Don't judge a book by it's cover.
We've all heard it at one time and we all intrinsically know what this means. It is a statement that has been en-grained into our society at almost a core level, but we don't really follow it as often as we should now do we? I can freely admit that even though I try to keep my mind open and free of Judgment I'm still guilty of falling into this trap as much as the next person.
The other day during a conversation with someone while I was at a store it became necessary for me to say that I watched My Little Pony and to paraphrase the response it was something along the lines of "Thats something you should be ashamed to admit to as a grown man." Now before I go on I would like to say that should the person who said this happen to read this, I don't blame you at all for saying that. It is a common reaction. I don't have a problem with the fact that you as an individual said it, I have a problem with the fact that current society has trained us to react this way to things we don't really understand.
As someone who grew up on the Internet and have been part of several very misunderstood subcultures that have either found their niche on the Internet or been spawned from the net itself I'm kind of immune to things like this but I feel this really needs to be said.
We really have no right to judge someone for something that we don't understand or have a full context for.
For example someone says to you,
"I dress up as Spider Man every weekend."
Your first impression might be to assume 'Wow what a geek and thats kind of creepy.' But a little more information completely changes the context.
"I dress up as Spider Man every weekend and volunteer to wash windows at a children's hospital."
Now you feel like an ass-hat and you should as this is both a good deed and full of win. And of course I'm referring to this picture if you haven't seen it yet. [link]
I myself have been a part of the furry community for a long time, more recently I have become part of the "Herd" as a Brony and I'm bisexual (for those that didn't already know, now you do!). All three of those are pretty good examples of groups that are judged by the cover so to speak. This may be dramatizing things a bit but for each of the three Ill give an example of how members of each group are perceived verses the reality of what they are about. Nothing is black and white and there are exceptions to every rule. Sometimes peoples impressions of a group are caused by things that have happened and got publicity or fueled the furnaces of the rumor mills but keep in mind that the actions of a few do not represent the whole.
Furry, Common perception,
Furries are people who are into bestiality and having sex while dressed up as animals and who sexualise everything and draw cartoon porn in all their free time.
Furries are a community of people who enjoy art of and role-playing as anthropomorphic characters. Creatures that have a mix of human and animal features similar to the cartoon characters we all grew up with but somewhat more realistic. Bestiality has never had anything to do with the community and although there is a small percentile of the population that does actually have sex in fur-suits it is less common within the furry community then say comparing it with people that have latex fetishes in the general populace. Of course furry porn exists but so does Wall-E porn and everything else you can think of, Google "rule #34 of the Internet" if you don't believe me.
Brony, Common perception,
Grown men who watch a cartoon meant solely for little girls, they must be either gay or mentally challenged or both.
The current generation of MLP was NOT written just for young girls there are many hidden movie and pop-culture references that are meant for an adult audience that kids wont even notice. The writing and animation actually approaches early Disney levels. Not all Bronies watch the cartoon, many were drawn into the community that sprang up around the shows overall message of taking care of the relationships you have with those around you and keeping an overall positive, accepting and tolerant nature, that can be summed up by the meme "We're going to love and tolerate the shit out of you." This reaches the extent that many Internet "trolls" and cyber-bullies have given up harassing bronies and become part of them as most attempts to troll result not in angry comebacks, but instead with a laugh and welcoming attitude. According to a survey from the Brony community itself the ratio of gay to straight is EXACTLY the same as the general populace. I must admit that even I thought it would be higher due to the "love and tolerate" attitude attracting struggling gay teens in the same way that the furry community did in the late 90's. If a cartoon that has made hundreds of thousands of 14 to 37 year old guys become better people to their friends and family and anyone they may happen to meet is a bad thing then launch all the nukes now the world is fucked.
Bisexual, Common perception,
Slutty, will sleep with anything with 2 legs, too greedy to pick a men or women and stick with it, highly likely to cheat and cant be trusted as they might sleep with anyone. It may surprise people to hear this but a lot of the hate against bisexuals actually comes from the gay community.
Most bisexuals are monogamous and do not try to have a boyfriend and a girlfriend simultaneously. People focus far to much on the "sex" aspect of sexuality. Your sexuality isn't who you sleep with, it is who you are A) attracted to and B) who you will have a functional relationship with. This is a subject that I could write volumes about and there are literally hundreds of books on the subject but I'd rather just say how I perceive my own sexuality and leave it at that. When I look at people I don't see wither you are black or white, tall or short, fat or skinny, male or female. All I see is personalities that I will or wont get along with. And if I get along with someone really well and the possibility is there of things becoming more then that is all that matters to me.
If someone has done a little research, tried to understand and still doesn't like something then I can respect that decision and even back it despite not agreeing with it. For example a couple of years ago when the subject of my sexuality came up with a religious friend of mine his stance was one that I had not expected. He said that his religion said that my lifestyle is a sin and one subject to being sent to hell but that it was gods place to judge me, not his and that it would not affect our friendship. He stayed true to his word and it never really came up again as part of any serious conversation, he never tried to convert me or tell me to live differently and there was no awkwardness or any real change to our friendship. That has always stuck with me as being the prime example of how we should treat all aspects of things that we come across that may not quite mesh with the way we see things. I only wish the other 99.999% of society could follow suit.
In closing, I may not really be a religious person but potentially the most powerful yet ignored biblical quote, one that is probably equally entrenched in our societal consciousness as the quote I opened with is,
Judge not, lest ye be judged.
P.S. Note the common theme that we tend to relate all things that we don't understand to some form of sexual deviancy? This is the historical cover-all method of demonizing anything you don't like.