[oasis] [columns]

Celeste Smith

March 1997

What do you want from your life? Do you want to serve your country? Have a family? Make a difference in the life of one other person? Sing "Henry the Eighth" loudly out of your bedroom window? Learn to juggle? Write "one great song"? Simply be happy? Simply be healthy? Simply be loved?

Well, everyone wants something out of their life. Everyone needs something out of life. How can you find what you want and need and allow others to achieve their goals too? Maybe it's that simple. Maybe if we all stop living as we are expected to live and live how we need and want to live, then we can open our lives, as well as the lives of others, to joy, success, peace, and hope.

OK, OK, so I am getting a bit idealistic here, but I'm going somewhere with this. . .How do we turn these ideals into reality? How do we live the lives we want to live, need to live, and allow others to live their lives as well? This question has been bothering me for years. Is it even possible?

This question has been addressed by many different institutions, as well, and most every individual in one way or another. Even the United States government addressed this situation by telling us that one person's rights end where another's begin. Is this really a functional answer? I would like to think so, because it sounds as if it would protect everyone to the fullest extent, but from experience we can see that it might not be enough. How do we protect the ideas and actions of minorities? According to the US government, as well as most dogmas, this protections of rights is plenty, but we, like many other minority groups right now, know this is not enough. Homosexuals would not be of any harm, emotionally or physically, if we were allowed to serve openly in the military. More would we be infringing on the rights of others if we were allowed legal marriage.

In these cases, we are not physically harming people, we are doing something a bit more abstract, for we are contradicting their personal views and disturbing their comfortable, pre-defined lifestyles. How do we decide where one person's right to be comfortable ends and another's begins? I think we all must step back a moment and understand that people are always going to have different wants, needs and beliefs, that is what makes us all interesting and able to perpetuate such a diverse world. We teach children to share and work in a social environment by the time they are in kindergarten, yet they are taught at the same time that ideas are meant to be singular and universal, not relative and multiple.

One of my biggest dilemmas in coming out has been, "Do I have the right to force someone else to deal with my sexuality?" (strange question, huh?). But step away from it for a minute. I remember how long it took me to admit to myself that I was a lesbian, let alone, how long it took me to voice the reality of my sexuality. I was simply luck that I was not forced to deal with my sexuality, as some have bee, on another person's time table (i.e., being outed). Why should I force my friends and family to deal with such a personal and serious issue on my time table?

So the question took up a great deal of my time as I contemplated telling the people I love about the other person I love. Some of my family and friends have very deep roots in religions or philosophies that teach them that homosexuality is wrong. How are these people to deal with me?

First of all, I reminded myself that my friends and family love ME. They love me for the person I am. Yes, my sexuality is part of me, and with the more work I do in the GLBT community, the bigger a part of me it becomes, but I always have been and always will a great deal more then simply a lesbian. If these people love me, they must learn to love me for all that I am, no matter weather they agree with every aspect of me or not.

Then, I tried to see the life I am living as my own. In order to be happy, I must live it for myself and be honest with others in the process. For me, part of being happy had to do with having the freedom to love who I want and being able to share the joy and pain of relationship with others. But, at the same time, the last thing I want to do is maintain a selfish, thoughtless existence. So I continue the external balancing act between my life and that of others. I have tried to live for others, and failed. I must live my life for me, weather that means eating a dozen doughnuts in one setting or allowing myself to enjoy the people I love. But I know and believe that to live a life without thinking of others at all would be just as detrimental to myself and those with whom I come in contact.

It is still hard for me to cause people I know and love to question beliefs and standards they have always held to be true, but it is more important for them to know me for who I am truly and fully. They will always have the right to live and believe the way they wish to, and I must love them for all of who they are just as I hope they love me the way I am. The question of agreeing is not as important as accepting.

With hope and love,
Celeste Smith


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