“I am a Muslim…I am Jewish…I am black, I am gay, I am disabled, I am a woman seeking to control her health and her choices because …we are one community and the …community is composed of all of the above.”
When I was in the seventh grade, I met a girl who would become a lifelong friend. She was a year younger than me, but we were in several of the same clubs and shared the same faith. She is a great balance of brilliant and funny. There was no young romance, we were just friends. But we were great friends.
And my friend is Deaf.
My freshman year in college, my roommate and I shared several of the same classes. We also pledged the same fraternity, played intramural sports together, and shared an affinity for extremely loud music. You should have heard the way the subs thumped in the back of his Saturn!
This friend is also Deaf.
I could tell you hilarious stories of my favorite lunchroom worker, whom I fondly referred to as “Spaghetti Betty.” Her skin was as dark as the soil her family had worked all her life, and her laugh reverberated against the cinder block walls of the school cafeteria.
There’s also my brilliant friend, Liz Edman, the author of Queer Virtue, who has spent years as a priest in New York City. I love when Liz’s Arkansas upbringing tells on her in an expected moment of Southern drawl. And my beautiful friend, Kevin Garcia, an author, worship leader, and activist, who happens to be gay. (Single dudes, he’s the most eligible bachelor in Atlanta!)[clickToTweet tweet=”Do You Know What Really Makes America Strong and Beautiful? #America #diversity #lovewins” quote=”Do You Know What Really Makes America Strong and Beautiful? ” theme=”style3″]
Then there’s three of my favorites: the two Sarah’s and Robert, who all live amazing lives and freely share their struggles with mental health right alongside me. Sarah Fader is the founder and editor of Stigma Fighters, Sarah Schuster is the mental health editor for The Mighty, and Robert Freakin’ Vore is my co-host on the CXMH Podcast, plus a thousand other incredible things.
What about my brown-skinned sister, Ashley? Found by nuns after being abandoned in the middle of nowhere in India (true story). She’s just finished a Master’s program, is married to the love of her life, and is one of the kindest people I know.
Have you read Kashif N. Chaudhry’s story? Kashif sought asylum in the United States in 2008, due to religious persecution in his home country of Pakistan. He’s been active with “Muslims for Peace” and “Muslims for Life,” and in 2016, he began serving as the area director for “True Islam”, which holds “open forums where people come to have coffee, make friends with local Muslims and have an informal dialogue on Islam.”
According to Kashif (now a cardiologist):
[clickToTweet tweet=”Disabled, black, females, #Muslim, mental health, & #LGBTQ: these are a few of my favorite things. #graceismessy” quote=”Disabled, black, females, Muslim, mental health, & LGBTQ: these are a few of my favorite things. ” theme=”style3″]
Over 10,000 Americans have already responded to the call by visiting a mosque or by signing up as a #MuslimAlly at TrueIslam.com. This is not a mere gesture of solidarity, it is empowerment with education, compassion, and a clear message that we are the United States, and we will remain so against all attempts to divide us.
The Hill reports:
House Democrats are rallying behind a plan to make President Trump’s first speech to Congress as uncomfortable as possible by inviting guests they say will suffer under new White House policies.
The strategy means Trump will likely face a crowd including ethnic minorities, LGBT people, undocumented immigrants, the disabled and others when he addresses a joint session on Feb. 28.
This may be the most appropriate political move yet. Narcissistic as he may be, we should never stop reminding President Trump that he is called to be the President for all of us. I don’t find it disrespectful in the least. And if it is distracting to invite our neighbors who may not be straight, white males, I say keep it up.[clickToTweet tweet=”Never stop reminding .@realdonaldtrump that he’s called to be the President for all of us. #America #lovewins” quote=”Never stop reminding .@realdonaldtrump that he’s called to be the President for all of us. #America #lovewins” theme=”style3″]
Let’s keep fighting the stigmas that seek to push us down, scale the walls that try to keep others out, and resist alongside our neighbors who experience phobias on a daily basis. May we not become weary in doing good, but stand firm in our belief that love trumps hate. In all our various shades and pigments, experiences, dreams, and struggles, we are America. Red and yellow, black and white, it is our diversity that makes us really strong and beautiful.
Steve Austin is an author, speaker, and life coach who is passionate about helping overwhelmed people learn to catch their breath. He is the author of two Amazon bestsellers, "Catching Your Breath," and "From Pastor to a Psych Ward." Steve lives with his wife and two children in Birmingham, Alabama.
Why No One Really Cares What You Believe
It was Really Quiet the Day I Decided to Die
You are not the worst mistake you’ve ever made.
God is Love. No, really.
I Need You to Help Me See God Clearly
Hope for the Forsaken: A Doxology in Darkness
How Should Pastors Respond to People with Mental Illness?