What are the implications of labeling our sexual orientations?

I grew up in a time where I was a closet homosexual. That was what I called myself. I had a girlfriend, and I did the whole double life thing.

I was a psychotherapist in the University Health Services, and they began to see that I was quite successful with people that were easily confused about sexual identity. So pretty soon, they gave me all the homosexual cases. They had no idea about my sexual orientation. I mean, this is in the therapeutic counsel, and at one point a young man who I had met, and who was staying at my apartment, I loaned him my car for the day, which was a rather distinctive car.

He tried to pick up one of the psychiatrists, and it had a health service sticker on the back of the car, so I was called in by the head of the psychiatric services, who said, “Dick, one of your patients used your car.” I saw they were trying to protect me from the implications of that, and I said, “No, it wasn’t a patient. It was a fellow I was sleeping with. You have my resignation.” To their honor, they didn’t accept my resignation and instead they said, “No, you’re a very good therapist. Go ahead. Your sexual orientation is your own.”

But that wasn’t true actually, I mean, the word spread through the whole community, and everybody acted differently to me. I mean, I know all the stuff that I think is also most of the stuff that I think most of you know too, but in my lifetime I’ve watched the whole game change tremendously to where groups like this can even meet.

Allen Ginsberg is a very close friend of mine, and for a long time, because Allen was being very much publicly gay in his writings and his writing at work, I questioned whether that was my role too. I saw along the way, because of my drug history, that I was identified by many people as being a “druggie.”

I began to see that every one of these roles and labels was both a way of having a feeling of comfort in a group identity, while also being a defining concept in my own mind. I see people who have labels in their mind of who I am. I found it a little too complicated to have any labels at all.

Immediately, a person needs the label in their head to make the world more efficient, and I see that instead of reacting to that, by getting defensive or agreeing or disagreeing or something, I allow people’s projections to go through me like Chinese food.

They come and go and I see them as their projections, and if they want to hold that model, that’s their business, not mine.

Whatever I am, I just am, and from inside that allows me to be at home in the universe.


-Ram Dass, taken from a lecture at Omega Institute entitled “Honoring Our Journey” in 1995

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