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The Danger of the Single Story

A lot has happened this week.  As we noted, December began, World AIDS Day was on Tuesday, gay Marriage was defeated in New York, and rights were given to gay couples in Washington.  But that is only a taste of what has happened in my life, in this week, in this country.  What about all that has happened around the world in the lives of the almost 7 billion people that inhabit this planet?

From time to time I watch TED talks.  For those unfamiliar, TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design.  It is a small not for profit organization that believes in spreading information that is useful around the world.  Tonight I found a talk that I felt was worth sharing here.  There are many talks that are worth sharing, but for the purposes of this site, this talk stood out from all the others.

When I conceived this site, my idea was to create a place where every member of the LGBT community could share their story in their own words with their own voice.  I have shared mine, and so far I am the only one.  I have asked friends to share theirs and as an extension have asked anyone from the LGBT community who visits this site to share theirs as well.  The response I always receive is “what am I supposed to say?”  “I am not unique, I don’t have a compelling story” to which I always reply “that is exactly the point.”  Your story is about you.  It is about you and through your story we see that there are similarities between all people, and there are differences.

Very often people are defined by their differences, but what if for a moment we defined each other by our similarities.  If we could take the time to look at the old gay or straight woman or man down the street who lives a solitary life and realize that they in fact have a beautiful garden.  I love to garden, and all of a sudden we have something in common.  What if the rest of the country or the world could stop and get to know a member of the LGBT community, but better yet get to know many.  That is the power of this site!

If I only come to know that one older member of the community, my ideas will be shaped by this encounter alone.  But, there are other people out there who don’t garden, instead they have grandchildren, they play the piano, they translate books from Arabic into English, they were a fighter pilot or a nurse in the Military.  Knowing only one story is dangerous no matter what the case.

I highly encourage you to watch the video below by a wonderful woman named Chimamanda Adichie.  Adichie is a novelist who comes from Nigeria and shares some of her experiences traveling to the US, and Mexico.  Adichie shares how her roommate in the US who only knew one story about the continent of Africa had preconceived notions about how life in Africa must be.  She also recounts a time that she herself was sucked into allowing a single story dictate her view of an entire country’s population.  It is 18 minutes long and worth every second.

Watch Chimamanda Adichie and then share your story with the world.  Help create multiple stories that will, in the end, break through stereotypes formed by a single story, a single viewpoint.  Let us break out of “group think” and engage in enlightened individual thought.


Links of Interest

Chimamanda Adichie


Farafina Trust

Other TED Talks I enjoyed (some of them get a bit technical, just stick with them)

Architecture that Repairs Itself

A Trip to Saturn

A Leap From the Edge of Space

J.J. Abrams



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