Caroline Contillo explores the reality of identity, and asks what it means to be gay.
What did my face look like before my parents were born? Can an original face be gay, or straight for that matter? Identity, which sometimes feels so concrete, becomes quite slippery when I meditate.
At a young age, I realized that the accepted story about how my life was going to go didn’t match up with what I felt at my core. I wasn’t going to fulfill that story—wouldn’t date a handful of boys, wouldn’t find the right one, wouldn’t have a family. I wasn’t thinking about boys at all. I was too busy with my giant crush on Kelly Bundy.
Questioning conventional narratives and explanations is part of why I was so attracted to meditation. I wanted to apply such inquiry to my experience. On the cushion, I noticed my mind vacillating between the extremes of trying to prove that I exist and wanting to disappear into the dynamic flux. Back and forth the relative and the ultimate: I’m Here, I’m Queer, Get Used to It! and Everything’s Fluid, Labels Are Restrictive.
For me, the key to the middle way is remembering that my identity as a lesbian is my individuated experience, but it is a relational identity. It’s the beautiful and very human paradox that we learn to sit with: we are individual, yet interconnected.
I’m still not sure if an original face can be gay, or straight, or the infinite variations in-between. I think my identity is a verb, not a noun: I queer into being when my girlfriend’s eyes meet mine. As a culture we tend to look at each other as discrete units of gay or straight but miss the interdependent rhizome of desire, romance, flirtation, and broken hearts.
My identity is important, but so too is being willing to sit still, zoom out, and look at connections and relationships. Otherwise, I might fall into an acquisitive mind-set, the kind that wants rights for myself but is willing to exclude others from the struggle if I feel like they might jeopardize my chances. Maybe, like meditation, being of the LGBTIQ persuasion is a gift, sensitizing me to injustice and suffering and moving me to lift up the ignored and forgotten.