“There is another world, but it is in this one.” – W.B. Yeats
Alex and his partner, JC. In love and happy
Most of the time, when I think about my son and his husband, their sexual orientation doesn’t come up any more than the sexual orientation of my daughter and her husband when I think of them. Their sexual orientation isn’t their most important quality. Alex and J.C. are funny, smart, kind, courageous, thoughtful, creative and so much more.
I remember that their sexuality is “a thing” when I’m out in the world and run into people who spew their hatred for LGBT folks. Here in Southern California, most people think gay bashing, or political agendas aimed at oppressing people who happen to be LGBT, doesn’t exist – but it does. I’ve heard it among fellow students at the university I attended, in public places and in local political ads. Even if my son wasn’t gay, those experiences would leave me angry, sad and afraid – but my son is gay and these attitudes strike at the center of my heart.
When I read that the governor of Mississippi signed into law a bill that makes it legal to oppress people whose sexual orientation is other than heterosexual (really, the letter of the law makes it possible for a variety of people to find themselves on the receiving end of hate – but that’s a discussion for another day), I felt my throat constrict and the tears gather. My body rebelled at the news with a wave of nausea, my jaw clenched and my mouth went dry. Alex and J.C. live in New Orleans, a city (though not Louisiana as a whole) with a strong LGBT community and with more acceptance than in most of the South, but they often visit Mississippi to see family and friends. The tears kept coming throughout the day, I let all my fear and anger out in my journal and with people I knew would understand.
I got through the day thanks to people who understand that love between people, whoever they are, isn’t a sin. They understand that sex between consenting adults shouldn’t concern anyone else. And that’s the way I get through the rest of the days – remembering people with open and tender hearts exist, that love has a voice, that people and movements stand up everyday with messages of solidarity, reason and love.
Sometimes, something happens in my life that brings me back to believing that “there is another world” other than the one that feeds off hate and fear. A world that’s not a figment of our imagination or a deluded hope – it’s real and it’s now.
The first time I met J.C. I instantly fell in love with him and with his family. His family comes from Nicaragua and during the course of my visit J.C. shared part of his coming out story with me. I know from experience growing up in Argentina that, in general, the Hispanic community rejects and often vilifies LGBT members of their communities and families. When J.C. came out to his family it caused turmoil and some family members turned their backs to him – everyone felt the pain of the rift, J.C. most of all.
The boys and their mamas.
But that’s not the whole story. Eventually, love won. People who’d turned their back on him, including his brother, now accept and love him exactly the way he is. I met many of his family members during a birthday celebration for my son. I felt deeply touched by the way they not only embraced J.C., but also by the love they demonstrated for my son as J.C’s spouse. We talked, we ate great food, we laughed. The love in the house resonated like an underlying heartbeat – like the sound of that other world within this one coming into being.
The suffering in the world can leave us angry, afraid, and so full of sorrow that our senses get dull and we can’t see anything but the suffering. We need desperately to take care of ourselves, to nurture our hope by actively looking for the good and by daily allowing ourselves to do the things that bring us joy. If we don’t, we’ll drown, we’ll shut down and life will become just a series of daily routines without much meaning.
Yet, self-care isn’t just about doing the things that bring us joy or that give us pleasure. The other side of self-care is doing the hard, uncomfortable things like facing the suffering in the world, allowing ourselves to open our hearts to it, and standing up to take action in whatever way feels right for us. Without doing this we run the risk of losing our integrity or falling into the delusion that if we only think “positive” thoughts, and stay away from anything “negative,” everything will work out for the best.
Sometimes I lose my way, navigating both sides of self-care and opening our hearts to those that suffer isn’t easy – but the alternatives will devastate all of us.
Let’s nurture the transition into the new world together.