I was very uptight and I think a lot of my own views were a strange form of rebellion against a society into which I didn't fit in. I loathed all the kids going out drinking on the weekend, but really because I was excluded from their social groups. I was also brought up in a family with very little drinking, so it certainly wasn't the norm. My family environment I think was quite important, and it takes so long to realise how affected you are by it. For so much of my life I took the values I learned from my parents as the only way to see the world, without analysing them myself. I'm still learning to change this.
In my final year of school, I was voted the 'most likely to be the next Winston Peters'. For those of you not familiar with our country's political minefield, this was a reference to this politicians anti-immigration stance, particularly in relation to Asian ethnicities. I was to all intents and purposes, quite racist to them; however, I wasn't really serious about it, several of my good friends were Asian. I saw racist humour not as invective but as light humour, so I didn't see the harm in it. I'm learning that perspective is key and even though you may say something without any malice, it's how the other people take it that's really important. I definitely used my mouth as my only real weapon against bullies, and it eventually lead to me insulting even my own friends, even if I thought it was in jest.
Things certainly have changed; while I'm not over-cautious about the subject of race, as people in comedy shows are, I'm less judgemental. Testament to that was my last girlfriend was from Taiwan, and race was never, ever an issue there. I developed similar tendencies about gender; sexist humour appealed to mind especially, probably because it was so easy to elicit a reaction. That however, should have set alarm bells ringing. Again, I've learned to move on from that. I really don't judge people because of their gender. I am discretely aware, however, of people like that (on both sides) and can see easily through facades.
Likewise sex was something I frowned upon at my age; I think this was grounded in the honest idea that it should be an act of love not passion, but I was wrong to think that at my age it should never happen. We all know you have to start out somewhere; as with drinking, putting a complete ban on it would be senseless. You instead teach people how to deal with it in a safe way so there aren't any problems. That way, kids can satisfy their raging hormones without disaster. In terms of sexual orientation, my white middle-class upbringing taught me that homosexuality was bad and those people should be shunned. I think there is a lot of that inherent in society, and we can all easily slip back into that mode. But thought is changing and people are being less judgemental as a whole.
Which is good. I don't think it's a coincidence that the diminishment of the power of the church has been fairly equal with the recognition of 'rights' for homosexuality and similar issues. I think the issue is now a bit muddied; it's not really positive 'rights' that these people deserve, but rather the absence of contrary rights. The most important rights are those that need not be set in stone. I think that the law on rights etc should not distinguish based on gender. Obviously the marriage issue was muddied because of legal inheritance implications so the whole thing is rather messy. I do think, though, that we should not distinguish based on sexual orientation. It shouldn't be an issue; people shouldn't care about other people's feelings, let alone tell them what they should do.
I remember the first time this really hit me: I was listening to Rod Stewarts' song, The Killing of Georgie, which is a very sad song. It tells of a gay friend of his, who was unfortunately killed in a fight with a street gang. The most poignant line for me was near the start, where he says:
His mother's tears fell in vain
the afternoon George tried to explain
that he needed love like all the rest
Pa said there must be a mistake
how can my son not be straight
after all I've said and done for him
These changes have become all the more clear to me in recent days, as our country moves towards the election. This morning I was reading a document by the Conservative Party, and it stirred memories of the views I once had. But then I realised how much I had changed. Also, a recent article on the National Party Ministers' views on homosexuality made me rather sad; my inherent, National-biased upbringing wanted me to make excuses. While I did analyse it from both sides, it was blatant to see the obvious, out-dated views still held. Unfortunately, this is a mix of both personal views and majority politics. It is a sad reflection on society that parties still think they can win votes by appealing on 'family values' and putting down the rights of homosexuals and the like. But then again, things are much better than previously.
So that is where I stand; I'm still learning to deal with everything. It's very easy to fall back on what you were brought up to think. But I think that people should realise they can form their own views and that judging people is so, so wrong and pointless. We as a society need to move on from this. We're working on it, but there's much work still to be done. Obviously, I'm still straight but that doesn't mean you're in the other camp. There shouldn't be 'sides' at all. People should not judge others for following their heart. Lord knows we're all just looking for someone to share out lives with, why on earth should we worry what gender they are?