Same-Sex Marriage and Our Shadow Selves
News reports this week indicate a ‘very profound shift’ in attitudes toward same-sex marriage in Australia, where the issue is in hot debate right now. Last year, a government push for the legalization of same-sex marriage in a national vote was blocked by opposition and minor parties. This year, a wide-ranging survey has shown that more Australians than not want same-sex marriage legalized in their country.
If there’s anything that I think should be banned, it would probably be heterosexual marriage. A heterosexual marriage today has about a 60 percent chance of ending in divorce. Families are torn apart, children grapple with abandonment, spousal and child support battles and money grabs get completely ugly, and two people who were once in covenant and in love become, in most cases, bitter enemies. Is that really a successful institution?
My hunch is that in 50 years or less, we will look back with societal shame at our present legislation and strong judgements against gay marriage and gay rights. Just as we cringe today when looking at an American history that includes the barbarism of human slavery – the greatest crime ever committed in the North American continent - one day, the consensus among Americans will be that we were out of our minds to have legislated a separation between heterosexual and homosexual citizens of this country.
The Buddha taught that all suffering is created through separation. We are meant to connect to others, not be parted from them. Anyone who’s experienced loneliness can attest to this. Any animal that’s been abused or abandoned can verify it. It’s unnatural to draw a bright line between what we view as us and ‘others’. Being all one, any act of separation flies in the face of our own true natures. Buddhism also understands that separation, while ultimately illusory, creates deep pain and feelings of inadequacy in the ones who are forced into their separateness.
Those who create and support separation – either through governmental legislation or through their own dark hearts – are allowing themselves to be owned by what Carl Jung described as our ‘shadow’ selves. The shadow in all of us is the part we seek to hide, the part that causes us shame - the child who was beaten, the woman who was abused, the man who was told over and over that he is inadequate. The part of all of us that hurts too much to acknowledge the existence of.
We are masters of pushing the shadow self toward the margins. But we can’t keep the shadow self out of the light all the time. It jumps out from behind the curtain and makes itself seen and heard when we hurt or criticize others, when we are disloyal and dishonest, unfaithful and uncaring, and when we seek to strip away the rights and integrity from those who are different from us in any way.
I believe, however, that we’re going through a cycle where this separation is being dissolved. In my opinion, it can’t come soon enough. Globally, people are self-realizing. They are doing the self-work, because mind you, this is all about the self. It’s not about gay or not gay. It’s always been about being owned by our own shadows.
Probably not in my lifetime, but soon, governments will release their choke hold on the issue of homosexuality. I believe that the conservatives of the Old Guard will all have to die before the movement gets traction. They’re a tenacious bunch. But die they will, and in conjunction with direct action, this latest form of enslavement will become an embarrassing part of our history.
We would wake up and evolve, and accordingly, live with the shame of this reprehensible part of our past. But at least legislatively, it would be behind us. We would begin to know peace.