Lighting the Way Past the Unknown

by Dian Reid-Jancic· Follow Dian on

Light the Way to Justice - Orange County (Masked by Traci Durfee)Tuesday night I went to a candle light vigil just outside the Ronald Reagan Federal Building and US District Courthouse in Orange County. The event was not a rally, not a march, but simply a gathering of support around marriage equality for the LGBTQ community (re: Prop 8 and DOMA).

The most poignant moment of the night for me came as Min Sook, a Korean mother, spoke of her 31-year-old son’s coming out of the closet to her, and of her going into the closet. Such shame and fear in the unknown—gay people are often the unknown in a heterosexual world. I can hardly recreate the moment, but what I can do is tell you of its impact on me.

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I was reminded of how we fear the unknown, in general. How we dismiss the unknown because we do not understand what is unknown. How we pretend the unknown does not exist until it is clear the unknown will not go away, and so we try with all our might to make it disappear.

The way to understand the unknown is not to hide from it, not to dismiss it, not to make it disappear.

The unknown will not go away by simply wishing it away. (Ask Chely Wright about that).

The unknown ceases to be unknown as we venture onto the path of curiosity. When we get curious about the unknown, we learn, we grow, we begin to understand. When we invite the unknown in and show love, we begin to relate and the unknown all but falls away, if we let it.

In Min Sook’s case, her son was the unknown. In all the years she thought she knew her son, she didn’t know the whole of him. And when he showed her the whole of him, she chose to hide that from everyone she knew.

Long before last night’s candle light vigil, I chose to hide the uncomfortable unknown in my life, as well. It wasn’t my sexuality, but my father’s religion. I didn’t necessarily disregard my father’s religion, but I didn’t acknowledge it, either. We both agreed to disagree on my sexuality and his religion and left them to hide in a closet of their own, at least as far as our relationship was concerned.

It wasn’t until he was nearly on his deathbed that I began to understand the importance of not only acknowledging the unknown—both of ours—but how our unknowns interacted in the shadows.

When I came out to my father in my late twenties, I chided him for not seeing me as a whole person. For not trying to understand that I was the same Dian before I told him I was gay as I was after. For trying to change who I was instead of understand who I was tired of hiding.

Without realizing it, I lost years of a real relationship with my father because I did exactly what I had been upset with him for doing to me.

It wasn’t until the last seven days of my father’s life that I began to understand the value of our unknowns and how much closer it can bring two people (or even a nation), if only they—we—come together and try to relate to one another rather than dismiss their unknowns.

You don’t have to wait as long as I did.

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Don’t fear the unknown, get curious about it. Don’t try to change the unknown, try to understand it. Don’t hide from the unknown, light the way and relate to it. Only when dialogue is created can we truly begin to understand one another.

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