We certainly see the same thing in human events. The Soviet Union disappeared overnight. The Berlin Wall crashed without warning. Change may always be the result of mounting pressures, but the notion that intermediate stages must last a very long time simply isn't true.
I've seen this occasionally in my work with clients. Some clients sit for years talking about their problems. They may do assignments and come religiously to their sessions. But change is agonizingly slow. Others seem to make stupefyingly fast change.
I've thought a lot about what makes the difference, and long ago came to the conclusion that the quick-change artists connect to what impassions them in life and, no matter how scary it is, make the leap into the unknown with a loving if terrified heart. In Plato's terms, this is living according to the passion and destiny of the daimon, the personification of the soul. You will recall that Socrates, given the choice to recant his positions or die, chose to drink hemlock because, having lived his life so fully in his intellectual passion, he loved his soul more than his life.
Most of us aren't called to die for the integrity of what impassions us, but Socrates' story does remind us that once we have tasted passion, we must continue nurturing it with love or we will suffer, at the least, a death of the spirit. That, of course, is the most difficult thing -- and a reason to mistrust the reports of sudden change or "shifts," as we like to call them in the psychology biz. Some people discover their passion and then let go of it, which causes another fall into depression.
I feel the triumph of passion explains what is happening to gay people as a community right now. It's been more that 15 years since the hateful Bowers v. Hardwick decision in which the Supreme Court not only upheld sodomy laws but rendered the concept of private space meaningless, since the police literally invaded Michael Hardwick's bedroom to arrest him. Plagued by AIDS and institutionalized hatred, with even our most liberal leaders, like Bill Clinton, refusing to support us fully, gay people have been fighting depression a long time. But we've continued doing the criminalized thing we are meant to do: love one another.
Suddenly, everything changed a month ago with the conservative Supreme Court's reversal of the Bowers decision. And now you can't pick up a paper without reading about gay people breaking down another wall. Last week, it was the Episcopal Church's election of an openly gay bishop, the Rev. V. Gene Robinson. A pathetically transparent effort to discredit him failed. Now the argument that religion itself necessarily demonizes gay people can begin its overdue crumbling.
At the same time that gay people made deeper inroads into the dominant culture, there was an acknowledgement of the cruelty with which gay adolescents are treated. New York City announced plans to expand its 20-year-old school for gay kids. It's been widely reviled as a "separate but equal" throwback to the days of segregation, but this is a specious argument. Yes, it would be much better for the kids who go to Harvey Milk to be in regular schools. But the fact is that some of them are so traumatized by abuse that they'd rather drop out or die than do that. The dropout and suicide rates among gay adolescents are more than three times that of their straight peers.
These kids should receive protection in the regular schools. But the truth is that administrators and teachers often look the other way when gay students are tormented. New York's decision is realistic. It would be far more expensive to monitor and protect these kids in their original schools. I don't see Dubya sending in the National Guard to protect them from abuse the way Eisenhower did in 1957 when black children showed up at the school doors in Little Rock, do you?
Gay men and lesbians have kept true to their passion since the late '60s. We have suffered a biblical-scale plague, we have been repeatedly banished to the margins of society as criminals. Our young people, like Matthew Shepard, have been tortured and killed, and we have been constantly told the solution to our problem is to disappear, to go back into the closet. But we have never forgotten that our revolution, our passion, is about one thing: the right to love. And while dinosaurs like President Bush and the Pope creep toward the tar pits of their antiquated morality, love, sweet love, continues to crash one wall after another. The breaking down of these walls is a victory for anyone who believes humanity is more loving than hateful.
Cliff Bostock's website is www.soulworks.net.
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