The Stages of Acceptance
by Mila Madison
In human psychology, acceptance is a person’s assent to the reality of a situation. It is when a person or people recognize a process, condition or group without attempting to change it or protest. In the early going, the process of acceptance can be uncomfortable or even negative to the people who are not ready to “accept”.
“SO WHY IS IT THAT SOCIETY HAS SUCH A HARD TIME ACCEPTING THOSE THAT ARE DIFFERENT FROM WHAT IS CONSIDERED AVERAGE?”
So why is it that society has such a hard time accepting those that are different from what is considered average? There are many reasons. The most basic are fear of the unknown and a lack of understanding. Those with an agenda stoke these fundamental thoughts for personal gain. There is profit in spreading fear of the unknown. Just look at cable news. People tune in when a “hot button” issue is taking place. This results in viewers and ratings, which translates to advertising dollars. Churches and religious organizations make money as people tend to show up or donate when they have something to fight against. When acceptance occurs, these groups usually move on to the next target. Unfortunately the transgender community is currently in the crosshairs.
In psychological terms, there are 5 stages to acceptance. This is also known as the 5 stages of grief:
Denial – Anger – Bargaining – Depression – Acceptance
It is easy to tell that in psychological terms, acceptance of the transgender community is at step 2, the anger stage. As people battle back and forth over bathrooms and transgender rights, it is pretty clear where we are. Now understand that we are looking at this in general terms. The stage can vary from person to person and place to place. In this case I am looking at those who oppose the transgender community. Though this gives us some perspective on what is to come, I think a better representation is to liken it to the product cycle.
This graph represents the Innovation Adoption Curve. It is the cycle of a revolutionary product or idea. In our case the revolutionary idea is the acceptance of the transgender community. I know it is a sad state when we have to look at the idea of accepting us as radical or revolutionary, however this is where we are in terms of society. So let’s break it down.
Innovators/Enthusiasts – This would represent us, the transgender community. We are the people in which society may or may not yet understand. This would represent us and our acceptance of ourselves.
Early Adopters/Visionaries – This would be our allies. It may be those who are quick to accept us or grew to acceptance very quickly compared to the rest of the world. It can be anyone from loved ones, friends, other groups that were oppressed or simply those who just get it.
Early Majority/Pragmatists – This is the period just after you break through. Society as a whole begins to accept. The general population begins to understand.
Late Majority/ Conservatives – No by “conservative” we do not necessarily mean the GOP, however many may fall in this group. This group is the late comers, the last to get it so to speak. When they see the rest of society embracing an idea, they will eventually embrace it as well. It is because at this point, if they don’t they will no longer be average or accepted themselves.
Laggards/Skeptics – This group will probably never get it. They will most likely be set in their ways and it could take many generations for them to accept as per our example.
The Chasm – So what is the Chasm? That is the breaking point. It is the hurdle that an idea, product or movement must overcome to continue to exist with any relative success. It is the defining moment.
“THE WAY I SEE IT, WE ARE APPROACHING THE CHASM. IT IS OUR MOMENT THAT DETERMINES WHETHER WE SUCCEED OR NOT.”
Some of you may be thinking, so what is the point of all this? Well the point is that we need to put it in perspective. This is the way my crazy brain does that. The way I see it, we are approaching the chasm. It is our moment that determines whether we succeed or not. The battles that are taking place occur with every group that fights for their acceptance. We can debate where we may be on the timeline, however it does give us a good picture. Where are women on this timeline? How about the African American community? Perhaps the gay and lesbian community has reached the early adopter stage with the passing of marriage equality?
I read with sadness as people on my local town Facebook page all kill each other over the Justice Department’s new bathroom guidelines. As the tears roll down over some of the hurtful comments that are made, I see hope in the comments where people defend us. I think of the cycle of acceptance. Though none of us should ever tolerate hate, I try to find compassion in knowing that many of these people do not yet understand. I take solace in the hope that they may one day get there. I think about how long it took me just to accept myself for who I was. I try to put it in the perspective of those who have never knowingly met someone like me. Though I wish society would just accept everyone without them having to fight for it, I realize I do not live in that world. But people are talking and thinking about it. According to Google, searches for the term “transgender” are up over 600% this week. That is progress. Nothing changes if the conversations don’t take place. So when I hear a story like Billy Graham’s daughter saying “God let 9/11 happen because of transgender people in bathrooms,” I realize she is just ignorant and afraid. She is also trying to drum up the cash machine. She hopes we never even reach the chasm because in doing so, it is bad for her business. She is just a roadblock to the chasm, and all I can do about it is keep fighting for acceptance.
Stay safe and keep fighting for all of us!
Love and peace,