The Deepest Work of Civil Rights Happens Within

Posted by on June 29, 2015 in Scott's Blog | 1 comment






I really don’t like the word homophobia because I don’t like labels generally – at least the kind that are used to put people in boxes. This is the same reason that I don’t walk around each day thinking of myself as gay. No thanks. Take your box somewhere else. Yes, for conventional purposes, I am gay. But the word is not what I am. Nor is the word “homophobic” what other people are who do not like or who fear gay people. But the word homophobia does, at least, speak to the fear underneath the issue. Phobia means fear.

Some of my gay and lesbian friends do not understand why I do not get upset or outraged when I see homophobia in the world. I used to get really upset. But my work in the last decade or so has been about meeting my own fear directly. I cannot fix others. It is not my job. Certainly, the discrimination and hate crimes against the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered) community cannot be condoned in a civilized society. The laws are changing in favor of protection. And that is great. But the deeper issues cannot be changed fully by laws. Just as racism continues (largely out of fear) decades after the civil rights movement in the 60s, fear or ignorance around LGBT people will continue for a long time despite the recent changes in law.

The real work is not just on the side of those who fear or do not understand those in the LGBT community. It is also on the side of the LGBT community. Very few of my gay brothers and sisters actually investigate fully their own deficiency stories and internalized homophobia. Being gay or lesbian, we grew up in a world that contained many people who thought we were disgusting, sinful or just plain freaks. Many, or I should say, most of us in the LGBT internalized all of that. It’s similar to when young black children internalize the sense of being less worthy than white children (this was noted in the Brown v. Board of Education case – ending segregation). In my view, the real work in civil rights issues happens within. Until people see that they are not these stories of deficiences and until they let go of the internalized fear, we will never see the full acceptance of the LGBT community in society. How can society accept us if we do not accept ourselves first?

The same kind of work has to be done, of course, on the side of those who fear or who do not understand the LGBT community. Those who bullied me in grade school had very deep-seated stories of deficiency. I am aware that in their adult life, none of them sought out any kind of therapy or self-inquiry to uproot those stories of deficiency. It is very likely that they passed on these stories and fear to their children. This is generational in every sense. A Supreme Court decision will not – in and of itself – wake us up to what we really are. It will not do the inner work for us. It’s merely one step in the right direction, so that the laws protect people. But no law can protect either a gay kid, a homophobic person or a bully from the inner demons of fear and ignorance. In fact, waiting for the legal system to help all of us transform into a better and more civilized and loving society is like watching a snail crawl across the U.S. It will take a very, very long time. To the contrary, self-inquiry is much more efficient. It can transform old beliefs and heal old feelings very quickly.

I realize that suggesting that every human engage in self-inquiry is a bit futile. Many will simply not be open. And many don’t even know what self-inquiry is. I have linked to for those who want to know more about it. If you are a parent, find out what self-inquiry is, lest you pass on your own stories of deficiency and fear to your children. The power of self-inquiry is that it not only changes our way of relating to each other, but it investigates very directly how we feel about ourselves. Every bully, every preacher leading his congregation into hate, every gay kid across the nation who feels all alone, every man who feels “icky” around gay people can benefit from self-inquiry. We have inherited unworkable, rigid roles of what it means to be a man or a woman. We are carrying around all sorts of stories of deficiency (I’m not good enough, I’m not worthy, etc). We live largely in fear of people that are different. And most of this, in my view, has nothing to do with other people. Once we really discover self-love and freedom from these false identities and fear, society will transform itself, without the need for the law to step in. We may be a long way from that kind of thorough inner investigation, but it is worth writing a thousand facebook posts to encourage it to happen.

We don’t inquire into self for others. We don’t do it to fix a broken society. We don’t do it to end racism, homophobia or other societal issues. We don’t do it to gain rights under the law. We don’t do it to feel better. We do it because we want to know what is really true about who we are. We do it because something within us is tired of living the lie that we are separate, limited, deficient people in a world where we have to fight each other just because we don’t know ourselves and we are not yet willing to face the fear that drives the fighting. When you are investigating the very foundation of self, true self-love and acceptance is possible. And that is very contagious. It transforms every one of your relationships. It changes the world you see because the world you see is largely a projection of what you believe about yourself.

  • Kelly

    Good article Scott. Thanks for the post. Here is something along the same theme that might be of interest.

    I want to share a wonderfully written post that was inspired by the Orlando shootings. It is a great piece on accountability.

    Out of respect for privacy I will not use the writers last name. Here it is along with my response.

    Gay and Muslim in America.

    Could there be any identity that would cause more self hatred?
    Everything about you is detestable thanks to rampant homophobia and xenophobia. Everything you are is bashed daily. The government is legislating against your sexual identity and a candidate for POTUS wants to deport you. You aren’t accepted in your family’s community because you are gay. You live in a state that has a horrible record on gay rights. You aren’t accepted in America because of your faith and the colour of your skin, AND because you are gay. And you can’t find belonging in the LGBTQ community because you have been told you must hate them, too.

    You belong nowhere. And every day you are told via legislators and the media that you are wrong. Everything about you is wrong.

    Gay. Muslim.

    I’ve zero sympathy for what this human did as a result of his self hatred.

    But maybe we can take a moment to truly understand what our hatred has caused, and the part WE played in this tragedy.

    Note: I think this is an important conversation that needs to happen in a safe space.

    Here is my response to her sharing:

    Kelly Tobey – I like your suggested move towards taking accountability Kathleen. It so easy to point the finger and just stay in a self-righteous place claiming I don’t hate gays or Muslims. > Those prejudice people out there need to get their shit together.

    Yet if we want to have an effect on changing things we can look deeper inside to find our shadows and do the work to shine light on them.

    Example: I don’t feel a prejudice against gays or Muslims but is there any people I do feel prejudice towards. And whether there are people outside of myself or not, what about myself? How many times do I get into self attack? How many times do I put myself down for things? Have I cleaned up every piece of self-prejudice and self hatred that I have carried? Have I forgiven myself for all my past and recent mistakes? How much anger am I building up inside? Does the anger get projected outside myself? If so how? > I am not out shooting myself or others, but what am I doing?

    As long as I am not doing my owner inner-work it is likely that I am going to be effected by the outside reflections of what I need to do inside. The reflections are going to try to bring it to my consciousness that I can be continuing to work where it is effective > namely on myself.

    I do not know the attacker or any of those attacked in Orlando but if I pay attention I can root out my own inner attacker and the parts that are being attacked.

    The more we are all willing to do our inner healing work, the more the collective consciousness of the world becomes more peaceful and loving.

    Thanks for your great post Kathleen.