By Jillian Langford
As summer draws to a close, I am already counting down the days to October. And no, not just because I am excited about the changing leaves and hot beverages (hello, Pumpkin Spice Lattes!) that I get to enjoy as the weather changes on the East Coast of the United States. I am counting down the days to October when I will fly across the country to attend the wedding of my old college roommate.
When I got a save the date in the mail last year, I was so thrilled to see that my former roommate had finally asked her girlfriend to be her wife and that she wanted me to celebrate with them. I’ve purchased plane tickets, rented a car, and I am picking out the perfect outfit for the occasion. What could be more joyful than celebrating my dear friends’ love? All was well until I got a text from my old roommate asking for advice. I was crushed by what she shared with me.
With her wedding just around the corner, she’s received messages from several friends and family members that they will not attend her wedding because she has made the decision to marry a woman. This disappointing news made me wonder what exactly these friends found offensive about her decision and how the guests made their decisions in the first place.
Despite progress in biology, gender and sexuality is still perceived and often discussed through a binary – we are men and women, who fit together like puzzle pieces. However, one has only to study the evolution of sex from simple cellular to multicellular complex life to realize that nature is not entirely binary. Even some of the first sexual beings to emerge were called isogamous, meaning somewhere between male and female. Today we see the sexual “binary” challenged among bird species, insects, and even mammals throughout the animal kingdom.
When we only seek to understand a person through their sex, we fail to embrace the fullness of their personhood. In fact, the very root of the word sex comes from the Latin word, secare, which literally means to “to cut off,” “to sever,” “to amputate,” “to disconnect from the whole.” Considering a person only through their sexual identity severs the person from their connection to the whole and reduces their identity to “parts.” When we do this, we show how truly dualistic thinking is ingrained into our lives.
Sexuality is one part of personhood, and it is a gift that allows the human to move toward more freedom in wholeness. Ilia Delio writes that “to be a person is to be an authentic relational being, a flowing of being in the giftedness of one’s life. Personhood is not a given or a mandate; it is a constructive process of ongoing identity.” If developing authentic personhood allows us the ability to contribute to the going creative flow of life, sexuality should be embraced as part of the completion of personhood. God simply wants to become wholly alive in us and the embrace of sexuality is a part of this process.
Sexuality – gay, straight, bi, trans, and beyond – is an expression of the open universe, expanding toward more and new life and love. Embracing sexuality, then, in all its forms and functions helps us to see God more clearly. If the central message of the Christian Gospel is to love God and to love neighbor, what better way to embrace this love than to love God as manifested in all beings, and to love God within the unique manifestation of God in ourselves? When we embrace a non-dual spirituality and see that God really is present in all materiality, we can begin to understand that we are all connected in this universe, and all persons, in their own unique way, add to the ongoing life of God and world in creation. In other words, all of us add to the rainbow of creation through our life, spirit, and sexuality.
Every facet of materiality and life contributes to the ongoing creation of God and world. Reducing ourselves, our world, and persons to dualisms limits our ability to begin to see an organic unity, a dynamic process, where every part of the whole participates in the perpetual evolution of our universe. Movement toward a non-dualistic embrace of reality is the only way forward. Ilia Delio put it beautifully when she wrote: “We have only one real task in life, to live from the heart in truth and freedom. It is time to put away our fears and judgments and to look into the eyes of another, to gaze at the face of another, and to love the other.