In the Light  
  By: Rev. Kendal Brown  

Peter Gomes, Harvard Professor and theologian writes that, "if a flower is to thrive, it can only do so in the light." On a daily basis, we as same gender loving (sgl) individuals are confronted with situations, which if allowed, can easily cut us off from the light. Each year thousands of sgl teens fall victim to depression, self-hatred, and even suicide. In ways that are often unseen this absence of light affects every aspect of our lives, adversely impacting our perspective and our ability to grow and thrive. Many in the sgl community, even many who consider themselves to be completely out are plagued by partial exposure to the light, making many individuals prone to distorted living, half-truths, and growth that is at best, stunted and impaired. It stands to reason that one of the greatest contributing factors to the failure of many sgl relationships is that more often than not, many relationships are hidden or are not fully integrated into the communities that most sgl persons are organically connected to.

Relationships, whether straight or sgl, thrive and become, in part because of the support that they receive within the larger context of society. Within most "traditional" families, daughters discuss their "man troubles" with their mothers, grandmothers, and their aunts. Sons jokingly discuss the pains and difficulties of being "hitched and henpecked" with their fathers and uncles. Churches offer premarital counseling, marriage retreats and couple's seminars for those looking to keep their relationships strong and healthy. These therapeutic exchanges however are not a luxury that most sgl are afforded within the larger context of society. While many in the white sgl community choose to remove themselves all together form oppressive and unaffirming environments, many in the African-American sgl community do not see this option as prudent. Within us there is a constant and lingering battle between our desire to be authentic and our desire to remain connected. Connected not for the sake of self-torture, but connected because we realize that we are individuals, only because of the larger and collective "we".

Most African-Americans realize that our existence is in many ways inextricably connected to the communities where we were nurtured and reared. Our understanding of the connectedness of family and extended family is often quite different from that of the dominant culture. For many in our community, being more than a day's drive from the place that we call home is hard to imagine. Even when a distant relative passes away or a play cousin is in trouble; we see it as our responsibility to be there to offer both support and presence to those we love dearly. For many of us, the option of packing up and moving to the Castro in San Francisco or Greenwich Village in New York simply does not resonate within our being. Added to this dynamic is the fact that living in these areas is an option of privilege and one which many in our community simply cannot afford, either financially or emotionally. African-American sgl persons are often left with the option of remaining closeted or attempting to create new families and communities where they are - communities that will support and embrace their total being. And while these newly created extended families provide an invaluable network for support and affirmation, these extended families can never totally replace the families of our birth or erase the feelings of isolation caused by the rejection of a loved one or family member.

So then the question becomes, how do sgl people bring their relationships into the light of community in to a place where their relationships can grow and reach their fullest potential? How does one thrive outside of the support of an affirming community? To whatever degree possible, sgl people must become intentional about seeking out and creating places where our relationships can be honored and affirmed. This process begins on a very personal level when we open up the blinds that cover our being. It begins when we first affirm within ourselves our own individual truth, allowing the light of God to bathe our total existence. It's been said that a rose will bloom and even thrive in any environment - in a garbage heap or a perfectly manicured garden. In order for our future reality to bloom we must allow our present reality to breathe. A new reality occurs when we cease to allow oppressive institutions to determine the appropriateness of our personal realities. It comes when we divest ourselves from oppressive institutions; ceasing to support them with our financial resources, energy, and presence. As clearly demonstrated though the various social movements in history, the struggle for equality is just that - a struggle. Nothing will be gained by passive longing. As we journey intentionally towards wholeness, we must stand firmly in the tradition of our forbearers who firmly clung to a vision of justice. We must identify and turn our lives in direction of the light, refusing all that stands between the light and us. Embrace the light, all that is affirming, truthful, and grounded in love. Unearth your hopes, your love, and your possibility and everything that you are and will be, will gravitate towards that light and a new reality will be inevitable.




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