I want to tell you about last weekend.
But first, some background. Around 35 years ago, my husband’s youngest brother, Tony, called us late one night from college to tell us he was gay. My first reaction was surprise. This was in the late seventies, when homosexuality was still so closeted that the average straight person rarely thought about it, let alone openly encountered it.
My next reaction was a flash of understanding. Suddenly Tony’s unhappiness and occasional troubling behavior as a teenager made sense. How alone he must have felt. How he must have despaired of ever finding acceptance.
That’s why my third reaction was admiration for Tony’s courage. Where had that come from? What pain had brought him to this place? How much more would he experience now that he had chosen to reveal his truths to a judgmental and unforgiving world? I had never met anyone with that kind of bravery before, and I was in awe of it. Could I be that brave? I didn’t think so. I was still too afraid of failure and censure to leave the conventional path I was on.
Years passed. Tony became an interior designer and thrived in a profession he loved. Eventually he started his own successful design firm in Houston. Meanwhile, I grew increasingly unhappy with myself. Unlike Tony, I didn’t love my work as a college professor, but I was too afraid to quit and start over.
Then, when I thought there must be something terribly wrong with me and had given up hope of ever finding fulfillment, I discovered Jungian psychology. Afraid of what I might learn about myself, but even more afraid of wasting my truths on an unlived life, I turned within and stepped into a bold new adventure of self-discovery and authentic living.
By the time Tony and Scott met I had quit teaching and written my first book. Two years later they invited Fred and me to Houston where I conducted their commitment ceremony. Never have I felt such warmth and kindness, such sincere interest and approval, as I received from their friends that weekend. The natural, unforced acceptance of these total strangers was a revelation.
Since then I’ve encountered this attitude many times. Always from Tony and Scott and their friends. Most recently I felt it last weekend at the city clerk’s office in New York where Fred and I went to witness their marriage. While waiting for their number to be called I sat next to a producer of Broadway musicals. In just moments, he and his partner would be legally married after being together for 35 years. They, too, exuded a rare, unguarded friendliness.
What makes people like this so different from the norm? I found my answer at the play we attended that night. Kinky Boots is a delightful musical about a young man who saves his father’s shoe factory by making boots for drag queens. Its theme is acceptance: how it is withheld by some and freely given by others.
Most of us have been hurt by some form of prejudice, whether because of our nationality, race, religion, social or economic class, age, appearance, gender or sexuality. The people who automatically judge and reject us do so because they fear and reject their own differentness. Those who freely accept us have broken through their fear and found the courage to accept themselves.
Reflecting on last weekend, I realize why it was so very special for me. Since that late night phone call so many years ago Tony has been a beloved teacher who paved the way for me to stop fearing my life and start living it. He did that by showing me what courage, self-acceptance, and open-heartedness look like. These are among my most treasured lessons and I will always be grateful.
Congratulations, Tony and Scott!! May your marriage be long and happy. And thank you for being in my life.
You can find Healing the Sacred Divide at Amazon and at Larson Publications, Inc.
Ego and God-Image: Part VI
[T]he most important relationship of childhood, the relation to the mother, will be compensated by the mother archetype as soon as detachment from the childhood
Please tell them congrats from Bill and I. May they live forever in happiness!
Thank you, Angela. I will!
Congratulations, Tony and Scott! May this be a safer world for all of us, thanks to your courage and the courage of others who have the courage to BE who they are!
Thank you, Melody. Your blessing for safety is much needed and appreciated in today’s polarized world. This kind of courage is the key to peace.
George A. Raffa
Thank you, brother George. Wish you could have been there!
What a wonderful, heart-warming post. Huge congratulations to Tony and Scott! 🙂
I guess prejudice, in all it’s variety of forms will lie deep in the Shadow until integation can begin. With clients I often help them to ‘draw’ out their Persona and Shadow. I’ve noticed that if I focus just on Sexuality alone, it’s always an eye-opener especially when they see what they like and what they don’t like and how much of that has been projected onto others.
Carl Jung is my hero!
How lucky your clients are to have a listener and guide like you: someone who is also doing the work, can see the reality of the Shadow, and knows how to help them accept it in themselves and others. Brava and thank you. We need so many more like you. Jeanie
Thank you kindly!
‘I guess there are all kinds of ways to come out of the closet’
I absolutely love that comment and how relevant to Shadow work!
I know! I loved it too. That happened about 20 years ago. Obviously I never forgot it!
Great story…thank you for sharing! I love how you intertwined your personnal experiences through the journey of Tony and ultimately Scott. I am sure 35 years ago Tony could never anticipated the wonderful outcome he would have with being so brave and believing in himself and who he was and continues to be. I am so happy for them and you…what a great family I married into !!! Rene
Thank you, Rene. I agree! I would think he must have prepared himself for some negative reactions, and I know he got plenty, without ever imagining how much hope and inspiration he would bring to so many people over the years. Being a pioneer may sound like fun but the reality can be very lonely and painful. We are, indeed, very fortunate and blessed to be surrounded by the love and acceptance of our family! Jeanie
This is wonderful, Jeanie. Just wonderful. I’m going to share it on my Facebook page. Treasured lessons, indeed.
Thank you, Charlie! It’s lovely to hear from you. Blessings on your amazing work with AWOW!!
“Most of us have been hurt by some form of prejudice, whether because of our nationality, race, religion, social or economic class, age, appearance, gender or sexuality.” — not even a nod for HIV, oh well.
Yes. HIV is worthy of many more posts. I’m nodding.
First – Congrats to Tony & Scott; wishing them a lifetime of love and laughter.
There are two quotes I enjoy from two totally different people; the first being Dan Rather – Courage is being afraid but going on anyhow. The second is John Wayne – Courage is being scared to death……and saddling up anyway. Thank you Tony & Scott; they help pave the way with their strength and courage.
Thank you, Fern. I love these quotes. Especially the one about saddling up! As a sister horse lover, you might have suspected that!
Absolutley, that’s why I added the second quote in. I think of you often as I ride Storm. Remembering how beautiful you and shadow were together.
Thank you. I’m happy to hear that you still have Storm! Storms and Shadows. Hmmm. I guess we both have an affinity for befriending our fears!
Wow, Jeanie, you continue to amaze and delight! Your complete understanding of life’s many complexities is too refreshing for words, and I am SO proud to call you a friend. May Tony and Scott be blessed with many happy years together, surrounded by warm and loving friends and family!
Thank you for your warm and loving response to this post, Jeanne. Alas, my understanding of life’s many complexities is far from complete, but I keep looking for the puzzle pieces! I’m proud to call you a friend too.
This story brought tears to my eyes, thinking of all of the bigotry we’ve allowed to run rampant across our country in so many ways. Thank you for providing us with this, so that some of the healing can continue. We obviously still have a long way to go! But, each step that begins a journey of 10,000 miles is a step in the right direction!
Thank you very much, Skip. We do have a long way to go, though, as Enkidu reminds us in his comment above about the stigma attached to HIV. It’s just fear, really. We’re all so afraid of life’s sufferings and try so hard to stay removed from it by avoiding its many reminders: doctor’s offices, hospitals, funerals, sick beds of friends, and on and on. But yes, a step into our own fear begins a world-changing heroic journey.
Great post….thank you. Love the part about how rejecting others is really a rejection of ourselves.
Thank you. It’s a truth that collective humanity still struggles mightily against! Nobody wants to face their unconscious self or acknowledge that this is the way to heal, grow and make peace.
Thank you Jean for sharing such a personal story, one can never what courage it takes to make a life change. Getting over fear is a huge choice to begin on the right path. Thank you for sharing your choices and wisdom.
Thank you, Kat. It’s true. Everyone is afraid of something. As a woman said to me in the early 90’s after I made a presentation about my first book at a lesbian bookstore in Atlanta: “I guess there are all kinds of ways to come out of the closet!” 🙂
Congrats to Tony and Scott!
Thank you, Que. And on top of all that happened that weekend, Tony’s birthday was Friday, the day they got married, and Scott turned 50 yesterday! It’s been quite a week for them!
Wow, wow, wow! So beautiful, Jeanie. Blessings on the union of Tony and Scott. Blessings on self-acceptance, accepting others, and learning how to truly love. (I’m grateful to live in New York State where our government finally said yes to same sex marriage and many of my friends can marry just as I did many years ago. There are changes in our culture, slow, but sure.) Thank you for this loving, joyful post.
Thank you, Elaine! I’m grateful for New York too, both the state and the city. Fred was born in the Catskills and NYC is a vibrant example of the creative new life that emerges when diversity is accepted! We’ve been moving in this direction ever since our country was founded and will continue to do so despite the fear, resistance and repression that will always be with us. Thanks for the blessings!
Thanks for sharing this with us Jean, and so happy for all!
Thank you, Rosemary! Blessings!
What a wonderful story, Jeanie. And your initial response to the situation was so honest and affirming of them and of all gays. Since the ordination as Bishop of Gene Robinson, I have been waiting and hoping that our culture will come to accept gay marriage, never dreaming it would come as soon as it has. The walls are really tumbling down! Brava to you and congratulations to Tony and Scott.
Thank you, Phyllis! I’ve been waiting too, and knew it would come eventually. But like you, I’m surprised and thrilled to see it happen in our lifetime! These are such amazing times! It would appear that the hundredth monkey (i.e. critical mass) may at last be upon us!! 🙂 (If some readers don’t know what I mean by this, here’s a link that will explain: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hundredth_monkey_effect) Much appreciation for your good wishes to Tony and Scott!! This is such a special time for them.
I hope I live to see the day when the current under 25s reach 50, globally. Paranormal or not, Twitter is connecting them up at a prodigious rate, and ever accelerating! The changes in attitude they will introduce cannot even be imagined. Changes that took millenia, will now come in days or minutes. I always like to refer back to the scene in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, when the alien ship is communicating with the computer on the ground with light and sound, faster and faster, until a symphony is produced.
May you and I live long enough to hear that symphony here on Earth, Skip!
Hooray for you Tony and Scott, both such caring and kind souls. And then there is you Jean Raffa…. I’m beyond certain there are few people like you in the world. Your way and your words, always so gentle and accepting. You give hope to humanity..
Thank you, sweet man. I’m so very touched by your words. Blessings your way……
Beautiful! What lessons we learn from one another if we allow it, and so very often by those closest to us. Celebrating with all of you!
Thank you, Virginia! Staying open to more lessons….