Chicks break out of their shells because they’re dying. When the fetal chicken is mature, the egg fills with a toxic gas and the chick inside must break out or die. It seems harsh, but the chick’s passage from incubation to self-salvation and finally into the light is a rite of passage we all must make. Same-gender-loving and transgender people have been encased in oppression’s shell and repression’s closet for too long, and this is the moment for us to break out into a new life of equality, community, and joy.
Hiding in the shell is tempting — even if it means remaining disempowered and unfulfilled, frightened and angry, stuck, bitter and wounded — because the inside of the cramped porcelain oval is familiar and safe in it’s own way: the shell insulates as well as restrains. What’s outside is unknown, and it seems like once you’re out there, you’ll be more vulnerable. Of course the truth is that the blind, embryonic creature trapped in darkness is far more vulnerable than the vocal, mobile animal able to roam in the light.
The egg is filling up with gas, and it’s time for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people to make a choice: red pill or blue pill? Do we want to continue as we are, or do we choose transformation, wisdom, and actualization? Shall we keep trying to achieve equal rights, recognition and respect by demanding change, or shall we create genuine, lasting change by embodying change?
The leaders of history’s successful social change movements have already told us the answer: the end is inherent in the means; inner transformation precedes outer transformation; and, we must be the change we wish to see in the world.
The end is inherent in the means. So, if the end we want is a society that is just, affirming, nurturing, healthy, sustainable, compassionate and loving, then the means we use to get there must also be. As I explain in depth in my book, Shirt of Flame: The Secret Gay Art of War, we have to give up what we don’t want: we have to let go of our anger, pain, fear, hatred, and attack if we want to create a world without them. If we want to be free from others’ attempts to control, dominate and manipulate us, we must start by removing all controlling, dominating and manipulating elements from our own relationships, communities and activism.
Inner transformation precedes outer transformation. The alternative to power that enables one to achieve one’s desires by controlling, manipulating or dominating others is Power that is based on relationship and community — communion. In order to develop this True Power, LGBT activists must cultivate the internal characteristics that make communion possible: compassion; love; patience; tolerance; forgiveness; contentment; a sense of responsibility; and a sense of harmony. These are the first tools we must learn to use before we can construct a future that honors our whole selves, including our gender identities and sexual orientations.
We must be the change we wish to see in the world. Once we’ve done our inner homework, we can begin a new activism based on developing communion with both those like us and people very different from us. In a world in which establishing an equitable, just, sustainable, constructive, and healthy society seems hopeless, the life of each LGBT person can be a luminous beacon pointing toward the Beloved Community.
Demanding change without embodying change will never create change. The time has come for us to break the shell of our own fear, pain and habitual activism and emerge into our happiest and most effective lives.
Ko Imani has no idea if the story about chickens is true or not, but he couldn’t pass up the metaphor.
Michigan native, author and activist Clayton Gibson wrote Shirt of Flame: The Secret Gay Art of War under the pen name Ko Imani and is the creator of MyOutSpirit.com and founder of QWELL Community Foundation in Austin, Texas.