This week Jews celebrate Passover, an Old Testament story, one that Jews and Christians share: the exodus of a people from Egypt. The Jews leave Egypt, cross the Sea of Reeds, and then wander for forty years. Now if you look at a map, it is a distance across the Sinai, but even on foot, not a forty year trek. And on the trip an amazing thing happens: every one who started the journey dies - everyone except Moses who lives to see the Promised Land, but never actually enters it.
One might wonder why. One theory is the people who left Egypt were slaves and God did not think that they could transition to being a free people. A new generation was born, one who did not know of slavery, one bred with freedom in their bones. I have long known this tale, but this year I have been haunted by it in a slightly different variation. The story deals with transitioning from Slavery to Freedom, but would not the converse be true: a people born into freedom would surely be ill equipped to be slaves. It is not the value of the relative worlds: it is the transition between such different ones.
So this year I consider the transition from having lived in the straight world for my entire existence to joining the world of gay men. The facts relating to my gayness seem rather irrelevant. The simple fact, the only relevant fact is that I have lived my entire life as a straight man; my self identification has, until the past year, always been straight. It was the world I was born into and the world I embraced.
Crossing the Rubicon was the title of a post written a year or so ago, a post about telling our first friends of my changing times. The title could have been Crossing the Red Sea, not nearly as catchy, but so much more accurate. Because I have crossed into the desert, in search of some promised land, and it is in that desert that I find myself wandering.
I am not exactly sure what being gay means. My gay family members have partners and speak of a life as mundane as any – raising families, maintaining jobs – real life. Of course they have friends who are also gay and while not solely, it is a major part of their social milieu. My life is mature – long term friends, family, many children: strong foundations, though by my actions clearly not enough.
The thing is that I foresee a lifetime in the desert, transitioning in ways that are terrifying and possibly unattainable. I am not afraid of the journey anymore if for no other reason than I am already on it, if for no other reason than my gay side cannot be denied, if for no other reason than I have crossed the sea and the waters, once parted, are again a raging torrent: if for no other reason than Carrie does not want a return. So the wandering is started and maybe I will find some promised land, but I am not sure it will ever be natural in the way the land of one’s birth feels.
When people think of Martin Luther King, the “I have a dream” speech comes to mind.
I have always had a soft spot for a different speech, one given in Memphis, given the night before he was assassinated.
Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.
After inserting the quote, I felt strange – including such majestic words, words tinged with the tragedy of that next day and using them in such an unrelated way. But I wonder if maybe the resonance that quote has always had with me was related to things I did not yet understand. And surely if we are dealing with oppressed minorities, still not there, but straining every day, LGBT has a seat at the table.
So I will continue my journey, but have little illusion that it comes with an epiphany. And remain thankful that in some ways I remain in a promised land, maybe not a gay one, but one of family and friends that remain the foundations of my little world, even as I strain to continue to grow into myself.