The InsightLA teachers, facilitators, office team and board came together for training around diversity, equity, and inclusivity two Saturdays ago. Our organization has been working to transform our sangha from a mainly white heterosexual community to a place where people across differences can feel as though they truly belong. This is not an easy process. As with any transformation, it is messy and difficult, but also hopeful.
As a white HIV positive gay cis-gender man, I personally have been waking up to the various privilege that I possess. Over the last several years, it’s become more clear to me that my maleness and whiteness has afforded me a multitude of advantages. I also see how my gayness affords me privilege within the queer spectrum. At the same time, I’ve been waking up to the internalized oppression and marginalization that comes with being queer and HIV positive in a heteronormative culture. Both of these things are true. I have privilege – and I’m oppressed.
During that Saturday training, the facilitator asked each of us: What makes our heart sing? What brings us joy?
The first thing that popped into my head was the big rainbow flag hanging in the window of our center for Pride month! It dawned on me just how queer InsightLA has become in the last couple of years. To begin with, I’m the executive director, and – I’m gay. Our board chair is gay. Our director of programming is a gay trans man. Our digital communications manager is a lesbian, nine of our teachers and facilitators identify under the LGBTQ+ umbrella. We have a Queer Mindfulness affinity group and a Transgender affinity group. This fall we’ll be hosting the first-ever transgender Insight Meditation residential retreat at the Big Bear Retreat Center. And, next year we have an LGBTQ+ residential retreat scheduled.
I believe the Dharma has the capacity to heal the wounds of homophobia. I see this happening within myself. The shame that I’ve carried since childhood is beginning to metabolize. When the deep trauma of feeling different, of not belonging, of being broken, the sense of unworthiness that has operated unconsciously for so long, surfaces, I now have more capacity to recognize it, hold it, care for it, and let it go.
It’s here in all the pieces of my shame
That now I find myself again.
—Rainer Maria Rilke
I am not those pieces of shame. I know in my bones that I’m so much bigger than that. I’m fortunate to have a community of straight allies and accomplices along with all the queer folks at InsightLA to walk this path with me. This is what transformation looks like. Happy Pride!