Monday, March 31, 2008

Don't Fence Me In

Wednesday, March 19 ~ Albuquerque, New Mexico

Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above,
Don't fence me in...
~ Cole Porter

My e-mail program pings and I glance at my inbox. It's a message from Samantha, a woman on this new social network I was invited to join:

Always happy to meet new people and eager to find new promotional outlets for my work and my books, I had accepted the invitation after a cursory glance at the web site. Within minutes, I was deluged by welcoming notes.

This morning's note from Samantha, however, stands out. After telling me how intrigued she is by my books, she wonders: "Are you a Christian?"

ShoutLife, you see, is a largely Christian social network, a detail I hadn't noticed when signing on.

I have no problem with that. My books -- and the ways I live my life -- are profoundly spiritual, and there's nothing about either that should offend anyone with a spiritual bent, Christian or otherwise.

But Samantha's question gives me pause, and it takes 24 hours before I know how to reply. In the end, I tell her that I try to avoid attaching labels to myself and that, rather than answer her question with a simple "yes" or "no," I would prefer that she check out my web site and blog and decide for herself whether my words and life resonate with her.

And then I let it go.

A day passes. I'm playing Life with my eight-year-old daughter, who's visiting here for her March break. About 10 minutes into the game, I land on the big red stop sign that tells me to get married.

"Let's see," I say to Guinevere. "I could get a husband or a wife. Which should I get?" She looks at me funny, but doesn't answer.

When I land on the same square again soon after, I ask the question again. This time, in that matter-of-fact tone that only kids have, she asks, "Are you gay?"

"You know," I say after I regain my composure, "it doesn't have to be an either/or sort of thing." I then offer up the eight-year-old gay/straight version of my Christian/non-Christian note to Samantha.

"Anyone can love anyone," I say, "and it's okay. It's okay for a man to fall in love with a woman and for that same man to later fall in love with a man. The other way is fine, too."

Guinevere is more interested in her game of Life than my game of life, so I let the matter drop.

Yet I find it interesting that within 24 hours, two people have tried to categorize and classify my spirituality and my sexuality -- two of the cornerstones of many an awakened life.

Our human minds love to organize things -- and people.

We've all got a built-in version of the Hogwarts Sorting Hat, filing our experiences into recognizable folders that make it easier to know how to respond.

Our Sorting Hat is far more sophisticated than J.K. Rowling's, though, for it must take billions of stimuli and organize them into many more than four categories.

It's a powerful neural mechanism that has been a necessary survival tool throughout human history.

Yet it's a mechanism that now lags behind the demands of the lives we are evolving into. It's as though we're trying to import data into a computer program that was never set up to recognize, let alone organize that data.

It's as though we're trying to "catch a cloud and pin it down," as Oscar Hammerstein wrote of Maria in The Sound of Music, or capture a rainbow in a jar.

We are the Marias of the 21st century, the rainbows whose infinite qualities and potential can no longer be summed up by a single word, can no longer be stuffed into a convenient file folder.

I don't know about you, but I can no longer live within the restriction and constriction of easy labels. I can no longer slot myself into some file folder marked gay or straight, Christian or Jewish, black or white, Republican or Democrat.

For me, it's about being human and about being open to discovering the infinite breadth of all that that could potentially encompass.

As I've written here before (Free to Love, Free to Be), I spent the first 20 years of my adult life describing myself as a gay man.

As I evolved spiritually, though, I began to feel that I could no longer limit myself to what I thought I wanted but, rather, had to open myself up to a more expansive view of myself, my potential and my life.

Within five years of that realization, I was (to my surprise) married to an amazing woman and the was father of a radiant child.

Was I still gay? Not exactly. Was I straight? Not really. Was I bisexual? Not entirely.

Today, three and half years after my marriage ended, the same questions arise.

Am I gay? Not exactly. Am I straight? Not really. Am I bisexual? Not entirely.

On MySpace, my profile is deliberately vague on the orientation question. Yet I have enough gay friends there that I'm inevitably asked the same question my daughter asked me: "Are you gay?"

In a world still defined by rigid categories, I never quite know how to answer. Yes, I'm physically attracted to men. And, yes, I know that that by itself means little. My next intimate relationship could as easily be with a woman as with a man. It doesn't and can't matter.

It's funny. I was a gay activist in the '70s and '80s, fighting hard for the right to be be unashamedly gay in a world that was still pretty iffy about homosexuality.

Today, though no longer fighting, I'm equally passionate -- this time about the right to be unashamedly infinite in a world that would limit me with labels.

Labels, categories and classifications keep us in tight boxes, bind us in rigid straitjackets, prevent us from stepping beyond what, in The MoonQuest, I call The End of the Known World -- that place of magic, miracles, wonder and discovery. That scary place filled with promise. That place where we begin to touch the infinite, the divine, the numinous. That place where everything is possible. That place where we touch the hand of God...and realize the hand we're touching is our own.

Photo: Calling in the Buffalo, Custer State Park, Black Hills of South Dakota (c)2008 Mark David Gerson.


motherwort said...

When my daughter was six she asked me if she would fall in love one day and I told her "I certainly hope so." "What if I fall in love with girl?" she asked. "As long as she loves and cherishes you, treats you well, and you do the same, then that's fine with me." And what if I love a boy?" She's like that, my daughter, needing to push against edges real and imagined to figure out her world. "That would be fine too," I replied, "but the same thing goes. It's the love that's important and the who, the person, and that's a hole lot more than male or female, young or old, color, religion,and all the rest.
She's tested me, my daughter, falling hard for a teacher in junior high, a female teacher. She's endured taunts of lesbian and more, I'm sure. When she's asked me, I've told her maybe she is and maybe she isn't, that she doesn't have to know, that she may never know one way or the other. Maybe for her it is the person and none of the rest matters. I'd like to hope it's the same for all of us, that it's the soul of the person and not the fleshy envelope that surrounds it.
You're right, it is a scary place, much scarier than either or. Hegel and Jung believed that it wasn't the dialectic but the fecund place between, that place of promise and potential, of myth and magic, that is where we should aim and dwell.
Bravo, dear friend, for your bravery and unflinching turn toward your truth. You are such a being of light and I am grateful for the divine touch that brought you into my life.

Mark David Gerson said...

All that gray space between the stark seeming certainties of black and of white is probably the scariest place there is. Alas, it seems to be just as scary long after the teen years have passed as it was during adolescence! Yet, that's the space of greatest reward. Funny how that works!

Mark David

Awakenings! said...

What a touching and wonderful story. I appreciate your honesty. This is so fascinating to me, For today, I still classify myself as a "gay" man, while at the same time I am starting to become more conscious of labels. I am even more conscious, though, of how my thinking and emotions play a huge role in what manifests in my life. So, perhaps, even if I still call myself "gay" it might make a world of difference with what I am thinking and feeling around that word. Does this make sense?

The EVOLUTION of Adam continues...

Thank you for your honesty and for your beautiful writing!


Mark David Gerson said...

Dear Greg,

Thanks for the note. I love your phrase "The Evolution of Adam Continues." We're all (Adams and Eves) in the midst of what I believe to be an unprecedented r-evolutionary surge, one that is carrying us far beyond the labels -- and experiences -- of the past and into something we cannot even begin to imagine.

Recognizing that we are co-creators of this revolution -- through our thoughts, emotions, actions and beliefs -- is critical, even as we follow our individual paths and imperatives on that journey. So, yes, what you write makes perfect sense to me.

And I'm certain, from what I know and sense about you, that you're not only fully engaged, but rocketing forward on a r-evolutionary path that is powerful and empowering, uniquely yours while part of the greater whole

Mark David

Anonymous said...

Mark David:

I am reading "A New Earth" by Eckhart Tolle, and he talks about our ego limiting us. That's human. What is divine in all of us is who we truly are. It is after we become aware (instead of staying unaware) of our ego by standing aside and looking at it that we become part of the Presence. It is then that we can truly begin answering "Who am I?"

And congrats on navigating some strange-and-murky waters called "labelling".


Heather said...

Thank you for the wonderful and open blog. You are truly a ray of light. I completely agree that we should be able to live and love however our heart leads. This is an ever changing journey for those who are open to listening to their inner voice, instead of listening to the masses. Much love, Heather :)

Mark David Gerson said...

Thanks, Heather.

"Ever-changing journey" doesn't even begin to express the half of it. More like a supersonic roller coaster! But it's a wondrous journey nonetheless, the more so when we surrender to it and live from that space of listening to and trusting that still, small voice (which, amazingly, is still loud enough to be heard over the sound 'n screams of the roller coaster!).

Mark David

Rhoda said...


I had to laugh when I reading this particular blog. I had a similar experience a few weeks ago. I work at a store that is owned by a Electic Wiccan. The store has every book that you could imagine on spirituality and healings. The owner is very open to any and all religions and/or beliefs that you may have. Anyway, a new astrologist had just started working there and she asked me "So what kind of witch are you?" All I could think of was Dorothy on "The Wizard of Oz" and almost said "But I'm not a witch at all." I'm the only person in that store who does healings and works with angel cards to do readings. Regardless of what I do everyone has learned to respect me and I them because we didn't judge each other on our beliefs. When I explained to the woman with the question of who I was she then said, "So, you're a solitaire witch." I gave up at this point and said, "Yeah."

Some people need to label because it's just easier for them to comprehend. I do believe that someday everyone will catch up and see that we're not witches, gays, blacks, whites, or any other label that we have created over the years. We're all just "ONE". And a very unique one we are.

Much love and light to you and thanks for sharing your story.


Mark David Gerson said...

Dear Rhoda,

I loved your story. I kept laughing about the "solitaire witch" for the rest of the day! (You realize I'm always going to think of you that way about the inappropriate use of labels!!!)

Mark David

Tessa said...

I do not understand the sensitivity on the subject or why the need to make the statement. You do not have to be labeled just a gay in this world. People can make harsh comments on anything like you are too short! or how about women having to live in a mans world and prove that they are just as capable in whatever they do. You always pick yourself up and realize that they are the ones with the problem and you do not let their problem be yours. I sense a little ego wanting to get sympathy and I am not going to do that. Because our ego seems to feed on rewards and that is not the path to enlightenment.

Tessa said...

Too many people believe that in order to be happy and free, they need greater wealth, position, or approval from others. This mistaken notion keeps you chained to selling yourself and trying in vain to please others. What you really need is to let go of these chains … not to have them gold-plated!

Let it go!