By Bob Chenoweth
If you are a regular reader of my Success Undressed column in The Bulletin, you already know a few things about me. I am a nudist (naturally), a writer (of course), and I have served AANR over the years with professional services including website development and marketing consultation. (Stay with me here. This post is not all about me; it’s ultimately about US.)
Behind the business suit I seldom wear, I am also a husband, father of two, and grandfather of five. I am an artist, too. And the co-founder of the NACORBA nudist trade organization. And the Executive Director of a business organization for people over the age of 50. AND Chairman of the Board for an Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce organization. Sounds pretty normal (if exhausting), right?
But what if I told you that my spouse is a man? And that the Chamber I mentioned is the Indy Rainbow Chamber? Does the fact that I am gay alter your perception? Does it make you think that I am, in spite of everything else, not normal?
Let’s be honest: It’s our nature to assess and judge others through the lens of our own experience. Because each of us is “normal” in our own minds, it’s easy to label anyone who falls outside that spectrum as odd or strange or, yes, even queer.
Yes, it’s easy to use labels. Not so easy to reject that tendency.
Is being gay normal? For me, it is. I know – I KNOW – that being gay is not a choice. Being gay is simply one part of who I am. So if you must judge me, I would hope that you would do that based on my contributions to society, on how I do my job, on the way I treat my family and others. In the past month or so I have been called a hero, an angel, “the best dad anyone could ask for,” and “the greatest man I know.” (Yes, I feel humbled and blessed.) I have been called these things not because I am perfect (far from it); but because I work hard to enrich the lives of those who know me. The fact that I’m gay doesn’t matter to my family and friends. Why should it matter to anyone else?
Indeed, some of us value the differences we see in others. Some of us rejoice that the world isn’t one-size-fits-all. Some of us find wonder and enlightenment in diversity.
Some of us.
Others, however, think the world would be a better place if we all had the same color skin and spoke the same language and drove the same kind of car and had 2.3 children, a dog, a cat and a house in the suburbs with a picket fence. Frankly, I think that sameness would be pretty boring.
Indeed, lots of people – maybe most people – believe that being a nudist is abnormal. Imagine that! As AANR Executive Director Bill Schroer noted last month in his article, “Searching for Tolerance,” reprinted from the Battle Creek Enquirer, nudists are subject to scorn from “people willing to think the worst of you without knowing anything about you or naturism…” Chances are pretty good, therefore, that you, too, as a nudist, know something about being on the receiving end of snap judgments or prejudice.
But wouldn’t it be a better world if we could celebrate not only our similarities, but also our differences? One of my favorite quotes is from the Scottish historian and sociological writer Thomas Carlyle: “Every man is my superior in that I may learn from him.” Pretty hard to learn from people who are just like us, isn’t it?
So whether you are female or male, black or white or Hispanic or Asian, straight or gay, or any other brand of normal, let’s work hard to stop seeing others as only these labels. Let’s take a break from discrimination and hate. Let’s learn from one another. Let’s embrace diversity as normal – in our daily lives and in our business dealings. I’m pretty sure if we can do a better job of that tomorrow than we did today, the world will be a better place.
Bob Chenoweth owns Chenoweth Content & Design, also branded as Naked Truth One, which specializes in written and visual communications, including marketing strategy, branding, graphic and Web design, and business writing. Bob worked with AANR in the development of today’s AANR.com and writes a regular column for The Bulletin titled Success Undressed. Visit www.NakedTruthOne.com for more information.