The Self-Realization Community Welcomes LGBTQ People to Use its Bathroom!
The passage of the recent law in North Carolina declaring that people have to use the bathroom that matches the gender on their birth certificate raises the question of LGBTQ spiritualities and how they relate to the spirituality of Self-Realization.
The larger questions, of course, include:
- how does our gender relate to Self-Realization;
- how does our sexuality relate to Self-Realization;
- and how does our expression of our gender and sexuality relate to Self-Realization?
Ultimately, self-awareness and self-acceptance are necessary in order to achieve self-actualization (a psychological sense of wholeness), which in turn is necessary for Self-Realization (ultimate spiritual wholeness). We can only arrive at complete self-awareness and self-acceptance if we include awareness of and responsibility for our own sexuality, as well as acceptance of our gender, including in relation to our sense of spiritual purpose in life.
Perhaps one of the great blessings of my life is that I have experienced plenty of motivation and opportunity to reflect on issues of gender, sexuality, and spirituality. At Vanderbilt University Divinity School, I experienced academic discussions of both sexist and homophobic Biblical texts as part of the patriarchal culture of Biblical times. Vanderbilt Divinity School discussions also included gender identity and homosexuality as important issues of justice and human dignity, where prophetic Biblical texts espousing the radical inclusiveness of both the gospel and of God’s call for justice were prioritized over texts reflecting discriminatory views of patriarchy.
As a young widow, single mother, and female minister serving traditional churches for over 15 years, I experienced ample personal and professional reasons to reflect on issues of sexuality, gender, discriminatory practices of patriarchal religion, and spirituality. Since I committed myself to the path of Self-Realization in 2010, I have experienced further motivations and opportunities to reflect on and to ask for higher guidance on the issues of sexuality and spirituality, especially from the perspective of Self-Realization, or, as I like to express it, union with the Divine Mother/Father through Unconditional Love. From the perspective of Self-Realization, God is beyond gender; the Divine is Being Itself.
Most helpful to me, however, has been becoming acquainted with people who identify as gay, lesbian, queer, or transgender as friends, as members of the Self-Realization Community, and as clients with whom I have the privilege to work. Working with clients from the LGBTQ community has enabled me increasingly to understand the interior experiences of being different from the majority of humans in a gender-based or sexual-orientation-based way. I have learned from people’s personal experiences of both how painful that can be, and also how liberating it can be to claim the truth of one’s own identity.
My use of the phrase “difference from the majority of humans” does not imply superiority or inferiority, just difference. This difference of being human with a sense of self, gender, and/or sexuality that does not conform to social or religious expectations of gender and sexual expression represents an actual gift to humanity, because it contributes to all of us increasing our understanding of what it means to be human, especially on the path of Self-Realization.
On the path of Self-Realization, for instance, we understand that individuals reincarnate many times, and are able to choose the bodies into which we incarnate. First and foremost then, being gay, lesbian, or transgender may often arise in cases in which an individual had a recent incarnation in the opposite-gender body, and felt more comfortable in that body, or in that sense of gender identity, or that experience of sexuality.
When reincarnating into this lifetime as gay, lesbian, or transgender, the reasons may be many. Most importantly, there is no one else who gets to judge or decide why a soul might choose their unique expression of gender or sexuality in this lifetime, and that includes straight men and women as well as lesbian, gay, or transgender individuals.
Possible spiritual reasons for why souls might choose to reincarnate as gay, lesbian, transgender, or bi-sexual may include:
- Preference for the sexual experiences and expressions from a previous lifetime;
- Preferences for either feminine or masculine energies and expressions of self;
- A choice to find within oneself a balance of feminine and masculine energies;
- A choice to give other human beings the opportunity to realize that gender identity and sexual orientation are about more than just human expressions of self and include expressions of a greater Sacredness in all life;
- A willingness to undergo discrimination in order to explore and discover a truer sense of Self more quickly than might be possible through living a potentially less-self-reflective life as a straight man or woman.
I trust there may be many more reasons as to why a soul may choose to come into a body with a different sense of gender or sense of sexual orientation other than straightly heterosexual. I also understand that this choice may be related to or completely independent of a person’s soul’s purpose in this lifetime.
The point here is that LGBTQ individuals offer all of us the gift of self-reflection on issues of gender, sexuality, and the expression of divinity in human form.
One of the greatest gifts of LGBTQ presence within spiritual communities is inviting gender equity along with a balance of cherishing both masculine and feminine characteristics as sacred. This gift has been particularly lacking in the last 5,000 years as the world’s most dominant religions have been patriarchal in their primary forms of expression.
As a result of patriarchy largely claiming religious hegemony on “truth” within Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, sexuality in general has become taboo, shameful, blamed on women, relegated to merely a role in childbirth, as well as the source of much guilt, shame, and blame worldwide. Worse yet, the patriarchal domination of religion has resulted in the oppression of women and girls, endemic patterns of sexual assault including rape and incest, as well as spiritual, emotional, and economic disempowerment of women. And now, this same patriarchy blames, shames, denies, and even kills gays, lesbians, and transgender individuals. And keeps them out of bathrooms!
The 21st Century represents an opportune time to discover what gender identity and sexuality have to do with our spirituality in a much healthier and universally life-affirming sense. Through incorporation of the Sacred Feminine, for instance, we can reclaim the beauty of spiritual expression through loving, mutual sexuality. Spirituality in a post-modern era can also liberate us from shame, blame, and guilt, in order to free the individual self-expression of the Divine within us all.
From the perspective of Self-Realization, our human identity, including our identification as sexual beings and gendered beings, entails learning to accomplish two primary tasks on the spiritual path, indeed, the two ancient truths of spiritual growth:
- Know thyself; and
- To thine own self be true.
Being LGBTQ in a predominantly straight culture often means working harder to know oneself and to be true to one’s self. And yet this is the jeweled process that leads to Self-Realization, at least one level of Self-Realization.
Without being fully in touch with one’s self, including one’s sexuality, without shame, blame, or judgment, one cannot become whole and healed of all emotional and spiritual wounding. Becoming whole through self-knowledge and self-acceptance is a necessary step on the path of Self-Realization.
Acceptance of a person’s identity as gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender, or queer then becomes necessary as a way of becoming Self-Realized, both for the person, as well as for straight people. Blame, shame, and judgment have nothing to do with Self-Realization; in fact, blaming, shaming, and judging as well as feeling blamed, shamed, and judged all block the possibility of Self-Realization, because the Divine does not blame, shame, or judge. If the Divine can be said to judge at all on the path of yoga, or union with the Divine, it is only through increasing our own self-awareness of not being completely united with or in sync with the pure vibrations and consciousness of unconditional love, peace, truth, and bliss.
If we dare to use the word God in this context, let us use the word God to describe the God of 1st John who is Love, as in: “God is love …. those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.”*
God is Love. Period.
Love can be expressed by all humans, but only without judgment. We can only “abide in” Divine love IF we love unconditionally, without blame, shame, or judgment.
For those of us who are straight, then, becoming friends with and empathetically understanding the interior experiences of gays and lesbians provides us opportunities to seek inside ourselves for our own sense of shame, blame, guilt, judgment, or other wounding related to our own sexuality and gender identity. For those of us who are straight, the only way to become Self-Realized ourselves is to honor the Divine in others equally as we honor the Divine Mother/Father within ourselves.
Honoring the Divine within ourselves brings us to our concluding remark: If we truly honor God as Divine Mother and Divine Father within ourselves and indeed as One with us all (a primary tenet of Self-Realization), then we will honor the Presence of the Divine Mother/Father within everyone. Gender and sexuality empower us to honor the Divine Mother/Father within everyone in a balanced and sacred way.
Sexuality, in its spiritual essence, primarily accomplishes connection with one another through embodied expressions of self-giving and self-affirming love.
If we do not honor both genders along with the interconnectedness of loving sexuality, we cannot honor the Divine Mother and the Divine Father, for only by achieving the balance of both, or yin and yang, do we become whole. Wholeness, through whatever gender and sexual expression fits our identity, entails completeness through honoring both masculine and feminine energies. Again, the Divine is beyond gender; it is merely we humans who conceive of different qualities, characteristics, or energies as being primarily masculine or feminine.
Wholeness is completeness; completion occurs through Divine Realization of the Self. On the path of Self-Realization, wholeness as Divine beings in human form is the salvation we seek. Whichever bodies, whichever gender expressions, and whichever sexual expressions through which we live out the reality of Unconditional Love does not matter, as long as we “abide in Love” which is Unconditional Love for all of humanity. Then, and only then, will we be able to be One with God, or Self-Realized and God-Realized. May it be so.
Love and Light,
*1 John 4:16b The verses following point out that we are called by Christ and God to love our brothers and sisters (see New Revised Standard Version <NRSV> for gender inclusive language here), and that, if we do not love our brothers and sisters, it is impossible for us to love God.