Some people get presents for Christmas and some get landmines. My girlfriend learned over Christmas that her Christian parents found out about her being Buddhist and her father pretty much said that she was gay and he was very unhappy about it.
However, instead of raising it with my girlfriend, they had opted to go around the bush by telling a friend who then told her. Of course, my girlfriend was upset and wanted to confront her parents to get it out in the open but she stopped short. Strangely enough, before we left for home to spend Christmas, our spiritual guide, H.E. Tsem Tulku Rinpoche had told us that we should ‘act normal’ (as one would normally act should the incident not have happened).
Rinpoche’s advice usually has sound basis. For example, once he told his Nepali friend, KB to take his ID before he went out. Rinpoche had never told KB that before so KB made sure he had his ID and sure enough, that day, he was stopped by police and asked for his ID.
Another time, my girlfriend and I were going on a long drive and Rinpoche sms'ed us just as we passed the toll – check your tyres. My girlfriend and I looked at each other and decided we better do so and again, our tyre pressure was dangerously low. Anyway, to cut the long story short, we remembered his advice and decided to ‘act normal’.
When Rinpoche heard about my girlfriend’s parents knowing about her being Buddhist and gay, he sent an incredibly supportive message to her which I think would apply to anyone in the closet about their religion or sexuality and the tremendous fear of being found out.
Rinpoche said that her parents being upset when they found out about her being gay and Buddhist shouldn’t surprise her. What she should do was to exercise patience, care and just be normal with them. Eventually they will come around and they will understand.
It made sense. After all, if you’re over 21, you have a job and you can support yourself, you’re considered mature and independent. It is important that we live our life now. We can’t live the life that our parents want. We can’t get married (not in most countries anyway), we can’t have kids (usually) and we can’t fit in that kind of box that our parents want us to be in.
It’s time for us to be ourselves.
For those of you who have been in the closet and suddenly your parents or your work colleagues find out about you – it’s your choice how you want to see it. You can see it as a calamity or you can see it as a huge blessing in disguise.
After a lifetime of hiding, you can finally be who you are and as you are. The subconscious hiding will permeate throughout different aspects of your life and not let you live to your full potential because something is always holding you back.
You’re gay. You’re spiritual. So what? That’s who you are and you have the opportunity now to be yourself with the people you love.
Rinpoche advised my girlfriend that if her parents wanted to ignore her, she should just accept it and not react negatively. He reiterated that she should just be as normal with them as much as possible. When she doesn’t react back, eventually they will come around. She should generate love for them, and eventually they’ll realize that she’s not a bad person and she’s not doing anything bad.
Hopefully, their love for her will be stronger than their fear of gossip or loss of face at Church or whatever demons they themselves have conjured up because of their perspectives of her being gay or Buddhist. Even if they never come around, at least by not reacting back, there is no additional hurt to them and you do not create any negative karma for yourself.
Rinpoche also mentioned that when people react negatively to us because they don’t agree with our way of life, whatever they may be – such as being gay or wanting to devote ourselves to spirituality rather than being a professional, or being an artist, it’s not our fault because it is their negative perception of what we are doing rather than our lifestyle having any inherent negativity that hurts them.
Be strong and be who you are because you’re not being gay on purpose to hurt or damage anyone, least of all the people you care for.
Be patient and extremely kind. If they avoid you, stand your ground – not to challenge or to put them down or to win. You stand your ground because this is WHO YOU ARE.
Whatever happens, live your life the way you’re supposed to. Be yourself and be the best person that you can be.
Sharon Saw is a writer / editor at Kechara Media & Publications, which focuses on publishing the teachings of H.E. Tsem Tulku Rinpoche, a high incarnate Lama of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. A selection of Buddhist and non-Buddhist related books from Kechara Publications is now available on Fridae Shop. You can follow Sharon on Twitter. This column will appear every other Friday.