Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Homosexual Experience is a Gift

My friend Richard Matthews recently posted as a Facebook note a reflection he wrote titled "The Homosexual Experience is a Gift." I think it presents a really beautiful perspective on homosexuality, and the queer experience in general.

Written January 2009... shortly after coming out.

I just came from my weekly get-together with The Village where we had possibly the most fascinating discussion about the homosexual experience that I have ever had. We dedicated a good portion of our hour-long interaction to the tremendous similarities between the X-Men and the real-life feelings and experiences that LGBT teens and adults have in being closeted, coming out, and living life as outsiders.

For those of you who don't know very much about the X-Men, they're not your average comic book heroes. The biggest names in the world of comics are Superman, Batman, and Spiderman. These are good 'ol boy superheroes. They're invincible, mysterious, and most of all: loved and adored by the respective cities that they protect. Not so with the mutants of the X-Men. While they do have incredible super powers and abilities, their story is one of struggle, rejection, and ultimately redemption.

Mutants in the world of X-Men are born with a genetic mutation that usually doesn't manifest itself until they begin to come of age as teenagers. When these characters begin to realize that they're “freaks”, there is a cataclysmic internal struggle that erupts within each one of them. Desperate to be normal, they struggle with self-loathing, depression, and often rejection by their families.

The tragic beauty of the story is that each one of them has a unique and amazing gift. At first, these mutant teens are consumed with hate for the abnormality that is part of them, but over time, many of them awaken to the stunning exquisiteness of their individuality. When they begin to find each other, they grow in strength and purpose. As this community of misfits grows and begins to take shape, the normal population reacts with cruel and shocking brutality. Laws are passed against them, they are attacked and beaten on the streets, and lies and misinformation flood the airwaves to spread fear and hate.

I hope that by now you've begun to see some similarities to the struggles that real-life gay adolescents and adults face. Our discussion group, The Village, unanimously agreed that our homosexuality is, in fact, a gift. Let's look beyond the fact that many homosexuals have tremendous talent in art, music, writing, etc. Being gay in and of itself is a gift... a magnificent gift. One of our villagers said it very well when he said that the day he accepted his sexuality, he was overcome with the incredible sense that this was special. That this made him forever distinct from average. But what is the gift? The gift... is that at a very critical and formative time in our lives, we have to look deep within ourselves to accept that we're different... and good. We have to learn... that we are good people. Our straight friends will just give us blank stares if asked, “When did you realize that you were a heterosexual?” “When did you accept that being straight was okay?”

These questions (substitute gay for straight) often evoke tremendous meaning and passion from a gay person. The gift of homosexuality is not only our individuality, but is a mirror to the soul. How many times have you had to look into this mirror and try to figure out who you really are? How many prayers have been choked out through bitter tears while wrestling with the most fundamental questions of our very existence? There is something profound to be said for the personal insight gained through struggle and doubt. I would venture to guess that we look into this mirror often as we continue our lifelong struggle for equality, acceptance, self-acceptance, and peace. It's a gift not exclusive to the gay community, but I would say all gays have it to some degree.

In the X-Men saga, a cure is introduced to rid the world of the scourge of mutants. It is made available to any mutant who wants it. This “cure” introduces a whole new level of personal conflict for the special race of mutants. Each one of them has desperately yearned for normalcy at some point in their lives. Even those who have long accepted themselves are shaken to the core by the prospect and supposed simplicity of being “normal.” Ultimately, some of them take the cure, others do not.

Most of us have been through, or are in, a time of our lives when we would have given ANYTHING to be rid of our gift, to be loved and accepted by default by our families, friends, and by society as a whole. There are people who despise their gift. If a “gay cure” were controversially offered today, would you take it?

There was a long period of my life when I would have gladly given up everything to live the boring poorly-dressed life of a straight man. As a 13 year-old boy, the prospect of living my entire life hiding in the closet or being ridiculed as an openly gay man racked my young body with terror and despair. Fourteen years later... fourteen years of anguish, self introspection and soul-searching, I can confidently say that I would not change if given the chance. Hell no. Scarcity creates value; that's why diamonds are so precious. I do not doubt the wisdom of my creator; each one of us is invaluably precious. We were all raised as heterosexuals in a society that HIGHLY values heterosexuality. Yet here we are. “Ordinary riches can be stolen, real riches cannot. In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you.” - Oscar Wilde