One of the most cliche ice breakers for anyone in a philosophic mood is “if you could have dinner with three people, who would they be and why?” If I could be graced with the presence of any three people in history, I would have to choose Gandhi, Jesus, and Coco Chanel. To many these might seem incongruent, but they have much more in common that most would care to admit.
To quote Gandhi, “first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” This quote could not be any more accurate, it’s such an astute observation that it can be seen throughout history beginning with Jesus Christ. This passage is from the book of Matthew where Jesus tells his disciples what his ultimate fate will be upon returning to Jerusalem.
Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests and scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him unto the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify: and on the third day he shall be raised up.
In the beginning of his ministry, Jesus, although unintentionally, flew somewhat under the radar performing miracles that were completely dismissed by the religious leaders of the time but upon realizing the force that Jesus was to become, they mocked him and belittled him, attempting to strip him of any credibility. When they finally accepted his power in both a literal and figurative sense, they condemned him and mocked his humanity and humility which resulted in his human death. But as you know, the story didn’t end there, against all human odds, he arose from the dead and ascended into Heaven, ultimately defeating those that had dismissed, mocked, condemned, and murdered him.
Obviously Coco Chanel wasn’t a martyr of any sort, but she was a renegade fashionista for her time that beat the social and financial odds and inspired a classic style that is still richly popular throughout the world today. Coco knew the formula for maintaining cultural relevance – embracing what makes you unique, something that Jesus and Gandhi had the innate ability to do. “In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different” she said. Although she probably never met Gandhi and definitely didn’t have a drink with Jesus, Coco shared a love for individuality and all things beautiful – and fabulous – with the aforementioned religious visionaries.
So what does any of this have to do with you or me? When framed in the context of Gandhi’s quote, the life of Jesus very much parallels the struggles that we all face, especially as a community. Until the mid 20th century, the queer community was swept under the rug, relegated to midnight rendezvous and apparently Abe Lincoln’s bedroom – politicians haven’t really changed have they? – but in the 60’s, much like other minority groups, we became a force that had to be acknowledged. The initial response was to belittle us with what were then demeaning terms such as “queer” “fag” “dyke” or “tranny” and ultimately, since the world has realized that we aren’t going anywhere, they have made every attempt to eradicate us; locking us in mental wards, forced sterilizations, despicable “corrective” therapies, raiding and destroying our only social refuges; torturing and killing us in the name of God. The harsh reality of what society has done to our community continues to come to light – blatant institutionalized discrimination, a seemingly constant barrage of LGBT teen suicides, assaults and murders have unfortunately become a norm in our society, but if history proves itself, ultimately we will win; just as Gandhi said and just as Jesus did. It’s time for our community to stand up and light a fire not only under politicians but corporations, “friends” and family alike to let them know that either they are for love and with us or they are for hate and against us.
The road behind us has been far from paved with gold and the reality of our society is that it will take generations to reverse the social stigma of our community and tear down the political and legal barriers that separate us from them. But the fight is worth fighting and it begins with each of us sharing our personal worlds just as everyone else does with the knowledge that we won’t always be accepted for who we are, and in fact, we will all at some point face discrimination on some level; but if we live by Coco Chanel’s mantra that “a [person] should be two things; classy and fabulous” we will begin to see a change in our world for the better. It is our job as a community and as a generation to leave the world a better place for future generations, just as Jesus, Gandhi, and yes, Coco Chanel did by embracing what makes us unique and sharing it with the world around us is our own “classy and fabulous” way.
– The Reverend