The trouble with tolerance

For the most part, tolerance is bullshit. And I’ll tell you why.

Have I ever told you about my good friend John? We go all the way back to kindergarten where, according to our moms, we were sworn enemies and frequently got into fist fights. Hard to believe that was 18 years ago, but we’ve definitely come a long way since then, from all-nighter marathons of playing PS2 to drinking together in cemeteries. He even moved to Vancouver not even a year after I did, ensuring that neither of our livers would ever be completely safe. He’s my oldest friend and thankfully still one of my closest.

Sometime last year, I was leaving my apartment when I received a text message from John. He said he’d been seeing someone for several weeks now and it was getting serious; John wanted me to meet them. An otherwise ordinary message except for one word that stood out to me: “boyfriend.” John wanted me to meet his boyfriend.

Now, it wasn’t like this was a complete surprise. John was hardly a ladykiller growing up, and he’d made comments about conquests with men, but I guess it’d never registered in my mind that my best friend growing up could be gay. I reread the text about three more times before responding, saying I was excited to meet his new boyfriend. They both came over later that week for cheap wine and conversations about Breaking Bad.

When you boil my memory down, it’s blandly insignificant. I received a text from John, read it, and replied. Pretty mundane. I’d had gay friends before John and I’ve made plenty since then too, but it still stands out in my memory whenever I look back. I hate making the story about me, but I’m just infinitely glad that I grew up in a way that allowed something as arbitrary as sexual orientation to not come between my friend and I.

So much sensitivity training and focus goes towards tolerating others, but there isn’t a push for simple, overall acceptance. Advocating for people to be more tolerant of others, in my mind, doesn’t work. I tolerate being stuck in traffic; I tolerate having a cold; I refuse to “tolerate” my friend just because he likes guys. Sure, maybe some people will give the bullshit argument about how they’re entitled to their own opinion and being homophobic is just freedom of speech, but when it impedes someone else’s life, there’s a line to be drawn.

It’s easy to forget how good we have it in Vancouver compared to some other places, when you look at hubs like Davie Street and massive events like the upcoming Pride Parade in August. The WorldPride that took place in Toronto last month is a heart-warming reminder of how far gay rights have come, but there needs to be a shift from just tolerance to acceptance.

So it goes,
Jacey Gibb