Nail Implies Hammer
sexual orientation were a choice, I would still choose to be gay. I always
hear people saying, "Who would choose to be gay? The world hates you and
disrespects you, you canít get married, people think youíre a child molester,
youíre constantly used as a political hot button, you get teased and maybe
bashed or killed."
The admonitions about queer life being difficult can keep coming, as if
just because itís hard means itís not fundamentally good, and even important
for the evolution of oneís character.
One reason I would choose to be gay is because my sexual orientation has
been a shattering influence on my life. Because of my homosexuality, I
was forced to confront the hypocrisy and limitations of the religion in
which I was raised. I became a relentless truth-seeker because I had to
struggle so much to uncover the sacred truth about myself. Iím only able
to demand justice with my deepest voice because I have experienced injustice.
I only see the complexity of the world we live in because confronting
lies jerked me awake to a bigger picture. These are some of the gifts
bisexual and homosexual orientations and nonconforming gender identities
can offer if we are awake enough to experience them:
Being LGBT or queer is more than a matter of who you are physically and
emotionally attracted to, or whether you fit societyís idea of your gender
or not. Being queer should ignite a fire to know Truth -- a sort of drive
toward intelligence that can only be satisfied when you can see the world
from different angles at once. Life is complicated, and because of our
unique understanding of lifeís constant unfolding, it is incumbent upon
LGBT people to consciously interact with that complexity.
Havenít you experienced the moment when you see through an illusion about
yourself? The second when you realize that what you were told you were
bears no relation to who you actually are? Remember how it feels to realize
that being LGB or T is not a sin? That instant when you realize your teacher
only knows the version of history thatís in the book? When you suddenly
see a situation from the other personís point of view? Thatís the precipice,
the edge of becoming aware of lifeís multi-veiled Mata Hari dance.
Itís time for us all to leap over that precipice by cultivating a certain
vigilance. Queer people must develop a commitment to mindfulness so deep
that when one corner of a thing comes to mind we automatically consider
the other three corners, too. One corner implies the others.
We probably know better than most that the world is not black and white,
clear-cut, "one, two, three, four, five." The world is always smirking
at us as it reveals "one, two, three, four, basset hound."
We must realize that LGBT issues do not exist in a vacuum. We will not
truly be free if our freedom is built on the suffering of others. Too
often, we only see the one corner -- for example, our justified anger
at hate crimes against LGBT people, and neglect to look at the other three
corners of problem and solution. Like the fact that penalty enhancements
for hate crimes leave people to rot in a violent and racist prison system
instead of addressing the root cause of the violence and helping heal
both victim and perpetrator. Sometimes in resisting an injustice we forget
to transform it.
So even LGBT issues are more complex than we sometimes consider, but what
can we do with this understanding that things are not always what they
seem? After all, we know from our own experience that different things
seem true depending on oneís knowledge and point of view. Of course, that
doesnít mean that all views are equally valid ≠ thatís a blessing of the
scientific method ≠ but it does mean that a particular compassion is required
of LGBT people.
We need a compassion that allows us to interact with those who see the
world differently than we do, even when weíre right and theyíre wrong.
We canít raise anyoneís consciousness if we are unable meet them where
they are. We canít change minds and hearts if our hearts and minds are
filled with contempt.
If LGBT people want to claim true freedom, we have to give up what we
donít want. We have to relinquish our anger, our fear, our defense and
our attack, our shame, our retribution, and our all-too-human desire to
cling to what is and avoid change.
We can only begin to shake up the worldviews of those who slumber in a
black and white existence when we approach even our enemies with compassion
and understanding. Our desire for equal rights and recognition and a new,
nonviolent, compassionate kind of activism are interdependent: "nail implies
hammer." When we claim both, we become the embodiment of the shattering
we experienced in our own lives; it is then that we put on the cleansing
"shirt of flame" that burns away that which does not serve us.
Ko Iman'ís book about how LGBT people can live their best lives, SHIRT
OF FLAME: THE SECRET GAY ART OF WAR, is now available. Ko gives away
his monthly FIRE IN THE LAKE column for free to LGBT and Ally organizations
and Web sites, where he is touching the lives of almost a million people.
He lives with his husband and their puppy near Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Copyright © 2003 by the author
All Rights Reserved
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