Last night the moon rose huge and round, the third Supermoon of the year, coinciding with the Spring Equinox and Purim. The Book of Esther in the Old Testament tells the tale of this Jewish holiday. In a nutshell, the anti-Semitic Prime Minister decrees that all the Jews in the Persian King Asuerus’s kingdom are to be killed. His newly crowned queen Esther is terrified; she’s hiding her Jewish identity. But how can she let all her family and friends die in a genocide? Beautiful Queen Esther risks her life and comes out of the closet about being Jewish. She tells the King, who decides to save the Jewish people.
How is this story meaningful to us today? Its happy ending makes Purim a joyous holiday, celebrating courage and truth-telling. But many people who come out of the closet about who they are face discrimination, rejection, hatred and persecution. “Lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are five times more likely to have attempted suicide than their straight peers. More than half of transgender teenage boys, over 40 percent of nonbinary youth and nearly a third of transgender teenage girls have attempted to end their lives.”*
Last night I received a thoughtful letter from a brave student disclosing that they are in a deep and tender process of questioning their gender identity. As a gesture of respect and support, they asked their friends to please use their preferred pronouns, which are they/them/theirs. This is a big step. It might seem strange to those who enjoy the privilege of not having considered their gender identity, or whether or not they are living in a particular closet. This is OK. Loving awareness invites us to let go of fixed views and beliefs we cling to for the comfort of familiarity. We learn to open our hearts to what’s new, now – even when it means going against the grain of habits and biases or having to leave a closeted space.
It’s scary to take the risk to be fully oneself and to express one’s truth. A big part of dharma practice is being true to oneself, living with integrity and kindness. Spring is the season of seeds flowering, of new beginnings. May we support each other to venture out of whatever closet we’ve been hiding in – the closet of fear, of trauma, of illness, the closet of unlived dreams or a broken heart. May we emerge with joy and caring for ourselves and for all those whose lives we touch.