Whereas coming out is about speaking up, self-identifying and becoming visible as an apparently separate lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered human being, waking up is very different. It is about seeing that the labels lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered are not who we are at all. It’s about seeing that these are useful social constructions that help us in the fight for equality and in the quest to be somebody – anybody – instead of people who are unseen, unheard, and discriminated against. But that’s all they are, constructions of thoughts – not inherent, objective identities.
Waking up is the experience of seeing, moment by moment, that no thought is what you are, no matter what that thought is, and no matter how useful a thought-based identity is in the social and political realms of life. We are not inherently closet cases nor are we inherently out and proud queers. We are not inherently gay nor are we inherently straight or bi. These words don’t point to anything fixed and solid in our experience. Love and sexuality is a fluid, seamless stream of movement that cannot be pinned down into neatly-packaged word boxes.
Waking up out of identity isn’t just for members of the LGBT community. It’s for anyone who becomes open to seeing that the boundary lines of identity are the potential battle lines of opposition and war, anyone who is open to seeing there are no inherent divisions in life anywhere. Our stories are false, no matter how we shape them, no matter how many different ways we change them, and no matter how proud or embarrassed we are when we tell them. This story-telling would be nothing but a sweet and innocent dream if it did not cause so much suffering, division, intolerance, pride, discrimination, bloodshed and war across, among and between all cultures, countries, socioeconomic backgrounds, races, sexual orientations, religions and genders. If the play were merely seen as a play, surely it would be different.
All of life – not just sexuality and gender – is a fluid flow of movement and change, too mysterious and impermanent to be filed away and solidified into rigid categories of thought. Life is a verb, not a set of nouns. Only thoughts tell us that there are fixed, permanent, objective people and things. And so we are not inherently democrats or nor inherently republicans. There aren’t any actual bigots. We are not REALLY Russian, American, Muslim, or Christian. This is a play of mirrors only. To pretend that these identities exist inherently is to forget, over and over everyday, that we created them through thinking in the first place. We are born kicking, screaming and drooling into the bare naked seeing that life is a complete mystery. Only later do we become coddled, comforted and lulled into a strange dream that somehow we are these little things that arise and fall called thoughts and emotions.
In his article, A Spirituality that Transforms, Ken Wilber makes a distinction between translation and transformation that is appropriate here. Coming out is translation. It’s the process of making sense of the self, finding the right label for it, one that fits like a glove. Am I gay? If so, am I a gay activist or is the label “gay” just the best way to meet the right guy on an Internet dating site? Am I a Christian who believes being gay is immoral, a heterosexual Christian who supports gay rights, or a bi-curious atheist who thinks those other labels are silly? Finding the right label attempts to bring order to chaos and to tame the vast, fluid, and wild sea of human sexual behavior, thoughts, emotions, and values into a watertight conceptual box.
Waking up is transformation. Instead of coddling the sense of self with the right label, the self becomes toast. Its boundaries are obliterated. Its wound of contraction is released. Life is easier, lighter, and free of the seriousness of the seemingly stubborn belief that thoughts can actually divide reality into a self and other, an us and them. For all people, including those of us who have identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered, the invitation in waking up is an opportunity to go deeper than merely picking a label and living one’s life within that conceptual box.
Whereas coming out is a first step towards maturity, integrity and honesty, waking is a giant leap back into the unknown mystery, which is always the present moment as it is, free of our stories of separation. It’s about seeing that the notion of an inherent self created by thought is too restrictive to truly foster the deepest love and acceptance possible on earth and then beginning to stretch out beyond these restrictions into a richer, more non-referential love that sees no boundaries.
Waking up naturally brings a non-oppositional approach to gay rights issues, where you are no longer fighting against someone else but rather seeing that there is no inherent self and other and then working from within that realization to bring about equality and acceptance for all, even your perceived enemies. It’s about seeing that what you call an “other,” including the bigoted other, is a projection of your own inner sense of deficiency, which never fully releases itself by merely coming out to a host of friends, family members and strangers. It’s about seeing that the deepest acceptance never comes by defining yourself as LGBT or by trying to change the mind of a bigot or getting loved ones to accept your identity, but rather by seeing through your own mind’s game of separation and then never having to seek outside yourself again for acceptance. Waking up is also about seeing that the bigot who hates you is merely projecting all sorts of inner angst and fear onto you. You are a creation of his thoughts and vice versa.
Waking up is about sitting with every single emotional wound that seems to be caused by the other, until it releases, revealing that no one is the source of our pain. Our pain comes from what we believe. Waking up holds the clarity of seeing through separation as more significant than merely re-entrenching ourselves over and over behind the various boundary lines of false identities. Waking up isn’t about negating one’s sexual orientation, gender or anything else, for that would be an act of violence itself. It’s about truly celebrating this diverse play of appearances in a different, non-objectively, non-separate way. It’s about seeing the dream for what it is and playing within the dream, honoring our sexual attractions, our relationships and even the words we used to describe ourselves, knowing that these words are merely useful conventional designations, not real identities.
Please know that this is just my own experience with waking up. Yours may be different. Share your own experience below.
Share your Transformation
Share the details of how spirituality changed the way you view your identity and your outlook on the personal, social, legal and/or political issues relevant to the LGBT community for possible publication on this site.