|by Tom Bohache|
|Pride Lies in Truth
Truth is a precious commodity in today's world. We hear that the leaders of world nations collude to keep information from the public about the true causes of war. We see celebrities acquitted of crimes that they probably committed, simply by virtue of their fame and ability to use their wealth to hire legal teams and spin-doctors the rest of us cannot afford. We witness religious bodies denying the truth of millions of people who do not follow death-assuring doctrines about birth control or identity-denying policies that would enshrine heteronormativity as a religion.
In the midst of this, how ironic that the anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion and the annual July 4th celebrations fall just a week apart. At one end of the week, we remember the brave women and men, drag queens and kings, and leatherfolk who fought back against police in New York City instead of passively going to jail as they had before. With that decision, they took back their ability to live their truth. At the other end of the week, we honor the United States' independence from Great Britain, when we are told the Founding Fathers struck out and struck back to claim liberty and justice for all. How-ever, as those who are non-white, non-male, non-propertied, and non-heterosexual know all too well, that promised liberty and justice are not necessarily for those who will not deny their truth in order to fit in to the system.
Spirituality is all about truth. It is our inner ability to be in tune with who we are and where we fit into the cosmos, past, present, and future. Many in our society and in the GLBTQ community have fled organized religion because they see it as stifling their truth, masquerading hypocrisy and injustice instead. Others have stayed in traditional faiths and tried to change the system from within, while still others stay because it is traditional and they are able to separate who they are from the messages they hear. In whatever way we express our connection to Spirit, however, it is important that we do so truthfully. Spirit knows who we are and what we do; Spirit does not judge or condemn as the world does, but according to standards of truth, beauty, and love.
Another aspect of truth is authenticity. Each of us is called by Spirit to be authentic. The inside should match the outside. That is where the ironic conflict comes between celebrating Stonewall one week and U. S. Independence Day the next: In our country as it is presently heading, GLBTQ people must stifle our truth in many ways. We are encouraged not to be authentic, but to assimilate, fit in, and become "nice," "decent," and "law-abiding," whatever that means. We are supposed to ignore inequality and discrimination because we supposedly have come so far in just a few decades; even our community leaders try to make us fit in and mute our truth as they try to broker deals with the white, rich, male, straight power structure.
I believe true authenticity begins in our inner core. If we treasure and respect who God/ess has created us to be, we can allow truth to infiltrate the rest of our lives, little by little. The late African-American lesbian theorist Audre Lorde (1934-1992) called this ability to feel, create, and thrive in Spirit our capacity for "the erotic." She compared it to the pellets of yellow coloring that people during World War II squeezed into their colorless margarine to make it look like butter; once the pellet spread out, it began to change the whole mixture and turn it into something else. She says our eroticismthe ability to feel passionately with other peopleintrudes into and takes over every part of our lives, if we will allow it to do so. I believe she was describing the Spirit of Truth, for when we allow the pellet within us to burst forth, it can take on a life of its own, radiating outward in waves, creating authenticity and true pride in its wake.
As I was reading some essays about diversity, sexism, and homophobia, I came across a wonderful rationale for GLBTQ people to embrace truth, written by a straight male professor at Rutgers University: "I still sometimes found myself annoyed by those gay and lesbian members of our community who made so much ado about their sexual orientation. Why did they have to tell me they were lesbian or gay, as if in prelude to everything else? After all, I valued privacy. Don't we all keep our sex lives private? I don't tell everyone about my sexuality, so why do some gay men and lesbians make such a big deal about theirs?...I came to see that my notion of sexuality as a private matter is essentially a conceit. To be sure, the specific details of my sexual life are private, but the broad outlines of heterosexuality are not. Heterosexuality screams at us in this culture,...[b]ut this heterosexuality is so 'normal' that it becomes invisible to those who stay within its traces....What I learned from [Rutgers] students is that, for some, breaking silence and asserting one's gayness is akin to talking out loud when you are in a dark place. There are good reasons to do so: you hear a voice that reassures you and helps you feel a little less afraid; it might also help someone else to find you." (William David Burns, "Why Don't Gay People Just Keep Quiet? Listening to the Voices of the Oppressed," in Readings for Diversity and Social Justice, edited by Maurianne Adams, et al.; Routledge, 2000, pp. 306-309)
Our truth lights up the darkness. Our authenticity breaks the silence. Our pride changes the world, one day and one person at a time. Now, more than ever, Silence = Death!
The Rev. Tom Bohache, Pastor of Metropolitan Community Church of Rehoboth, is a speaker, teacher, and writer on the intersection of sexuality and spirituality. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 15, No. 8 July 1, 2005