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Be As You Are

The tragic death of Nex Benedict is a heart wrenching reminder that our good work as a global nation is to let people be as they are. Nex was only 16, a non-binary kid growing up in a small town 20 minutes outside of Tulsa Oklahoma. Like so many red states, Oklahoma has whipped up a legislative fury against transgender and non-binary individuals. Nex, whose family trace their roots to the Native American Choctaw tribe, was perceived as an outsider, a misfit. He was attacked in the bathroom, suffered a head injury and died February 7th, 2024. This is a glaring example of the kinds of pressure facing young people and people everywhere to be “normal.” When normal is decreed by a school board, a city councilor or state governor, it inevitably goes narrow.

So many of us are taught from a young age not to be ourselves. If one does not conform, one is shamed, punished and in Nex’s case violently assaulted. But normal is a construct. Truly everyone is different, or as identified in contemporary parlance, everyone is “neurodivergent.” Our good work is not to punish people for their uniqueness – for their “signature self” – but to celebrate everyone for their originality and their differences. In yoga and mindfulness we hold to non-judgemental awareness. Christian love, Buddhist loving-kindness and the yogic principle of non-harming, vow not to ostracize, but include each other. To pathologize difference — whether gender identity, cultural heritage, belief system, hairstyle, or dress – is to perpetuate fear and loathing. The death of Nex Benedict is a call to put a halt to legislative hate and discrimination. Instead, may each of us go out of our own way to make others feel that they belong.


Image source/credit: Human Rights Campaign

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