Spirits, Closets and Community (Oh My)
The closet and I have an intimate relationship.
Eighteen years and umpteen side jobs ago, I was the editor in chief of The Bulletin, the California Central Coast’s LGBT and HIV/AIDS Community magazine. We were centered in Santa Barbara and we outreached to a Tri-County area. But our small town was size blind; we were members of a global community ravaged by a terrible disease, elbowing up on early successful efforts to treat it; we were collective voices rising to be heard, acknowledged, visible, and accepted versus tolerated; we were creatives and advocates and politicos and every day humans who had a closet to choose into or out of every day we met someone new, every resume we submitted. All while doing what we could to support our community through a norm of military expulsions, religious excommunications, family exile, and unacknowledged hate crimes. We knew when to shut up, butch up, femme up, and we also tested when to trust the heart racing, palm sweating moments to open up, and just be.
It wasn’t all challenge and strife. It was pretty glorious. When the dearest of your dear won’t accept you, when a mainstream doesn’t fit you, and when you can find each other in the crowd, you find family in one another. You share stories. Your friends become each others’ friends. You draw strength from one another’s experiences. You laugh your guts out in the relating and come together in the losses. You create and build and commune. And there you find yourself in community. The dearest of your dear. Community came to mean everything to me.
When it came time to leave the magazine, the pinnacle of my experience at the time, I had to choose whether or how to include it in my job history. The short story is I whitewashed my resume because I was afraid of discrimination. I really needed a job, so I passed. I got a job. And then another after that, which of course had nothing to do with the gay community, had little to do with expression, voice, authenticity, community, standing for what you believe and who you are. I withered inside, little by little, bending as I did away from what I loved. Ten years later, gay was all the rage; the media loved gay; closets were echoing for their emptiness, and I had forsaken my community and my voice. Life lesson.
Fast forward. I realize there’s another closet I’m lingering in. It has to do with these powerful spiritual experiences I’m having in the psychic realm, fleeting yet profound. It has to do with my fascination with all things devotional, and with the flame of spirit I’d turned away from long ago because it had been borne of religion and that didn’t suit gay, so I had left. Something in spirituality was calling me back, and I was afraid to admit it. Afraid to write or talk about it publicly or with my family. Until one day, I remembered the love I’d had for my community, and the voice for my community I had forsaken in order to be accepted, and then the rise that community made to the surface of our collective desires, without my help.
I called a coach and asked her to help get me out of my spiritual closet. I had met so many people who were having the same experiences I was. But we weren’t talking about it at work, or with friends. We were accidentally learning these shared beliefs from one another, picking up on coded language, just like we had in the gay community to find each other in the mainstream.
It took several years of effort after that call, and several growth incarnations, to finally say: This is it. This is us. Let’s tell stories. Let’s hear each other. Let’s come together. Let’s create and build and commune. Let’s just be.
Let’s grow together. In loving witness to each other. Ready? Me too. Enter: Soul Growth Radio.