I have come to the conclusion that it’s important for LGBT folks to live life on the edge. That might seem like extreme advice coming from a priest but, take it from me, life is supposed to be a constant state of forward motion. Any other option means looking constantly back, and that is not going to propel you — or the LGBT community— forward. Life on the edge is our spiritual imperative.
Maybe you’ve seen “Milk” — the movie about the life of martyred gay San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk. The film is a testimony to a life lived always in forward motion, always on the edge. And it is a testimony to the necessity of leadership — leadership in the LGBT community and leadership by the LGBT community for all of society. Milk’s life is propelled forward from his own self-actualizing move to San Francisco with the purpose of living a life free of oppression. His political life is full of the tension between the desire to rest in place — represented by his difficult personal relationships interacting with the demands of his public life — and the necessity of moving constantly forward toward LGBT equality. Maybe the scariest, most compelling moment is when he tells his staff to come out or leave. As I’ve said over and over, self-realization is self-fulfillment. If we take pride in who we are as whole humans, then we have to see that those in our lives understand exactly who we are, every gay inch of us.
Preliminary results from an ongoing study suggest integrated sexual identities — that means a whole you, proud of your sexual self — lead to healthier lives in the integrated faith community. In other words, progress in the greater community follows progress in your life and mine. Forward movement, life on the edge, is our role in society. (Called “The Open Secret,” this study concerns situations where an LGBT person’s sexuality is known but never discussed. More information is here: http://walkingwithintegrity.blogspot.com/.)
Self-realization is just the first step. It is the moment of understanding when at last the sun shines, illuminating all the dark corners of life. It is the moment from which all the rest of life lies on a forward path. And that is why it is the utmost spiritual imperative for LGBT folks. Knowing yourself is the same as understanding your role in creation. From this point begins a life of leadership in the community. What, you say you aren’t a leader? If you are LGBT in society today, you are a leader. We all are leaders, because we all have to constantly tear down the walls of myth that oppress us.
Now, when I say you should live on the edge, I mean you should do so responsibly. Remember, the goal is to keep life moving forward. Take account of your spiritual health, take account of your spiritual strength and, from each accounting, move forward. Spiritual strength is the product of spiritual wisdom, and wisdom comes from a life lived well. Let’s show the world what a truly liberated, forward-moving, edgy society can be.
The Rev. Richard P. Smiraglia is missioner among the gay and lesbian community at The Church of the Holy Trinity, Rittenhouse Square, 1904 Walnut St. He can be reached at [email protected] .