Sunday, June 24, 2007


Ruminating about gay pride and being queer, I wondered how I could express and encompass that part of me. I don't often think of myself as queer, but I am. The bit of graffiti that sparked that thought direct from the heart those years ago, "Bisexual - equal opportunity lover."

When I opened my heart to that possibility, I opened my heart to permission to love. I didn't know it yet, but that is what it became.

Sometimes people will get hung up on labels. They don't want to pin themselves down with a label. Maybe they've found themselves trapped by a label in the past. Some work so hard to define polyamory as opposed to swinging. I've not had a problem with recognizing it as a means of pinning down a temporary me, but more importantly, being able to Name a piece of me has allowed me to blossom into that concept. So often these things started as a simple barely-developed notion for me. A joke: equal opportunity lover. A possibility: an open relationship. My meditation practice began with the notion it could help me get closer to the Eastern mind while I studied ancient Chinese is now a lifelong path.

Buddhist philosopher wonders over at American Buddhist Perspective, "What exactly does Buddhism teach about "who we are?" Is it to abandon such labels and live purely in the moment? Perhaps is is more to recognize the contingency of all labels, to use them but not be trapped by them?"

I would say Buddhist practice taught me that I have labels whether I like it or not, and the practice uncovers them. Chances are that uncovering will loosen the binding knots of those unconscious labels, but it will also allow those identities to blossom to their fuller potential. It gave me permission to become me.

That permission can be tricky. I looked to my Zen teacher for permission. At some point, that may be needed, but I think that is not what he wanted for me. I have looked to my teacher for guidance in understanding the Right Way. I have trusted that our understanding of authenticity would be alike. I have learned perhaps it is not so, and that is ok.

Many people scoff when I mention my respect for Rosie O'Donnell. (For the real scoop about her, go to her website...the news shows get it all wrong.) I don't think she's all that great an actress, she can't sing, she's a decent comedian...all of these things she would admit herself. What I respect and admire is her effort to remain authentic in the warping lights of celebrity. Virginia Heffernan of the NY Times says, "the Rosie-unplugged thing works. In what might be a first for a television star, she’s really not faking anything anymore. She’s just the music-loving, Bush-hating, depression-suffering, overweight Ro that people love and hate." Rosie responds to a fan who thinks the article mean, "i loved the article/ she gets it". Rosie's just trying to be authentic, with us and with herself.

Sometimes she comes up with simple gems of wisdom. A fan writes, "hi rosie! i have been married for 5 yrs and have 3 kids. i find myself atracted to 1 of the women who works for me. does tht make me gay? u’ve said u find men atractive it doesnt make u straight right?" Rosie's response, "IT MAKES US ALL HUMAN"

And that brings me back around to labels. It's ok to identify as gay or straight, and at the same time recognize that the love, or the connection, or the pull towards another, that is all part of being human and we won't always fit in that box. In fact, why try to fit in that box? Why not delight in it? Why not appreciate that attraction, enjoy it, like Rosie enjoys "her Tommy?" Recognizing an identity is useful when it expands self-understanding. When it feeds a fear, I don't find it so useful. I see that fear sometimes in the endless shaping of the words "polyamorous," "swinging," "polyfidelity," "open relationship." What may begin as an opening could develop into a confining. The avoidance of labels could be a freedom, or it could be a wall against pieces of the self. I share with Rosie a willingness to show my imperfect self. It is that same willingness that lets perfect love in.

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