When I came out to my parents in my early 20′s, it was not a big deal. I’d known I liked guys for a while, and had mainly waited because A) I was still sleeping with girls AND guys and B) I didn’t want to tell them I was gay if I was single, because I knew that my good Jewish mother would think I was going to get AIDS and die. So I waited until I was dating David, a sweet actor in Los Angles whose main source of income was as David Spade’s stand-in on the initial season of Just Shoot Me (yes, he did look a lot like him). At the time I was helping setup a theatrical production unit at the Walt Disney Company, and I remember calling my parents from my masouleum-quiet office on the Disney lot, with lovely downtown Burbank spread out below.
Now, in my mid-to-late 30′s, I have had to come out to a number of people again, this time as a Buddhist. It’s true, I have not taken refuge vows or identified myself as religiously Buddhist, because I haven’t learned enough yet about which elements of these actions are core to the practice, and which are “add-ons” that helped solidify a traditional religious structure around the Buddha’s teachings. I am only just learning the teachings of the Buddha and yet I do feel compelled to tell people that I am Buddhist. Considering my limited understanding of what I thought that meant as recently as two years ago, it is no surprise when people are surprised or have many questions. It’s very much like coming out, again, though without the fear of rejection that hovered around the edges of telling people that I was gay.
I noticed in the news the other day that there is a crackdown on gay Buddhist monks in one area of Thailand. Specifically, they are asking the male monks to stop carrying pink handbags, wearing lipstick, and curling their eyelashes. This was universally reported as a crackdown on “Gay Buddhist Monks” so let me be the first to say that this is actually a crackdown on Buddhist Monk Drag Queens. Not to say that MiniMoFo hasn’t considered shaking things up by dressing him and Ethan in taupe robes, pink handbags, and fire-engine red lipstick, but now I’ll have to think twice. Personally I’m disappointed that now I cannot visit Thailand and receive Dharma teachings followed by an incredible rendition of Kate Bush’s Wuthering Hunts, in Thai. Or maybe they would be more partial to early 60′s Streisand. Either way, it’s a sad day for the swishy queens just trying to be who they are during their time in the monastery.