Feeling the support and affirmation as a sexual minority from a straight man is always refreshing. Hearing his words is liberating and neutralizing, specifically in how I feel free to show up just as I am. No judgment. Just hope. As a philosophy rockstar, Michael Stark is that man for me. As author, speaker, philosophy professor and dear friend, he has delectably added his voice to the cause of unconditional love. Here is his affirmation wrapped in peace and equality:
"When discussion surrounding gender or sexual orientation arises, it is often called an issue. While this terminology may arise out of simple linguistic convenience, it results in a schism that separates individuals and fragments communities. The contemporary issue-language has confused basic concepts in the history of ideas.
In his famous book I and Thou, Jewish philosopher Marin Buber explains the distinction between subject and object, or to use his terminology “I” and “It.” In I-It discussions the “I” treats individuals other than oneself as defined sets of particular qualities such as gender, race, or perhaps sexual orientation. In other words, there is a separation between the “I” and the other, which is the object or “It.” This view creates separations and objectifications.
Buber emphasizes that instead of I-It, we ought to instead focus on I-Thou relationships. In I-Thou relationships the “I” does not treat others as object, but as a respected subject. In this view, both individuals engage each other on a deeply personal, living level. In these relationships, objective differences that normally might cause friction or bias are transcended and a beautiful relationship and mutual recognition exists between two people.
No matter if one is white or black or somewhere between, male or female or somewhere in between, gay or straight or somewhere in between, what binds us together is our shared journey as existing individuals. We are individuals with struggles, individuals with history. We all have beautiful qualities and features that make us who we are as individuals. But at my core, I am a person. I am a person. That feature is shared with every other existing person. That universal feature binds us together.
If we work together to recognize that universal feature and treat each other as respectable people in lively relationships, will not the talk of “issue” dissipate? Will the objectifying be leveled? When we treat others as “issues” we abstract their personhood from some particular quality or feature they may possess. This abstraction creates tension and is the breeding ground for hate. Let’s rid ourselves of issue-talk. Let’s engage as persons who love despite different beliefs, respect despite distinct values. Because whatever your “I am” is, we share the feature of personhood. Let’s start the conversation there."
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