This month we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the uprisings at Stonewall, where LGBTQ+ people, tired of being harassed, fought back against the police during a raid on the West Village bar. Stonewall veteran, Jim Fouratt described Stonewall as the exact moment when Queer people realized they had self determinative power. Contrary to popular belief Stonewall was not remotely the beginning of the LGBTQ+ movement, nor was it the first uprising against police (The earliest uprising was right here in downtown LA a full 10 years before Stonewall). What was different about Stonewall was that it got national media coverage.
I recently spoke to a gay elder who told me they heard about the riots on the radio while living in Montana and came out of the closet the very next day to join the gay liberation movement. That’s the power of truth. To come out is a rite of passage and it also can be good dharma because it means being present to your internal truth and honoring it. It means you honor yourself even when it makes other people uncomfortable or challenges traditional notions about sex, gender, and love. It happens on different timelines for different people, and sadly in some situations coming out isn’t an option because of safety and discrimination, but when it does happen, it is an anti-authoritarian act.
The spirit of the early gay liberation movement is reflected in the words of the Buddha when he encouraged practitioners to make themselves “independent of others in the Dharma.” The purpose of Buddhist practice was never to be a good Buddhist. It is to be present and responsive to oneself, to others and the world in a kind and compassionate way. Its purpose is to get close to the truth. To mature into the dharma is to see both its power and its limitations and let go of deference to one’s teachers and traditions so you can find a deep and honest relationship with the teachings and practices. So you can, at last, “be a lamp unto yourself.”
It is in this way you welcome the spirit of Stonewall into your practice and honor the true spirit of the dharma.
Love, Pablo Das
P.S. InsightLA’s Queer Mindfulness group is celebrating Pride this Sunday, June 9th, at our East Hollywood center. Come be proud and celebrate with community!