February and March have always been important times for me as harbingers of change. Here in the northern hemisphere, we’re moving toward a change of season from winter to spring. Something about this transition is profoundly moving to me. The earth is changing, gaining light and temperature and losing ice and snow. Trees and bushes are undergoing what feels like a painful birthing as sap moves and buds engorge and finally burst into flower or leaf.
Socially, this is also a time to celebrate struggle and transformation during Black and Women’s History months. My forty plus years in education have given me ample opportunities to celebrate these commemorative months. As a poet, I’m always drawn to read more Black and women-identified poets and to explore their intersectionality.
Today in the US we’re paying more attention to these intersections. Our understanding of race and gender identity is deepening. In my college teaching, each term I have students who are, themselves, or have family members who are, non-binary or transgender. And we discuss the importance of recognizing how central and deeply personal gender identity is to our sense of self. When we add race to the mix—Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, it’s like a kaleidoscope that shifts our perspective of Self and Other.
Perception of Self and Other is such an essential part of being human. In the awakening process, we find a new perception, a two way mirror that shows us ourselves and the other as ourselves. We see that we’re not separate. There both is and isn’t an Other, just Consciousness arising as That.
Traditionally, spirituality has focused on the transcendental, getting up and out of our physical human form to hang out in the state of Being where all is bliss. Today, we know the limitations of this transcendental perspective. We live in these bodies. We identify ourselves in the mundane world as this and not that, or both this and that. We navigate our lived experience this way. We encounter others whose vision may be grimy with the detritus of their conditioning, and they may see only parts of us and respond accordingly. We may be moved to demand our place, to demand justice and equality, to bridge the gap between what is and what could be for ourselves and others. This is how I think of awakened activism.
I would say that the crux of our awakening is that we discover our true and total nature. We discover it as we greenlight, embrace, and ultimately integrate all the hidden parts of ourselves. And this discovery can take years, a lifetime even. And we don’t live in a vacuum. We live in the constant evolution of consciousness arising as itself in its myriad forms. This sense of our ever emerging totality deepens our empathy and compassion. We can embrace the world in all its fragmented, disparate parts. This is what love is. The philosopher Cornel West says that “justice is what love looks like in public.” I love this sentiment. Our love for the totality of Being demands that we pay attention to injustice. That we speak and take action against it.
I lived a long time as an “invisible minority:” a white, middle class, educated, apparently cisgender, Queer professional. On the outside, folks saw what they wanted to see, even as they sensed my difference. The truth of my Queerness, that I lived with and loved women, did not align with my superficial exterior. This dissonance resulted in a transference of anger and hatred from the truly life threatening—anonymous phone calls detailing how I would be harmed—to public violence and harassment, to job and housing discrimination, and family alienation. It’s a common story for those of us who are perceived as Other by family and community. For a long time, too long, decades, I was what I thought of as quietly Queer.
It may make no logical sense, but the murder of George Floyd last May, and the social upheaval that followed catalyzed something in me. Some deep and essential parts of myself as marginal, expendable, and shameful woke up. I began to write about the murders of trans and gender nonconforming people—at least 44 last year—mostly trans femmes, Black and Latinx. Each death touched this part of me, my Queer self, my white, aging, pain-limited, masculine-feminine, shamed, threatened, liminal Self: Radical Embrace of these parts.
It’s essential to claim our awakening emergent selves.We awaken as what we are, all our parts. For me, this must include what it is we embody, our Queer, trans, heteronormative, non-binary, racialized, able or differently abled, neuro-diverse, transient bodies. We em-body Consciousness as all of this. This is what awakens in this liminal time of constant emergence, living and dying, at one with Self and Other, as finite and infinite. This is the great paradox. There’s room in you for all. There’s room in us for all, everything and everyone. Awaken to all that you are, and let your Self sing. Sap’s rising, you’re in bud!