By Thomas Ehnert
As part of my spiritual journey, I’ve been working through The Artists’ Way. It consists of weekly chapters and daily writing, meant to help artists recover their creativity and rediscover their passion. A phrase recently caught my attention. Julia Cameron writes, “We often resist what we most need.” This led me to think about the years of resisting my feelings of attraction for my own gender. It also made me think, however, of all the creativity that I, at a very early age, resisted, fought, and suppressed along with my sexual orientation.
Let me explain. I remember going through my “Little House phase.” This was back in the days when Little House on the Prairie was rerunning every morning. We read the books in school as well. I remember reading about Laura and Mary sewing. I wanted to sew too. I used my mom’s scrap material to sew pillows. My dad even used my pillows for taking his many naps! I wanted to learn how to cross-stitch, knit, and crochet, too. But then I realized some were looking askance at a little boy who liked to sew. I stopped sewing.
I also loved to cook. I remember when we learned the sanitized version of the first Thanksgiving in school. At home, I dressed up like a Pilgrim and pretended I was making Thanksgiving dinner in our basement. My dad came downstairs one day and saw me running around serving my stuffed animals dinner — in his dead mother’s dress! He didn’t yell at me or call me names. He just grinned and went upstairs. Eventually, I started cooking and baking real food for real people. My dad loved my cookies and meals. I remember a lunch where the rice wasn’t cooked all the way through though; we all sat there crunching our uncooked rice. But my dad complimented me. One time, a relative said, “You’ll make someone a great housewife someday!” I thought about that statement. I stopped cooking.
In grade school I learned how to read music. I taught myself to play piano. The organists at my home parish gave me free lessons. I played for church and sang in the choir. My dad drove me to practice every day and picked me up again. My parents proudly came to whatever I played for or sang for. Then I started college, and the students called the organists “music fags”. I stopped playing music and dropped out of choir.
What I’ve realized is that all these years, I have been resisting what I most needed. And the reason I resisted pursuing those creative outlets is that people were linking those creative outlets to my sexual orientation, which I was also resisting. What seemed to them to be “effeminate” or “girls’ stuff” was therefore a threat to me, because I was trying to hide my being gay.
So I’ve made a resolution. This month we celebrate Father’s Day and Pride. I think my dad knew he had a gay son (even though I didn’t come out until after he died). Dads know these things. So in his honor, I’m nurturing the creativity he nurtured. What I resisted, I will do. What he was proud of, I will be proud of. I am unleashing my creativity, long squashed by my own self-repression. I’m going to cook. I’m going to sew. I’m going to sing. I’m going to make music. I’m going to be me.
The most spiritually healthy thing we can do is just be ourselves, do the things that may not make us a dime, but that make us who we really are. The real me doesn’t care about gender roles. It doesn’t care about heteronormative attitudes. My inner creativity couldn’t care less about stereotypes. My inner artist cares about me! Yours does, too! I am going to embrace my inner creativity, because it is my real self. Imagine what the world would be like if all the GLBT artists, painters, musicians, clergy, hairstylists, bakers, cooks, grillers, actors, directors, singers, dancers, decorators, designers, gardeners, seamstresses, florists, landscapers, photographers, writers, speakers, advocates, doctors, nurses, lawyers, politicians, teachers, and poets stopped practicing our many and varied arts! Now imagine what the world be would be like if you added yours, or devoted more time to yours! Or just imagine what your life would be like if you added your art!
This Pride month, identify what creative outlets you’ve been resisting. Stop fighting them. Embrace them. Let’s unleash our creativity and be proud of it! Our creativity as GLBT people is part of what makes us so wonderfully unique. It’s a huge part of what we should be most proud of.