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COMMENTARY: Don’t criticize what you don’t know

I got a lesson in acceptance and a lesson in understanding, over the weekend. I am the person who is always writing about how others need to be more accepting and understanding of the gay community and it seems I was the one who needed to be taught the lesson.

I went to my granddaughter’s quinceanera. My daughter Stacey married a Latino man who has a beautiful daughter by a previous marriage, and she turned 15 this month. I knew nothing of quinceaneras - I had to look up how to spell it – that’s how much I knew.

What I’ve always heard from the Caucasian community is that this whole quinceranera thing is simply an exercise in excess by the Latino community. What I discovered is something quite different.

The traditions of the quinceaneras date to the Incan and Aztec cultures. It’s part of who these people are. Traditions matter in this culture – they matter to these people. It’s not an excess to them – it’s tradition, and that’s more important that any amount of money could ever be to them.

I also found that the bond between a father and his daughter is one of the deepest in the Latino community. I witnessed a grandfather struggle to get out of his wheelchair to dance with his granddaughter – an act that brought all of us to tears. I witnessed two grown men struggle to find the words to tell their daughters how much they loved them and that no matter how old – they would always be daddy’s little girl. Again – there were tears.

I discovered that I can sit in a Roman Catholic Church and not burst into flames and head straight to hell as their Pope and his Vatican Council would have me believe. I don’t understand how any gay person could worship inside a church where the leaders of said religion have no respect for who you are – but I wasn’t there for me, I was there for my granddaughter, and I discovered that I could sit quietly and be happy for her.

And mostly I discovered that people of every race, religion, gender, sex are simply people. Susan and I were welcomed with open arms and hugs, and the language barrier just didn’t matter. We were introduced as Stacey’s Mother Susan and her partner Barbie. There was no pretense, no hiding who we were and in return there was not one moment of prejudice, not one moment of judgment passed on us.

The lessons for me were quite profound: Don’t criticize what you don’t know, and don’t lump an entire race of people into your own little racist view of who you think they may be.

The thing I love most about life is this: If we’re open to it, we are never, ever too old to learn.

Barb Hamp Weicksel was born in 1952 in Pennsylvania and moved to California in the early 1980s, where she met her partner Susan. They've been together some 30 years and share the love of Susan's four children, nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Her blog, Barb's Gift of Gab, can be found HERE.

You can’t criticize something you don’t know.