed in order to raise the worth of the “in” group.

There is a fundamental flaw in this type of thinking. In order for those who are part of the “in” group to have high self-esteem, they need to limit how many people can belong, often by putting more stringent requirements in place or they need to put down those in the “out” group. Currently we are doing this to the LGBT community for no other reason than who they choose to love.
But this isn’t something that just started. Examples of society condemning others for qualities that are different than those in power are rampant. As far back as Moses, when the Egyptians enslaved the Hebrews, the only criteria to make them slaves was their religious beliefs. Had the human race learned their mistakes then America wouldn’t have done the same thing to Africans. This time the only criteria to make them slaves was the color of their skin. As much as we like to believe the human race has eradicated slavery, it is still rampant today in many parts of the world. The human slave trade is still very much alive with its biggest commodity, women, to be used for sex.

So it is no surprise that today, even in America, we are still fighting the constraints that society has put on us. For the LGBT they fight for the right to love who they want, whether it is a man or woman. For years being homosexual was considered a crime in America. In other countries and religions it still is. The LGBT community is fighting cultural stereotypes to become accepted. They are making a lot of progress but there is still a long way to go.

The fight to be who they are is a long and sometimes brutal battle. Stories of being socially ostracized, being beaten or even murdered are told way too often. Many question why anyone would willingly put themselves through that just to be allowed to be who they are in front of others. But the question should be why should anyone have to hide who they are? Why do we continually force cultural views on others?

We are first and foremost an individual. At what point are humans going to understand that? If we are allowed to believe in ourselves, there would be no stopping us from achieving all our dreams.
No matter what type of life you wish to live, everyone should be given the right to be who they are and the chance to be that person. Every dream, no matter how small or how big, needs to be believed in, in order for it to become a reality. When someone’s unique characteristics are judged, it reflects on humanity’s biggest fear—change.

So how do we change? With Courage. A quote by Ambrose Redmoon states, “Courage isn’t the absence of fear but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” Change creates a lot of fear, but the acceptance of every individual is too important to ignore especially when people are being needlessly killed.

Today the LGBT community is fighting to have equality in marriage. Many Americans believe allowing a same-sex couple to marry breaks down the fabric of marriage. How? Because marriage has always been between a man and a women. Again, humans fear cultural changes. The thing is, that didn’t actually answer the question.

The question is, how does allowing two people of the same-sex to marry destroy marriage? In ancient times marriage was originally thought to be developed in order to ensure lineage of a child. Obviously with same-sex marriage this isn’t necessary, but the fact that they are married doesn’t ruin the concept. If you take marriage in today’s world, we tend to marry for love. This concept does apply to same-sex couples as they are in love and would like to join together in marriage.

One of the most debated reasons is based on religion. The problem with this argument, at least in America, is that a marriage license is issued by the state, which is a government office. According to the constitution our country must separate church and state. Whether a church or religion chooses to marry a couple is up to them, but the state doesn’t have the right to use religious bias as a reason to deny a state-issued marriage license.

As more and more people in the LGBT community stand up, they are inspiring others to do the same.

Currently there are cases being brought to court in order to challenge laws that are in place to ban gay marriages. States that have these laws are quickly learning that the law is not on their side. In this regard the LGBT community is winning. Unfortunately they are still losing when it comes to public opinion. The reasons the states are able to put the ban on same-sex marriage to begin with is because a law was voted in, by the people, to do so. The fight is long and arduous but the LGBT community is making definite progress in gaining their freedom to be who they are without discrimination, but they still have a long way to go.

The ability to be who they are is important enough to stand up against those who are trying to oppress them. It takes a lot of courage to go against society, especially since humans will fight change to the death.

As more and more people in the LGBT community stand up, they are inspiring others to do the same. Entertainment stars are slowly starting to open up about who they truly are instead of hiding. Even in sports there are several players willing to stand up in an extremely bigoted career.

Since Ellen DeGeneres first uttered the words “I’m gay,” more and more stars are coming out. She wasn’t the first but she was one of the most memorable. Now in the world of sports, athletes are starting to stand up. Just over a year ago Jason Collins became the first professional athlete to come out as gay. Now in every sport athletes are getting the courage to stand up and announce who they are and inspiring others to do the same.

Ever since humans started to live in communities, fear has been used as an effective tool to keep others from straying. The use of fear has been systematically instilled within us, programming us to immediately fear what we don’t understand.

My series Paranormal Wars shows how three new races of beings are created by the Gods to help save humanity from destroying the Earth. Instead of embracing these new races, humans either kill them or imprison them in order to run experiments on them. When humans are faced with the unknown, it is destroyed or kept locked away.

The only way for things to change is for others to demand their right to be who they are. No matter your unique characteristic you need to stand up for who you are. The road will be hard but in the end the human race will be better for it.

photo credit: CarbonNYC via photopin cc

One comment

  1. E.A. Reynolds /

    This is a very interesting article.