[Last night, Tuesday, September 24, POFEV: People of Faith for Equality in Virginia sponsored “The Many Voices of LGBT Pride,” an interfaith service focused on the spiritual foundations of LGBT liberation, at Congregation Beth Ahabah in Richmond. A small group heard some amazing color-themed meditations by various speakers–including a poem about indigo by NAACP Richmond President Dr. Kim Allen. I continue my own blog posts with some thoughts about indigo, and will continue to share more entries over the next few days to help us get ready for the celebration of Virginia Pride on Saturday, September 28, at Kanawha Plaza, in Richmond–and to continue focusing on our roots and dreams in the days to come.]
Who does not want serenity and harmony? That is what Gilbert Baker says is represented by indigo, a shade of blue I rarely hear mentioned these days.
My earliest memory of indigo was hearing my parents talk about sighting a male Indigo Bunting, a bird, in our yard. The female, as is true in so many bird families, is quite drab, but the male is this glorious color. When I looked up the bird, I was quite surprised to see how bright the color is. I had always thought of indigo as a very dark, almost midnight blue. But, as I am coming to realize, colors encompass a wide range of appearances.
This is true of LGBT people, of course. Those who do not know us, and especially those who choose not to know us, think we are all the same–in the same way some people act as if all Black people or all Mexicans are the same; seen one (or maybe just talking without any real knowledge), you know them all. But like indigo, and other colors of the rainbow, we are a beautiful spectrum.
Indigo appears between blue and violet in a rainbow. Purple grapes and blueberries are indigo. The deep blue of dark denim jeans is indigo. One of the colors of the rainbow, indigo — a dark purplish blue , sometimes more blue and sometimes more violet— gets it name from the indigo plant used to create the indigo dye.
Here’s more of what I learned in my digging into this color. Indigo is the color of the deep midnight sky. It can have a negative effect when used during a depressed state, because it will deepen the mood. Indigo symbolizes a mystical borderland of wisdom, self-mastery and spiritual realization. While blue is the color of communication with others, indigo turns the blue inward, to increase personal thought, profound insights, and instant understandings. While blue can be fast, Indigo is almost instantaneous. Inventors use indigo skills for inspirations that seem to ‘come out of the blue’.
Reading about this psychological understanding of indigo, I realize it is the color of coming out, or at least the color that gets us to look inward and value what we find enough to announce to the world–to family, friends, co-workers, fellow congregants, people who matter to us–that we lesbian or gay or bisexual or transgender. And then when we do come out, we gain seemingly instant understandings of ourselves.
As LGBT people so often say, our sexuality is not all we are, but when we claim it we surely know ourselves more and we are freed to become more ourselves in all parts of our lives. Things begin to fit together and we can work toward more personal fulfillment. Of course, when we don’t do this, we experience of the depression of the closet.
For me, indigo is the color of Maine. My first male lover, Marvin, lived in Maine, and I moved to Maine to be with him for about four years. Maine is very beautiful, and big parts of it are still fairly natural. A special aspect of Maine are the “lowbush” blueberries that grow wild in what Maine folks call “barrens.” The blueberries we buy in stores are nice, but if you want a pungent taste, a real knock-your-socks-off flavor, find some growing wild, and bend down to pick them. I think this is the sort of authenticity, or wild integrity, older LGBT writers, people like poet Judy Grahn, mean when they write about our ancient roots and traditions. They want us to claim the parts of ourselves that are untamed by the world that so often seeks to make us all the same.
Ellington was not gay, but in this piece he did something very “queer,” He took the traditional front-line of trumpet, trombone and clarinet, and turned them “upside down.” At the time of the first recordings in 1930, the usual “voices” would be clarinet at the top (highest pitch), trumpet in the middle, and the trombone at the bottom (lowest pitch). In “Mood Indigo,” Ellington voices the trombone right at the top of the instrument’s register, and the clarinet at the very lowest. This was unheard of at the time.
Some of the earliest researchers about and theorists of same-gender-love and sexuality spoke of “inverts,” because we turned things inside out, we inverted the usual order. Today, many accuse LGBT folks of turning things upside down, against their “natural order” (marriage is only between one man and one woman, e.g.).
In this sense, “Mood Indigo” might well be the jazz theme song of the LGBT liberation movement, as lesbian and gay–and bisexual–people continue to challenge the old narratives about how love and sexuality work together, and transgender people upend all the old narratives about the rigidity of gender–advancing the truth first articulated by feminists that biology is not destiny. If you want to listen to, and see, an early rendition of this classic by the Duke and his orchestra, go here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GohBkHaHap8
All this and so much more is wrapped up in a color–remembering that in this one color, as in all of them, are many colors. Can we not remember and celebrate the rainbows inside the rainbow(s), and know that it is God who calls us to do so? All this glorious color is, I believe, God showing off, and being pretty delighted to be doing so!