Here’s a look at some profound LGBT gifts to the community in celebration of Pride. Get ready for some very moving stories and inspiring insights for every person who cares about love, liberation and healing. Which would be you.
Episode Table of Contents
- The LGBT Gifts
- The Internal Warfare Between Self-Love and Self-Denial
- The Gender Role Stereotyping
- L.G.B.T.Q – What It Stands For
- The Gender Binary
- Living Between Two Worlds
- Expressivity Versus Instrumentality
Episode Introduction: Pride
Hello, and welcome to the Deeper Dating podcast. I'm Ken Page. And in honor of Pride Month, today I'm going to be talking about what the LGBTQ community offers the world community in terms of lessons about love, freedom and personal growth. Every week, I'll give you access to the greatest insights and practices I know. This will help you find love and keep it flourishing, while healing your life in the process.
Because the skills of dating are nothing more than the skills of love. And the skills of love are the greatest skills of all for a happy life. And you can also find the entire transcript of this episode on deeperdatingpodcast.com. And you can sign up for my mailing list there and get a free gift. Also, if you like what you're learning here, it would be tremendous gift to me if you could subscribe on iTunes and share a review. And thank you so much to everyone who's done that.
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The LGBT Gifts
Different communities have different gifts that they offer the world. LGBTQ people have gifts that I'm going to talk about here that are profoundly, urgently important to the world community at this stage in our evolution. I'm going to talk about what those are. As a gay man, married with kids, who teaches about intimacy mostly to a universal audience, I have a number of thoughts and insights that I feel so strongly about getting to share with the community of my listeners about some of the gifts that the LGBTQ community offers the world at this point.
I'm going to talk about the meaning of coming out. I'm going to talk about creating freedom from gender role rigidity, and I'm going to talk about a new kind of spirituality that embraces our humanity in new ways. All of these are areas that the LGBTQ community has championed in profound ways, and there are others too, but these are the ones I'm going to talk about today.
The Power and Risk of Authenticity
All of us wrestle with this struggle between fear and authenticity. Every moment of our day we have to make a choice about how much we're going to live from the power and risk of our authenticity. Coming out is an act of heroism that everyone is called to, but LGBTQ people are called in a particular way because it's scary as hell and there's so much to lose.
Not doing it eats away at our being and doing it, although scary, gives us a new life, a life unfortunately where we have to give up often many relationships with people who can't accept it. But the bottom line is, the coming out party, you don't have to be gay to join. We all get to live the existential experience of coming out. I'm just honoring the bravery of LGBTQ people in that and talking about that coming out journey now in some very particular ways.
My Dear, Dear Friend, Michael Clemente
But I want to start out with a story about a friend and this story is going to carry through this whole episode. I met him in college. We met, and in one sentence he opened up my world. The way that he opened up my world captures so many of these gifts that I'm talking about.
At the time, I was reading Jack Kerouac's On the Road, which was totally required reading for any post-hippie college student. Michael and I were maybe the only people who had read that book in this particular group of people. I was very excited and I said, "Wasn't it great?" Michael said to me, "I really didn't like it." And I was like, "What? How would you not like "On the Road?" He said to me that he didn't like it because he thought the characters were really unkind to each other.
Now this blew me away. What guy says something like that? It was an invitation to a new world to me. I had been out of the closet since high school, but I didn't even know guys were allowed to talk that way. I had never ever encountered a man so unashamed of his gentleness. Michael wrote a song once called "God Save the Queen."
The Story Behind the Song
He talked about the grief, the pain, and the beauty of being very effeminate. He had a line that was so beautiful. He said that, "so many gay men have a gentle elegance that no one celebrates." Well, his gentleness was amazing to me. It was like a North Star. For the first time in a new way, I could envision dismantling a lifelong wall that I had constructed against myself.
I had done my best to wall that part of me off ever since I was a kid because I just didn't think it was allowed. Guys did not get to do that. That's one of the glorious, glorious gifts that the LGBTQ community brings to the world and has brought the world.
Dr. Evelyn Hooker was a groundbreaking psychologist and researcher. Her work led to the declassification of homosexuality as a mental illness. She would quote the novelist, Finn Carling. She quoted him actually when she won a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Psychological Association.
This was his quote. He said,
"I am not only studying homosexuals but I am studying refugees because they teach me the meaning of movement. I'm studying the blind because they will teach me the meaning of sight, of vision. I am studying homosexuals because they will teach me the meaning of love."
What does that mean? Well, when we are denied love as queer people have been denied the sense of God's blessing, of the world's blessing, of our family's blessing, in the possibility of finding love. When we're denied love, our battle to reclaim it teaches everyone what love is all about.
The Internal Warfare Between Self-Love and Self-Denial
And virtually, every person in the LGBTQ community is forced to make a choice between self-acceptance and self-loathing. Between coming out and not coming out, between truth and safety. Choice is universal. It's bigger than self, than sexual orientation and it's bigger than gender identity.
It's all of our challenge, being the first person to say, "I love you." Standing up for something you believe in when it's unpopular. Saying no to your own guilt and shame so that you can move ahead with what really matters to you.
There are countless ways to come out, and in saying that, I don't want to minimize the people whose coming out experience is actually life and death. The people in Tanzania, in Kenya, and in so many countries where coming out means being stoned to death. Being imprisoned for decades, being imprisoned for life, having your very life and the lives of the people you love put at risk.
This is big stuff. Those folks who are still standing up for LGBTQ rights, the bravery's unimaginable. They're human heroes, as there are heroes in every liberation movement. I also want to acknowledge the micro-coming outs. The moments that bravery is required of us again and again in love and in life.
Love Is the Prerogative of the Brave
Until we take that scary leap of expressing who we are, we don't know how the world's going to receive us. We can be met with derision or worse. We could be wounded, perhaps really terribly. But when we're met with acceptance, even delight, it's like freedom. We feel self validation at the deepest levels. It's as though we're finally given license to meet the world skin to skin. And that is where we glimpse our capacity for greatness., for life changing love. When we're brave enough to say who we are.
And then we change the people around us like Michael changed me that day. As Gandhi said,
"Love is the prerogative of the brave."
Michael remained my dear friend and my mentor until he died of AIDS in 1991. I loved him urgently, I loved him fiercely. When he was diagnosed with AIDS, he began a very intense fight for survival through self healing. He created the most incredible art and his artist statement said that the essence of what he's learned is that even though his truth might scare him, even though his truth might not be something he liked, he would love it because it represented his survival. The very parts of him that he thought he needed to hide in order to survive.
He discovered that his very survival depended on his championing and honoring those parts of himself.
Michael's Coming Out Journey
One thing that coming out meant for Michael was coming out to his parents. He was already living with his partner Edwin, but nobody really talked about it in the family.
He was afraid to do that. He finally decided to do it, it was part of his healing. He was finally going to say the words to his parents. He said he did and he said he felt like he was like standing on the table dancing in a pink tutu. It was mortifying for him, but he did it. They were wonderful. They accepted it fully, they knew.
But after he finished coming out, he wrote this poem, and I'm going to read it to you because it captures the exquisite, magnificent challenge of coming out.
I held on to my secret.
I held on to my secret tightly.
I hid it behind my teeth.
I choked it in my throat.
I crushed it in my chest.
I was dwarfed by it.
Humiliated by it, chased by it.
I stepped over the edge when I revealed my secret, but it didn't hurt.
My other foot simply landed. It was after all, no revelation to me.
The pain I was protecting myself from by carrying my secret was the pain I was inflicting on myself by carrying my secret.
So this coming out journey is a journey of bravery and a journey of claiming love.
Coming Out Is An Act of Bravery
When God, when your parents, when the culture, when your friends all tell you that you will lose love, that you will lose God, that you will lose your community, of course that's so much less true now, but as a 62 year old gay man, I lived that. I remember walking on the beach with a friend of mine who I loved, a really good hearted guy and I kind of tested the waters.
I said to him, his name was Kenny too. I said, "Kenny, did you ever think like what it would be like if you were gay?" I just wanted to hear what this very balanced sweet guy would say. He said, "it would be terrible because I would never have another friend. I would lose all my friends, I'd have nobody." And I just thought, "Oh shit, my future."
Coming out is an act of bravery. When one person is brave, when one person is heroic, they lead the way for others. So, I just want to present this as one piece of the kind of gift of LGBTQ people to the world community.
The Gender Role Stereotyping
So now, we're going to speak about freedom from limiting gender stereotypes and spirituality. Two ways in which the LGBTQ community is in some ways leading the world towards the vision of freedom.
So, all these stuff that we're talking about, yes it's definitely about honoring the rights of LGBTQ people who kind of lived outside the box, of what we're supposed to be or what we have been told we are supposed to be. But what I'm talking about here is a vision that means freedom for everyone.
Even if you're heterosexual and you consider your self naturally and organically feminine if you're a woman or masculine if you're a man, these ideas that I'm going to talk about have the power to change your way of thinking about yourself and the world forever. Because LGBTQ folks have had to rethink this stuff in order to survive and hence we ended up in this arena helping to lead the way to a much free world. It's like what Finn Carling said, "I study homosexuals because they can teach me about love."
Well, homosexuals also have been told that we don't have a right to God and spirituality. The ways in which we've crafted the path towards a more affirming and loving spirituality that embraces us is healing for the entire world.
L.G.B.T.Q – What It Stands For
We've been told that we have to fit in within the gender binary as well. And the ways in which we have to rethink that and find a way toward authenticity that breaks the rules and breaks the cages of the gender binary is visionary for the entire world. So, that all of us can have more freedom in our authentic expression of self.
So hold on to your seat because we have a ride ahead that may shake you up in wonderful ways, and it's a vision of a world where authenticity trumps gender roles for all of us, and what a world that would be.
I'm just going to back up for a minute, and I'm going to say something about this acronym LGBTQ which I've been using freely but haven't really explained.
L is for Lesbian. G is for gay. B is for bisexual. T is transgender, people in the transgender spectrum, wherever that might lie. Q is for queer.
They are people who don't fit the normal cultural roles around sexuality and/or gender identity and expression. But also, that's not just a label, the Q, it's an identity that includes being proud. It is embracing freedom around gender identity, and gender expression, and sexuality, and sexual orientation that has not been allowed in the past. So, it's a term of pride and freedom.
Also, people use I, which is intersex. I'm including that in this whole kind of range, but intersex is for people who are biologically not within the gender binary. They're born with attributes of male and female. I think that's something like a little bit under 1% of the population.
The Gender Binary
Okay, jumping in. Around the issue of gender, the main problem is the gender binary. What's the gender binary?
This is the gender binary – Two sizes fits all. Male or female, you're one or the other.
You behave like a female if you want to do this right or you behave like a male if you want to do this right, depending on your biology.
Sexual stereotyping comes from the gender binary. As a woman, this is how you're supposed to behave. As a man, this is how you're supposed to behave, even if your authentic self is different. There are literally no words, no words, to convey the damage of limiting people based on their gender. I'm talking about the whole spectrum from punishments of death for people who break outside of the gender binary; torture, imprisonment, emotional torture, being ostracized.
All the way to the subtler forms where you see a boy do something and be told, like an example – my son took out a book on fairies. The librarian said to him, "Oh, no, no, no. No, honey You don't want that book. That's not for you," and she pulled it out of his hands and gave him some book about baseball. I don't know what it was. That stuff is little, it's kind of funny, but it's not. It's oppressive. Luckily, he had a dad who said, "You take out that book on fairies. It's totally fine. I'll call the librarian if you like."
There is a whole range, but I want to say that the wealth of pain, and entrapment, and imprisonment that comes from that, I cannot minimize. I cannot minimize the vastness of pain and loss that comes from sexual stereotyping.
Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus
But, I want to say something else, too. As we move away from these old-fashioned ideas about what a man is supposed to be, what a woman is supposed to be, and as we now acknowledge that men have the right to be sensitive, have a right to be vulnerable, have a right to be metrosexual, and that women have the right to be empowered, and fierce, and successful, even as that's done, there is a more subtle version that most of us don't see. And here's what it is. It's attributing qualities to men and women and assuming that they are so universally.
There are these electrical tripwires of gender taboo that we are inculcated to follow and almost none of us, just about all of us have parts that color outside of the lines when it comes to gender and we need to not be afraid to let those parts emerge.
Living Between Two Worlds
John Gottman, a brilliant and very important researcher in the field of marriage, and romantic relationships, and human relationships, he says, he has said that the LGBTQ community is about 200 years ahead of where the heterosexual community is in terms of relationship health in some particular arenas. And one is the freedom of gender fluidity, not being locked into these crippling ideas about what a man is and what a woman is.
The research shows fascinating stuff. It shows that women, that relationships, heterosexual relationships, where one partner is very stereotypically masculine and the other partner's very stereotypically feminine, often have more conflict, less harmony, and less good sex than couples where in there's just more of a sense of fluidity.
There's quite a bit of research showing that the more of that kind of gender fluidity a couple has, the happier they are and the better their sex life is.
Expressivity Versus Instrumentality
And in fact, researchers now are doing this very wise thing when they're studying this material. They don't say masculine and feminine because the minute you say masculine, you mean of the male and of the female, and these attributes don't really work like that. So, they're now saying Expressivity versus Instrumentality.
Instrumentality is the traditional male qualities of empowerment, leadership, getting things done, an intensity of spirit, a sense of directedness, and purpose, and focus.
Expressivity is the quality of sensitivity, emotionality, creativity, receptivity. It's a wiser and more beautiful world if those qualities are not surgically bonded to your biology, but instead become a representation of who you are.
What Happens to Us In The Face of Limiting Gender Roles
Have you ever seen dogs confined in those electric fences? They get a training collar but they don't see a fence. If they go outside the fence area, they get zapped. And if you watch a dog, they think it's total freedom. They'll start going out of that fenced area and they'll get zapped and get freaked out. Comes back in, happens again. Maybe it never happens after that. Maybe it happens once more but then you watch their behavior. They walk around freely inside the fence but they never get too close to that electrified fence. Their movements become circumscribed.
That's what we become like with gender expression. That's where the LGBT community has been so wildly liberating for the community, along with the women's movement. Hand in hand, these two liberation movements have said, "We don't have to follow that," and they've turned off current of this electric fence.
But if you take out that dog and you say, "Come on out!", you put a bowl of food outside of that electric fence, that dog is going to shake and shiver and won't go out for the food and that's what it's like for me. For all of us in this world of gender binary.
When we're told, "Hey baby there's no fences. You can be who ever you want." It's scary, and it's hard to do, and we're trying to lead the way as a world in doing that.
But I want to say this is more nuanced here and I want to say that there is huge toxic sexism in the LGBTQ community also. Like around men saying, you've got to be masculine, no femmes. I don't want femmes in like the dating app.
Self-Acceptance Is the Key to Authenticity
There are tons of toxic patriarchy and gender role rigidity in the LGBTQ community as well.
I don't want to pretend that it's not there. All of us are wrestling with the crippling implications of the gender binary.
This is really simple in a certain way. The task is to embrace the parts of us that are authentically us. Where they fit the gender stereo type, great. We'll have it easy. They're real and they're you. But we need to learn to see where they don't and we need to learn to occupy those parts of ourselves. That's emotional liberation, and it's fun, and it's freeing beyond words.
And here's the last thing I want to say about this, as we all, as the human community begins to cross those electric wires and say with pride, "Oh, God. This part of me seemed too feminine. I was kind of mortified by it, or afraid to express it in bed or to the world, or in the board room or anywhere, but it's me and I'm going to.”
Something Nuclear Happens Outside the Fence
As we begin to find those parts of ourselves that are outside the electric fence that we've been afraid to embody and we embody them, something nuclear happens because those are the secret parts of us.
And when we embrace them, we become a full self.
The toothpaste is out of the tube. It's not going to go back in. But it's not fully out either. And part of this is only going to happen in time because our concept like the level of vulnerability that a man have but still be sexy is hugely improved and hugely expanded over what it was.
The same with women for qualities of instruments mentality. But we still have a long way to go. And as we do, our sexual and romantic tastes will change. We'll be less repulsed, less frightened by people who play more freely in the gender spectrum and move away from the concept of like a switch that's either A or B to an entire console of possibilities. As we do that, we will develop a taste for that.
Michael’s Final Moments
So, I want to share one more story here. One last story and it's about my friend, Michael.
Michael started getting really sick. I knew that he was going to die within the next few months, and I found that I was not able to cry and I love Michael so much. It kind of horrified me to feel how blocked I was.
I went to a therapist named Harold Kooden. I said, "Michael’s going to die, and I've got a wall. I'm not able to grieve. Something is shut down inside of me." And we did a lot of work together and toward the end of the session, he asked, "Is there some part of you that feels where the tears lie?" And I said, "Yeah, I guess so. I can't really access it that well, but it's there." He said, "What's an image of that to you?"
So I went inside and I found the image. The image surprised me and concerned me a little. It was a woman. A very full figured kind of fertility goddess type of woman who was kind of sensual, unrolling, and very earth mother kind of place. This was me.
Breaking the Gender Taboo
That made me a little nervous because gender binary breaking free is hard for me too. But, I told him, "There's a woman who's kind of undulating, moving, and kind of deep earth mother, big hips, and that's that me that can hold the grief." He said, "Can you allow yourself to be her?" I said, I'm going to try and I did. The floodgate opened up, and I was finally able to cry. And I cried and I cried and it was because I broke through the gender taboo.
I went to the other side and I found a me that was so empowered and so precious and saved my life and allowed me to be able to be all of me for the rest of the time while I had Michael and after Michael passed.
That's one example of the nuclear power and I want to say this to everybody.
There is such liberation when you do this and that's the path to freedom I envision. And the LGBTQ community is presenting a picture of a world where all of us get to play wherever in the spectrum we are at a given moment and know that that's okay.
My Spiritual Journey as a Pride
Okay now, the last but not the least I want to talk about is spirituality.
Because for me, well, I've always been a deeply spiritual person. My relationship with the higher power, with God is always been important and it's been a trauma for me for years and years and years that somewhere inside I really believed that God did not love me as much. That my relationship with God had to somehow be infused with a kind of shame.
There’s someone I know who is a devout Christian. But when he and his husband had sex, he turns the picture of Christ in the bedroom backwards because he just felt such shame. And like Finn Carling said,
Our queer journey to our LGBTQ journey is to find a way past those boundaries, those walls. It is a journey that can illuminate the path to an affirming, loving God for the entire world.
So I just want to start saying a few things about that. Christian de la Huerta, a friend and a wonderful visionary teacher, wrote a book called Coming Out Spiritually. That book had a section in it which was a kind of cross-cultural study of indigenous cultures and their relationship to people who were outside gender norms and who were gay.
It's amazing and what he discovered was that in the vast majority of these cultures that he speaks about, it was almost always the are two-spirit people. The gay people, the people who lived in both the masculine and feminine world. The "Berdaches" – Whatever words were used. That mostly in many many cultures, the people who are the shamans, the priests, and the priestesses were the people who are outside of the gender norms.
The Definition of Sacred
A teacher of mine years ago explained this to me, a Native American teacher, and I wasn't connecting it to the LGBT community at that time. But he said that in many Native American traditions, the definition of sacred is a being that can have each foot in a different world.
That is why there was a quality of sacredness that was considered to be part of the berdaches, the two-spirited people. And it's fascinating. Everybody should know this, that in so many indigenous cultures, the shamans, the spiritual teachers, the priestesses, the priests were LGBTQ.
There's a wonderful book. It's called The Zuni Man-Woman. It's about a leader whose name was We'wha. This was in the 1800s. She or he was a revered two-spirit person in the Zuni community, dressed as a woman, master potter, master weaver, and a great, great spirit.
The Zuni community in the 1800s sent We'wha to Washington because they said if someone is capable of bridging both the masculine and the feminine with such grace and such wisdom, maybe they'll be able to help us make sense of the white Washington world and help the white Washington world make sense of us. There are these pictures of We'wha teaching cooking to the president and becoming part of the elite of the Washington community.
That's kind of a capturing of this way that I guess also articulates why so many priests, why so many artists, why so many people in the arts, why so many teachers are LGBTQ.
Taking a Chance on God
It's a mystery. I don't want to put any labels on that, but I just want to say that there's fascinating understandings that can be done here. A spiritual teacher of mine whose name was John McNeill, wonderful documentary done about him called Taking a Chance on God. One of his books, Sex as God Intended, I wrote the forward to.
John was an absolute visionary because he was able to separate this fierce and powerful shame around being gay from his love of God, and he presented a path where we all could do that.
He had the most wonderful prayer. He said, "Dear God, we " I may not get this exactly right, but it's essentially, "we, LGBTQ people are special children of yours. Bless us with such a profound experience of your love that healed of our wounds we become free to play our lives in your presence." I love that. I love that, and it's for all of us. It's for all of us.
Trauma and Abuse
I want to sidestep a little now, and I want to talk a bit about trauma and abuse. A way to understand abuse is that what abuse does is it surgically bonds the most precious parts of ourselves to pain and shame. This has been done to LGBTQ people in a few different ways around their sex life, around their ability to love romantically, and around their relationship to God, and also around the relationship to the potential of parenting and the world community.
When anyone works through abuse and comes forward as a full self, they're heroes to the world. For all of us as LGBTQ people, part of our presence in the world journey is that our journey to heal the ways that our sexuality, our love, and our spirituality becomes surgically bonded to shame and pain, and our ability to unwire from that and come forward as who we authentically are is a story of liberation for the world.
This community, like every community of liberation, like every oppressed community, in some beautiful ways has the opportunity to lead the way in the world. I'm hoping that some of the stories that I share, some of the visions of a kind of liberated world ring true for you, give you a sense of hope and a sense of possibility.
An Electric Shock of Trauma
I'm going to close with one last story. I have been to and have led countless LGBTQ spiritual retreats. In one of those, a man got up and told a story I will never forget. He was a young man who fell in love with a boy. This was a long long time ago, it was down south. It was rough. And he fell in love with this boy. It was a beautiful relationship. Somehow in the face of all of these fear, all of these prejudice, this exquisite, magnificent love was born between these two guys.
They loved each other, they were kind together. They were good together. They adored each other. Obviously, that's not going to be able to last so easily.
So, one Sunday, he went to church and the priest decided to give a speech. This was right after he had had sex with this person and that was beautiful and exciting and wonderful. And like the next day or few days later, he went to church and the priest decided that he was going to talk about everlasting hell.
He talked about how if you have gay sex, you will be condemned to burn in hell for eternity. This was like an electric shock of trauma to this man, and not because he thought of himself burning in hell for eternity, because he thought, "I just condemned this person I love so dearly to being burning in hell for eternity."
Overcoming the Trauma
This was such electrifying trauma that he could not love or have sex for decades after that. What beautiful love that is the thing that caused him such pain was that he did this to this person he loved who he never spoke to again and never saw again because he did not want to contaminate him.
Decades later, this man gets up and tells a story of his own healing, of his own finally unwiring from that hell, and his own ability to begin to come into his sexuality at a much older, much older age and be able to find a god that loved him and cherished him. That journey, that terrible and beautiful journey, is a journey of embodying our own hearts.
The Final Message
That's a human journey. That is an example of the beautiful journey that LGBTQ people have had to go through in order to claim their right to have loving lives in the world, and all of us can benefit from these lessons.
These are challenges and invitations to all of us to create a world without these kinds of violence that are done to our spirits, through limited spiritual beliefs, through limited gender role beliefs, through limited beliefs about love.
I hope I'm presenting a picture of hope and vision, and I hope that I'm somehow able to thank all the LGBTQ people in the world who have stood up for that vision, even in the face of the most terrible and unimaginable punishments.
Thank you all for sticking with me. I'll see you next week on the Deeper Dating podcast. If you liked this podcast, please subscribe on iTunes and leave me a review. Thank you so much for being a part of this.