It has become a social media phenomena, the #MeToo that says “yes, I too have been sexually harassed or abused.” Women’s voices are finally being heard and acknowledged in huge numbers after years of fear, shame, secrecy, and silence. We have endured hidden and overt harassment in our lives since childhood. Children of both sexes have also been subjected to sexual abuse, and women of all ages have been raped and traumatized. At last, the invisible is becoming visible, and the secrets are becoming public as courageous individuals shine the light of truth on sexual predation and disempowerment.
Presidents, priests, Olympic doctors, Hollywood moguls, and countless unnamed others are part of a worldwide epidemic of disrespect and sexual violation. With great bravery and integrity, women, and adults of both sexes who were abused as children, are speaking up and sharing the experiences they have held inside themselves for so long. Each revelation empowers others to speak up and say “me too.” Each voice that is heard adds to the collective transformation from personal trauma to liberation from fear and shame.
All these secret transgressions are being revealed because the time of rape and violation behind closed doors is coming to an end. The secrets are being revealed, and the collective voice of humanity is saying “no more.” “Me too” empowers each of us in our lives to speak up and stand with others who have been hurt and shamed by assault and harassment. Personally, I know of no one among my women friends (and a number of men, as well as gender fluid and transgender, friends) who has not experienced some form of sexual hatred or harassment. Me too.
From catcalls in the street, to unwelcome comments or touching from bosses, landlords, dentists, or complete strangers, to the violence of rape, we have experienced disrespect and disregard for our basic humanity. It is ending. The courage and strength of a few individuals has become an avalanche of shared stories and coming together. Yes, me too…and no more. We are stepping out of the old framework based in “power over” into a new paradigm of inner power based in compassion and respect for all—adults, children, elders, animals, plants, and Mother Earth herself.
“Me too” is about inner fortitude, resilience, and refusal to be silenced and subjected to the will of another ever again. It is also about compassion and empathy for all those who have been in that position. The larger “me too” helps individual women and children of both sexes say No to transgressions against the sanctity of their bodies and souls. For sexual abuse is a violation of the spirit not just the physical form. So many people are disengaged from the spiritual nature of humanity. We are God/dess in human form on this Earth. If this were universally understood, then everyone would see that our human bodies are sacred temples for the soul, never to be desecrated or violated. When individuals are aligned with their inner divinity, only love and compassion are possible in the outer world. The time has come for a healing of spirit and form, in all people.
The chorus of voices now speaking the truth shines light into a world darkened by soul-less actions and horrible violations of the human spirit. Awakening is occurring, on all levels. We are evolving, as individuals, as collective consciousness, into full awareness of who we really are at the soul level. The strength and determined truthfulness of the few is multiplying until it circles the world in numbers that ultimately will include every living being on this planet. When we say “me too,” we are opening the door to oneness and stepping into a more inclusive and expansive experience of life and the world around us. Finally we can live from love not fear. That is the transformative power of those two simple words: Me too.
In the United States, there are societal rules about when silence or quiet is called for: in temples, churches, and meditation halls; in libraries and classrooms; in funeral homes and cemeteries. This is sanctified silence, the kind that is recognized as fitting into the social structure. The underside of these rules is another kind of silence, the silence of dissociation or noninvolvement, which can translate as complicity: “When there is conflict, keep your mouth shut,” “Don’t get involved,” “It’s not your problem, so why make trouble?” The threat of potential or escalating violence runs through these admonitions. Best to ignore whatever you’ve seen or heard. Only many of us don’t have that option in our lives. And now, increasingly, none of us have that option.
Loud, vocal, and acted-out hatred is playing out in city after city in this country. The kind of racism, anti-Semitism, sexism, and homophobia that has always existed but is now being given a green light by behavior and attitudes at the federal level. Nazism and Klanism is in full-out resurgence in this so-called “land of the free.” That freedom was about money, maleness, and white skin when this country began, and it still is. Yes, we have come a long way, but the segments of this society that don’t really want an egalitarian, balanced social framework are still clinging to the illusion of superiority and power. That is the old patriarchal paradigm that is so full of cracks now that even talk show hosts on late-night TV are addressing it. No, we are not going backward, but the labor pains we experience as we birth a new way of being on this planet can be intense and at times frightening.
There is no turning back, however. We signed up for this specific soul incarnation to be part of something monumental. So what do spiritual people, committed to love, peace, and harmony, do at times like these? We can limit exposure to the constant bombardment of negative news alerts, meditate more intensively, and hold love in our hearts and in our lives, but is that enough? Having come of age in the politically active 1960s and 70s and lived that to the full, I know that is part of my heritage, but I also realized over the years there is more to it. I have learned the immense importance of energy and of how our own life force and inner being affects everything around us. The world will change and the paradigm will shift, not from the force of will power and pushing against, but from the steady peaceful walking forward together into a vision of something more open and inclusive. The dynamic energy of transformation—from fear to love.
This vision has a voice, and it emerges from yet another kind of silence: the silence of the soul. On a spiritual path, we often center ourselves in the silent peace at our core. That very silence can give rise to the voice within us that expresses the vision and speaks for the freedom and rights of all people and all beings on this planet. You can remain peaceful and loving and still speak out against injustice and hatred and for unity, connection, and sister/brotherhood. In fact, it is our responsibility to speak up. This can take many forms: in writing articles, in signing petitions, in sending letters and emails, in attending nonviolent marches or gatherings, in joining community groups based in diversity—and, especially, in not letting racist, anti-Semitic, sexist, or homophobic remarks or behavior pass by us, unaddressed. You don’t have to be perfectly articulate or eloquent to honestly and calmly speak from your heart about universal love and human compassion.
Over the years, I have discovered that silence fills my soul at all times. I carry it with me, and it informs my entire life and connects me to the presence that is God. From that place, I share my heart’s vision of a world based in loving-kindness. From that place, I know with everything in me that I am not separate from any other being on Earth and that our voices were given to us for a reason: to speak to one another. From that place, there is only one voice, the voice of love.
“If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.”
I went to San Francisco. And yes, I wore flowers in my hair. I was one of those young beaded, bell-bottomed kids who moved to California in the late 1960s, drawn by the irresistible call for “Love, Peace, and Flower Power.” 2017 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the famous San Francisco “Summer of Love.” Hard to believe that that much time has passed. In some ways, I still feel the same inside as I did when I left the Midwest for California, suitcase packed with utopian dreams. I still have those dreams. And I’m still a flower child at heart.
During 1967’s Summer of Love, it didn’t really matter where you were—that powerful energetic vibration affected you. In Michigan, I was preparing to leave for six months studying in France, but San Francisco was where I longed to be. All summer, I stayed up late into the night painting psychedelic posters and listening to Dylan, Donovan, and the Beatles. My longing continued right through the fall and spring at school in Europe (a French version of Scott McKenzie’s song seemed to be playing everywhere). Finally I reached the promised land in 1968. Was it all I hoped it would be? Yes, and more. It wasn’t exactly utopia, but it was a beginning. It brought me new adventures, new friends, and inner transformation, and that was just what I wanted.
The key component was the Dream. All of us who headed west in those years were dreamers, free spirits awakening to a global movement for universal love, peace, freedom, and radical change that is still streaming live through this world today. California was/is a state of mind, the psychic birthplace of possibility, of expansion outward beyond limitation. I was one of so many who undertook that journey. Some lost their way, but others, like me, are still journeying, still choosing love over fear every day of our lives.
California has felt like “home” to me for most of my adult life. Even though I grew up in Illinois, it is on my return trips to California that I begin to cry when I look down from the plane and see the landscape and ocean beneath me. I loved my years there. It was a time of transition, from small-town girl to flower child/activist in the larger world. I was a beginner, innocent in many ways, learning about life, love, poetry, politics—and figuring out who I was within all those frameworks. Of course, like others of my generation, I never wanted to be just one thing, live just one place, so after a few years on the West Coast in the late 1960s and earlier 1970s, I moved to the East Coast for graduate school. San Francisco called me back once again for several years after that, but then I returned to Boston. Since then, I visit California; I don’t live there physically.
Still, my soul is somehow timelessly connected to California. Perhaps I lived there in a past life, in addition to those key years in the 60s and 70s. Now, when I return, I stand looking out at the Pacific Ocean, and my mind quiets, my spirit rests. My heart recognizes “home.” The home that transcends time and place and links up with something intangible in the universe, in myself. The home that I found among those sweet youthful souls with visions of a better world—the “gentle people with flowers in their hair.” I will always be one of them.
A few weeks ago, I watched the four-part series “When We Rise,” about the recent history of the LGBTQ community in the U.S. and the fight for our basic human rights, including marriage equality. At the end, I felt emotionally exhausted, like I had relived the last 39 years of my life. I lived in San Francisco in 1978 at the time of the California Briggs Initiative to ban gay/lesbian schoolteachers, thankfully defeated, and the shooting death of gay city supervisor Harvey Milk. In 1981, I moved back to Boston, right before the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, which would take the lives of thousands of gay men. Every year I took part in the AIDS Walk to raise money for those with AIDS, and I lost dear friends on both coasts to this terrible disease. In 1987 and 1993, I marched on Washington for LGBTQ rights and freedom, and each year there was a Pride March in Boston (in June, to coincide with the 1969 Stonewall uprising in New York). Those were years of great sadness and loss, and yet the love in our hearts and the hope that together we could bring about change kept us going.
In 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same sex marriage, and the movement for marriage equality continued to gain momentum. In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act), and in 2015, it ruled in favor of same sex marriage nationwide. My partner and I, who had been together for 31 years, married in 2014, with family and friends celebrating with us. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, the national consciousness had shifted significantly toward love and inclusiveness over bigotry and hatred. We all had gotten so used to living with secrecy, fear, and the threat of violence that when acceptance appeared, it was almost shocking—extremely emotional and powerful for each of us. But it had not really been sudden; years of activism and private and public “coming out” had brought about the change. The rainbow lights shining across the country on national monuments, as well as the White House, reflected the magical new reality we were all experiencing.
However, today in 2017, a new administration, accompanied by a conservative backlash, is already beginning to whittle away at our hard-won gains, beginning with transgender rights. LGBTQ community members are currently the top target for acts of hatred in the Boston area. We are not done. Freedom, equality, and justice for all people are ideals that must be lived and upheld every single day. We do that by not giving up, by not allowing outrage or depression to overrule the universal compassion and kindness in our hearts. Intolerance still exists, but we are here to live our love, and we won’t stop. Not now, not ever. The music of our hearts and souls will carry us forward. As songwriter Holly Near wrote after Harvey Milk was killed: “We are a gentle, angry people, and we are singing, singing for our lives.”
I have changed in so many ways in the last 39 years, yet the core of me remains the same. I too am here to live love in the world. When I am meditating alone or in spiritual circles, when I am marching in demonstrations, when I am speaking my truth, I am centered in that love. A living prayer for love that includes friends and strangers alike around the world. Our hearts and souls link us together into one family. We are all connected, we very diverse humans on planet Earth, reaching out for freedom, equality, and the right to self-expression. In the deepest part of our being, we are not so different; we all want similar things in this life. Ultimately, it’s all about love. Always.
In Memoriam: Gilbert Baker, who in 1978 created the first rainbow flag in San Francisco, died last Friday, March 31, at the age of 65. That first hand-dyed and hand-stitched rainbow flag became the international symbol for LGBTQ pride and freedom.
Because of the current tumultuous political events in this country and worldwide, we need to hold a clear positive vision in our hearts of a more peaceful, compassionate world so that we don’t lose hope. In this week’s blog, which is a video instead of a written article, I talk about the importance of maintaining faith, hope, and clarity in our day-to-day lives. (See other recent videos of mine at Videos on the menu above.)