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Learning tolerance through others

October 15, 2017 Written by a HealthBridge guest blogger Bangladesh, Children, Gender, Socializing Post a comment!

Interns, staff, and transgender guests at a diversity party.

By Anika  Binte Asgar, an intern at the Institute of Wellbeing (Bangladesh)

“Don’t cry! You’re a boy!

There’s no way anyone ever said that in my family, I thought, sitting in my gender class. A few months later I heard one of my relatives say the exact thing to Hasan, my baby boy cousin. I was furious! Why now? But it wasn’t just now: it was always. I hadn’t paid attention to these remarks as they were so normal for me. For 20 years of my life I never questioned why it was said that a male cannot express his emotions, even as a child. The attitude towards male emotions was so common that I never even noticed it.

Twenty years spent with people who eat alike, think alike, talk alike and live alike: the world that I have experienced with them was so big yet so small. My gender professor came from a different culture, a different country. Somehow she could make my world so much broader just by giving me a new insight. I started to see things I was blind to; I started to hear things I was deaf to. That’s what diversity does for a person: it opens up new perspectives that never existed in a non-diverse world.

I learned tolerance

I realized that there is so much more to see and so much more to learn. When all these new perspective started to make sense to me I learned something very valuable: tolerance. Tolerance of different opinions from mine, because while I might not believe the same way, it may be because I do not understand what they feel.

Last summer I went to meet a new friend, Rabeya, a sex worker in Chittagong. I was going to write a case study on her and I was very excited. People around me were not so excited however. I still remember the hesitation in their eyes, their embarrassment when trying to explain why I should rethink my plans. Despite all the discouragement, I went to meet her and some of her friends.

Had I not gone that day, I would never have known that the world of a sex worker can be so colourless. There was no red lipstick and no fancy saree. There were only malnourished girls living in poverty. They were not monsters who should be hated: they were just simple young girls who were in a helpless situation they never asked for. I learned that there was nothing embarrassing about their lives: there was only sadness and sorrow. I am glad and thankful to the very few people who encouraged me to go there and experience something new. Before I judge anyone again, I will stop and think.

Diversity through new experiences teaches us tolerance towards people who are different from us. Rabeya is a sex worker and I am a student, but we are both humans. There is a common ground between us that does not allow us to despise each other. Diversity showed me that.

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