It’s July Fourth – Independence Day for Gay Men: What Do You Want Independence From?
As we celebrate the summer and the Fourth of July — Independence Day — let’s consider the meaning of that word, “independence.” Historically, this means celebrating America’s freedom from the tyrannical rule of a cruel and imbecilic king who over-taxed his hardest-working citizens to enrich the elite and fund wars that aggrandized his ego. (OK, so I guess not much has changed in over 200 years!) For gay men, the word “independence” can mean so much more. For many or most of us, we grow up hiding our sexuality for a long time, and we are imprisoned by isolation, secrecy, and lack of validation for who we are.
Independence Day for gay men, coming usually soon after the annual Pride celebrations in June, as a community, is a celebration and commemoration of the Stonewall Uprising in New York in 1969, when, as a community, we declared our independence from systemic oppression (by the anti-gay New York City Police Department in particular, but also oppression in general). For each of us as individuals, the coming out process is like declaring our independence from widespread heterosexism (“the assumption that everyone is, or should be, heterosexual”).
We declare our independence from the sexism that imprisons us into strict demands for gender-conforming behaviors, whether we like those things or not, and we certainly declare independence from the outright hate and bigotry that we hear about almost constantly in the news, particularly from conservative religious sectors and/or Republicans. We also declare independence from people telling us we “can’t” — can’t be a part of certain groups, can’t hold certain jobs, can’t adopt children, can’t celebrate our sexuality, can’t have benefits, can’t have protections from discrimination, can’t have our Pride month recognized by the government, and so on. The entire LGBT community fights for independence from oppression in many ways, not just on July Fourth, but every day, in the United States and worldwide.
And beyond declaring independence as a broader LGBT community in general and a gay male community in particular, we can celebrate our individual independence by declaring ourselves free of something we no longer want in our lives, on a more personal level. What burdens you? What do you wish you had independence from? A reliance on a substance like alcohol, crystal or cocaine? A burden of too much debt that keeps you from feeling solvent and free? A job that drains you of your energy and doesn’t fill your spirit? A relationship fraught with problems that drag down your ability to really enjoy another person? The invisible chains of difficult emotions like fear, worry, sadness, or frustration? Maybe it’s time to Declare your Independence in ways that are special and specific to you, starting today.
But how? First, check in with yourself. Do you spend more time being generally OK and happy, or more time burdened by this “thing” that binds you? If the thing that bothers you takes up considerable time in your mind, it’s time to identify what that is and do something about it. America didn’t achieve its independence by simply writing the Declaration of Independence; that was just the first step in recognizing what the problem was. The second step was doing something about it, which was fighting the Revolutionary War — and winning. Maybe your problem won’t require fighting an entire war, but it will require action from you. What resources do you need to fight for your independence? An internal resource like commitment, determination, courage, energy, or assertiveness? Or an external resource like researching and gaining information, networking, forming new relationships, developing new skills (which are defined as “knowledge put into practice”), emotional support, mentoring, or coaching?
Every journey begins with the first step. After you’ve identified what would represent independence for you, what is the first thing you need to do about it? Then do it. Once you do, there will be fireworks in your life to celebrate it!
If you need help declaring or achieving your independence, consider therapy or coaching for help. Sessions with me are available Monday through Friday, from the early afternoon to later evening, and with GayTherapyLA’s associate clinicians on weekday mornings and weekends. We meet either in my office in Los Angeles, or via FaceTime or Skype. Therapy is available for clients in California; outside California or the United States, it’s coaching, and I can explain the difference when we talk. For more information or to book an appointment, call/text 310-339-5778, or email Ken@GayTherapyLA.com. Would be happy to help!