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Human beings have a dilemma. On one hand they are gregarious and they need to be part of a tribe. They are born not as individuals but as members of a tribe (usually several types). ‘Tribal energy’ is integral to the human soul. One needs to belong and feel part of something it claims as its own – and in return,the tribe says ‘s/he is part of us”.

Tribes do not nourish individuality or differences. How many times do we see somebody going to his or her tribe saying “I have an announcement. I am different in some way”. This is not usually warmly received. The usual reaction is ‘how can you do this to us, after all we’ve done for you?” Individuality threatens tribal energy. Those out of line with the tribe are sometimes excommunicated, banished, ejected or snubbed, or simply told to go.

Being queer fits into no traditional tribe; there are no modern cultures, families, or religions that I am aware who have it as OK. Gay people sometimes try to form some sort of space within their tribes (two examples: gay Republicans and gay teacher clubs).

The ‘gay community’ is a sort of tribe, and like all tribes it too doesn’t do well with its own misfits. I hear this every year at pride events when the drag queens and leather folks are criticized. ‘If those people would just not be like that we would look better’. This kind of talk stems to ties – the desire to be accepted into the old tribes. 

In contrast to the need for tribal membership is the development of the Self. Individual growth is in direct antithesis to the Tribe. The growth of the Self means you are going to let down your Tribe and sometimes tremendously. Imagine somebody in church or the military standing up and deciding to do things a new way. Yet, for Self growth to occur, some of the tribal energies need to be disconnected. Tribal energies will not suffice for Self growth.

Being gay has a paradoxical horrible and wonderful gift. Gay people are forced to attend to their Self more than straight people as they often have little choice in breaking off from their original tribes. It is sort of like having to learn to swim when you are pushed out the boat. Often nasty and unfair, it forces them to look inward and grow. The Self can grow far faster than the tribe can grow. Often I hear gay people feeling they are somehow ‘beyond’ their original tribe. “I don’t fit back there anymore”. They are right: they are too big for the old box.

Each person needs to grow in Self energy while somehow remaining plugged into some tribal energy. (Of course, some choose to have little to no identity outside of a tribe. This is a safe and comfortable position. Gay people are often not allowed this option.)

I hope the tribes you call your own are supportive and nurturing for you. I hope they allow your growth – and you enhance the worth of the tribe.

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June 2007

Spo-Reflections 2006-2018