Two days of note this week have raised my impatience for the future. Last night, the Director of the Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture and Lifeways spoke at our Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Midland about the seven teachings of the Anishinabe (which greatly resemble our seven principles) and on the significance of reframing Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples Day. The event was a spiritual experience and gave me great hope for the day when humanity will choose the path of compassion over destruction. And today is National Coming Out Day, which promotes a safe world for LGBT individuals to live truthfully and openly.
I welcome both of these celebrations. I welcome the opportunity to recognize a gradual shift away from unbridled colonialism, from hatred based on our differences, and from inequality. I welcome the chance to acknowledge that much work remains to be done and to advocate for a fair and just world.
My frustration lies in our retention of labels at all. Gandhi is widely attributed to have responded to the question of whether he was Hindu by saying, “Yes I am. I am also a Christian, a Muslim, a Buddhist and a Jew.” I have always admired this quote and have seen it as a path toward an eventual reconciliation of our human differences.
Now, I am not so sure. The Anishinabe believe that there are four races of humankind – white, black, red and yellow – and that all must exist in order for balance to be retained. All must learn from each other and understand the cultures of the other. But, as long as these differences exist, our natural human tendency will be to elevate our race, our culture, or our religion of birth over others – to always hold our birth identities as just slightly “better” or more important than others.
So while I completely support my LGBT brothers and sisters today as they continue their struggle for equal rights and a world without value judgments, I wonder when we will start moving away from our labels. Because, in the end, every person on this planet eventually goes back to a single source. And from that source arises all of our unique attributes. From that one source arises white and black, male and female, gay and straight. When I say that I am a white, straight male, I deny my human genetic heritage that includes being black, gay, and female.
So, on this Coming Out Day, I am coming out. I am coming out as human. I am not only gay or straight. I am not only male or female. I am not only white, black, red, or yellow. I am not only Muslim, Jew, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, or Unitarian Universalist.
Because in the end, I don’t find my joy in life as any of those labels. I find my joy in life as a human being seeking to find relationship with all sentient creatures and with the universe and with all of existence. I love you whether you are a man or a woman. I love you whether you follow the teachings of Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, or Buddha, I don’t care about your appearance, ability, or age. I love you.
It is true that I enjoy enormous privilege at this moment in time that perhaps enables me to come out more easily than those who do not have the same rights and opportunities as I do. And I do not want anyone to think I am making light of the hard decision to publicly own any individual identity. So I will work to be a good ally to all people of all identities until the day comes when we can all rise above all of our identities. I will work to create a world where everyone feels free to come out, as a human.