What the Outcome of Proposition 8 offers me as a Queer Man
On November 5, 2008 many American’s awoke to witness a mandate from the people regarding the future of our nation. At some particular level our nation has matured beyond the racial tensions that have so thwarted our ability to grow as a nation. Today our African American President Elect prepares to lead this nation. As a nation we are moving beyond a dark place in our history. In my work on a spiritual plane, I have come to value the power of the “shadow.” Shadow is often a reflection of some aspect of self that is difficult to acknowledge. Darkness can often prevail as a tool for enlightenment. This can be a difficult pill to swallow, but I am left feeling that the defeat of Proposition 8, for us in the queer community, can be a powerful tool to our own enlightenment.
California voters repealed its marriage laws to prevent same sex couples the right to marry, another state is rewriting its constitution to define marriage as one man and one woman. Another state outlawed gay people from adopting children. (All right with the Shadow piece already!)
It’s an overwhelming commentary of how far we still need to go regarding Civil Rights. This morning Queer people nationally are grieving their losses and asking what happened? Many are angry and hurt. As I write this, the lessons are perplexing, and at times painful.
The vote was so close in California that it clearly speaks to no one being a winner. Personally I don’t want to win by a narrow margin, I want a mandate, similar to what Obama achieved. In the circumstances of California its clear that no one won. Mormons won nothing; they compromised their polished Donny and Marie image; that image of being a loving, family religion, to one that will go to great measures, in the name of Jesus, to smear families across a religious divide. As one living in Utah the divisions have been painful on both sides. Did they win something? No clear winner, no clear looser. In this election issue it was about who held the financial power and could outspend to get their way. One would think that in the scope of issues around civil rights we would see a public mandate that says… “Equal rights for all”. Where is that voice for queer America? This country should understand by now the problems with a separate but equal policy. On some level, the feedback is against us. That message includes fear, misunderstandings and old thoughts of perversions, to mention a few. Many well meaning friends and associates still embrace the gay cliché’s and media images are still full of stereotypical images. I am confused by the notion of our excitement to be mentioned in an acceptance speech, when it’s a calculated mention, so as to not offend the “right”. We are so careful, less we offend. We are encouraged to be friendly in our disagreements, present a “good” or “right” image, so to be heard. We are embarrassed by the “other” and consequently seek to blend, to be as good as the heterosexual norm.
Is this working?
What is the mandate to Queer America? What is the “shadow” inviting?
What is being communicated by 53% of the majority? What is the lesson of the shadow? Here are some thoughts to contemplate.
In many ways and for too long our community has attached itself to the roles of martyr and victim. In fact, its one way we define ourselves. Gay bashing, George Bush/ Karl Rove, legal issues, financial fairness, freedom of expression, definition of family; we tend to be on the loosing edge in these and many other issues. At a rally the other night the shout was “enough already!” We are the sissies being kicked around by the bullies. But how do we look at these circumstances in the eyes of one who works with Light and Spirit? What is the message of the Coyote and Heyoka (native American symbols of the “trickster”) in all of this?
Is it political unfairness we are fighting? Or we being mirrored aspects of ourselves that we struggle to respond too?
On one level I have to wonder if we as Gay Americans have manifested this outcome in some way? It’s interesting how many people I know who have actively demonstrated this election issue only to respond cynically… “It will make no difference” or “they will never change.” Really? It makes no difference? (Someone let Martin Luther King know it makes no difference). Why are we outraged and protesting?
I am reminded of Harry Hay suggestion that we need to get gay men together in circle and create consensus around the notions of who and what we are as a tribe and then to let society in general come to appreciate those gifts and talents (although Harry was speaking to a gay men’s crowd, I would suggest this is a statement to all us, GLBT). I often wonder how many of us are demanding civil rights but ultimately don’t intimately embrace that we should have them? We only have to examine how we interact with each other within our own community, our disillusionments that are often summarized as “that’s how gay people are”, how we prey on each other, how we examine societal maladies as a reflection of gay as opposed to the choices we make in our lives.
Although Harry Hay mentioned “consensus” in understanding who we are I would suggest that this would be an overbearing outcome. BUT, coming to know ourselves, in the context of community, feels vitally important. If you will, instead of a rebellion towards the “other” what happens when we rebel towards the limiting concepts of self that regulate us to second-class citizen, pervert or social outcast?
Have we in fact done our work and examined ourselves and the notions of who we are? Does the broader community reflect/mirror that ambivalence with their vote? (The message of Coyote) What they seem to be saying is “we like you, you dress nice, your good people, but ultimately I don’t understand you”. It’s an easier task to blame religious politics, but this leaves me dis-empowered, victimized. When I step into a place of Powerfully Creating the outcome of a situation, consciously embracing my essence, gifts, talents and rights to be, I become a powerful voice, an independent voice.
I have to wonder if we understand who we are and what we are and what we offer to mainstream society? Have we in fact done our own work or are we just demanding rights without that foundation or examination? How much more effective would our voice be if we collectively, in a nurturing way embraced OUR truth(s) as individuals as well as a collective?
Is this vote a message, a trickster in disguise? The Coyote is often seen as a bad omen, but in reality his gift is powerful, he provokes us to see ourselves in ways that we often do not want to acknowledge. One only has to tune into Manhunt to see where many gay men define themselves. Society sees us as sexual anomalies and we respond in like. When we determine that “gay” is only “one” aspect of who I am, perhaps I marginalize the value of being gay. When I generalize and respond that gay men are “just that way” I offer a clue to just how well I embrace my right to be accepted and valued.
These are difficult questions and yet I feel that once we embrace fully and without reservations the "who" and "what" we are and step into that story with PRIDE and conviction, society will respond. In fact, we generate the energy and spiritual fortitude to manifest that which we put our mind. Someday Pride celebrations will move beyond Beer Garden events to celebrations of cultural expressions. Offering to society our uniqueness that is often taken for granted.
My point is not to criticize how we (queer society) do things or where we as a culture place emphasis in our lives. In fact, many of those nuances are on some levels reflections of who we are. I for one offer complete rejection that we should somehow formulate our lives in the constraints of a heterosexual society; hell those constraints don’t work well for straight society let alone queer society. My invitation is to utilize our creativity to find avenues to this exploration. Exploring opportunities to dive deep into our stories and discover the magic of our existence. Sorting out within us and within our communities the richness and expressions that are uniquely OURS. Finding that voice offers liberation from domesticated notions of being queer, shifts shame into confidence and guilt into liberation. Therein we lay the foundation to civil rights, equality and self-respect.