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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Coming Out / Inviting In

Jamil and Hassan

I feel inspired after reading this piece by Lebanese Muslim Australian narrative therapist Sekneh Hammoud-Beckett. The piece explores her work with gay Lebanese Muslim "Jamil" and his (str8) brother Hassan. Hammoud-Beckett explores the problem with the model of "coming out" as the normative framework through which gay men are expected to express or experience authenticity in their lived sexual identities. She explores a different framework: "Coming in" or "Inviting in," which is a way that Jamil repositions his experience of sexual identity in order to reconcile with his brother.

As Jamil speaks, as quoted from Hammoud-Beckett's piece, "Even if I don’t tell certain members of my extended family about my sexuality, I don’t view myself as in the closet, in a dark place that I must escape from. Far from it, this ‘closet’ is full of precious things, like things you could never afford to buy! It’s my treasure chest. The way I see it, rather than me needing to move out of the closet, to make my sexuality public to everyone, including my grandparents, instead I get to choose who to open the door to, and who to invite to ‘come in’ to my life."

I LOVE this idea. Of being complete in and of myself, already fully integrated (not visioning my life from a perspective of victimization). This feels especially true in my own exploration of some of my own multiple, 'core' identities; in particular, being gay, Asian, and Buddhist. The normativity of the idea of "coming out" has, over time, lost much of its meaning for me.

Staying In

Perhaps it can be 'inside here' that I choose to remain, where liberation can be found. It's raining outside... I'm not 'closeted' per se, but private... being close to the source of Me and cherishing it as a treasure. Only few will get to see, and only those I invite into my life, this 'treasure chest' of my sacred self. This, of course, does not pertain only to my experience of my homosexuality, even though that may seem, of all the facets of my identity, the most obvious one I would choose to be more calculative about either 'outing' or inviting people in to see...

The pressure here becomes less of my need to 'come out' and encounter stereotypic, pre-set ideas of what it means to be Me in all my myriad forms... whether it be the politically conservative, non-English speaking, "Asian" community, or the sex-crazed, drug-obsessed, limbic-driven "gay" community, or the gender-bashing, hyper-leftwing, anarchistic "queer" community, or the quietist, insular, pacifistic "Buddhist" community, or the privileged, elitist, self-indulgent "uni" community... etc. etc. etc.

There is no "out there" to come out to that can be the most accurate reflection of my selfhood. Indeed, there is no inherently existing self that can "Come Out" anywhere to begin with. That is part of this (urban) myth of coming out as authentic self-expression.

At least as interesting is to "invite people in." Not so much to 'see the true me,' but rather, to co-construct a space in which the interaction of the expedient Self and Other becomes a synthesis of identities in a framework of intimacy, rather than ostentatious publicity. Inviting my non-Buddhist queer friends to see the part of me that experiences my sexuality in stillness, and that imagines their own receptivity beyond defensive, ironic posturings... inviting my straight friends to see the part of me that holds another man's hand, while cherishing the opportunity to imagine their own relational vulnerabilities... inviting my Buddhist friends to understand my ambivalence (at best) toward heteronormative spiritual spaces while seeing that they too, like myself, are doing their best to alleviate one another's sufferings... inviting my American friends to see my life in Australia, while understanding each other in shared vernacular...

In each circumstance, some new part of me is revealed ('outed'), and yet, the very rubric by which I am measuring these encounters is precisely that of an invitation to create something new together, on terms that assume my wholeness to begin with... The house has already been built...

And when you are invited into someone's home, it is not at all appropriate to insult the host.

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