Tag Archives: fear

An Open Letter to my Gay Friends

Heteros please read, too. ūüôā

This has been a long time coming, but I’m finally ready.

As much as you know I resist labels, I have noticed something about you, my gay, lesbian and transgendered friends. With no exceptions I can think of right now, you have a unique boldness that I love and need in my life. When I witness it, I want to be more honest with myself, take risks that matter, and not waste a moment of my love and life.

Maybe boldness isn’t the right word. Because in some cases, society has not given you a choice. But whether you’ve felt strong or not, you’ve decided to survive and thrive and to me that looks like courage.

Here’s the thing: I love people who know their uniqueness, who have come to trust it and live that uniqueness fully. I consistently experience this with you.

You have taught me about an artist’s freedom. Just write it down, sing it your own way, paint it passionate.¬†Art is supposed to stretch us, and true humans are intended to feel it all.¬†You know yourselves the way only those who have come to an edge can.

Many straight people have never been confronted with the question of how our true, free selves look. Lots of us haven’t done the work you have.

You have stories of brave risk. One friend told me in his pre-out life he held intense feelings of protection for his family– how could he trouble his family with who he really was? How could he cause pain to his friends by coming out? And he held this for years.

By pure chance, in many regards I am a person of privilege in my particular societyРcaucasian, male, straight, able-bodied, middle-class, middle-aged; I may never feel the weight of risk that you have. I may never have to place my physical safety, my job, my sense of livelihood and reputation on the line for merely being who I am.

You have. I know you have.

And though we all have unique and powerful things in our identity that ask to be noticed– top of the list for me has been the stigma of divorce, mental illness, and an artist’s lifestyle– sexual orientation is, at the moment, the hottest button I can think of.

As a result of coming out, it seems to me you are attuned to integrity. Similar to my friends in recovery, you have a strong B.S. Meter for both yourself and others. Many straight people are at a disadvantage here; some of us have not yet grown to be honest with ourselves. We rarely consider what is at stake in living honestly and fully because we just haven’t had occasion.

As you know, I am all about “world-making” when I teach about music and liturgy– that what we enact as a community is what we create for the whole world. I am so happy that Sam was baptized in a church where families of all combinations were present, that his earliest years were surrounded by both gay and straight couples, differently-abled bodies, folks from all ages and social status sharing pews with their arms around each other. This is the world we wanted our fresh, new baby to know is real and good.

Trish and I figured this out last year: at ten years old, Sam has been to more same-gender weddings than straight ones.

That’s just to say the world Trish and I offer the next generation is one where you are among the most brilliant loves. ¬†Not¬†in spite¬†of your sexuality, because of. We believe one of our greatest purposes as parents is to seed the world with someone who honors the beauty of you and all who live out their uniqueness. This ten-year-old does not see you as a¬†them. And he will tell his friends.

Whatever a person’s story,¬†those who live out their uniqueness are Christ emerging in the world.

So where can straight people sign up to be gay for a day?

Or have a mental illness? Or be in recovery from addiction? To, in whatever way required, come to the edge of themselves? Because whenever and however you do that, you come alive, and as Howard Thurman said, above all the world needs people that are alive. The alternative is unspeakably tragic for all.

What if all people had the occasion to cultivate a deep, centered clarity about who we are?¬†To not waste time hiding, padding what’s true, or waiting for others to get comfortable with the truth before it’s revealed?

We’d understand something stupidly simple– that we all have brave stories, breakthrough seasons, and have hearts that function best open wide.

Do you know what a gift that is to the world? Especially right now?

God. Thank you.

It’s ridiculous that so many do not recognize you as the Christ among us, the Buddha awakening.¬†[Deep breath.] At the risk of opening a can here at the closing, I’m sorry the world is so damn slow. I’m ashamed that the church has fought against you. I’m exasperated at the fear some still feel when they see you.

Weary heros of humanity, thank you for choosing to survive and thrive.

Thank you.
Thank you.

I am thinking especially of you today, and celebrating you:

H & J
M
M & M
J
B & S
D & R
H & J
M & S
M &
B
C & S
C
R
C & M
E & partner
M
R
C
S
BB
K & K
A with D 


Dear Body

Dear Physical body,

It’s not that dislike you, it’s just that I don’t care to think about you very much.

Which is odd because one would think you’d be one of the most Undeniably Real and Present Things in my life. I can see you, touch you, hear you and (thank you very much) smell you. You are my closest partner in life. I have a voice and a face and a presence on Earth because of you.

God, thank you.

In most ways I Am you, and yet most of the time I feel behind you. Or alongside you. And pretty different from you. Is that why I don’t like to think about you very much? Do I think we’re at odds? Do I owe you money? Is there something we need to talk about?

Why is it I so often neglect to even think about what you’re like, what you want, or that you even exist? Am I fantasizing about the possibility of a disembodied life, like an angel with amnesia? My friends who subscribe to reincarnation say we’ve all had dozens of lifetimes with all kinds of bodies. Have I gotten snagged somewhere?

If I think about it, most of my adult life I have been taught conflicting beliefs about you. I’ve heard it’s bad to be self-centered, so in some seasons I’ve tried to ignore you, your desires, your drives and appetites. I feel sorry about that and what we’ve missed out on together. I’ve also heard that a body is one of our only assets in this life, so in other seasons, you’ve been in my thoughts with deadly serious disciplines of eating and exercise. Those days I’ve had “should” notes on the fridge, lists on my dresser, and guilt in my gut.

Thinking back through 44 years as a man, though, I’m not sure if you have cared much either way how I’ve thought about you. I think you’ve only wanted me to enjoy my life and to be kind.

You know I like to think of myself as a fairly enlightened person. It’s humbling to be confronted with blind spots. As strange as it seems to me that I’ve either thought way too much about you or deny you completely– kind of like insurance– it Does makes sense for only one reason I can think of:

I think I’m a little afraid of you.

Shut the front door. Is that possible? What’s that about?

Maybe you seem so powerful sometimes that I am scared of embracing you fully. Or rejecting you fully, for that matter. [Deep breath] What would happen if I gave myself to you all the way? What would it look like for me to be All In for this lifetime. With This body. Just as it is now, and as it will change. (That’s a question.)

There’s something here that’s important. Maybe you have a word for me about this. I will be listening.

To close, I thank you for 44 years of faithfulness in this marriage of mind+body+spirit+whatever. I am grateful for you being with me through so many years and seasons. You are my most wise teacher and partner in this life. [A deep bow.] Thank you for all you’ve led me into and followed me into.

Loving you,
Richard

  • Thanks to Kristin Noelle’s invitation to this practice via¬†Trust Tending.
  • Listen to Trish’s song, Bodies.