Who do you serve on World AIDS Day?

Who do you serve? So often we go about our days, doing our work, engaging with the news (or refusing to engage), never pausing to reflect on this basic question. Tomorrow, the first of December, let us ask whether our efforts to eliminate AIDS-related suffering are truly serving the World.

So this post is to those of us whose consciousness is already raised about HIV/AIDS and are committed to its eradication. We know that there is neither a cure nor a vaccine to prevent its transmission. We know that despite decades of education, ignorance about the disease remains high and risky behaviors unacceptably high. We know people continue to die by the millions each year.

On World AIDS Day, we may ask: am I serving myself? If I am HIV negative, am I taking good care of my immune system and taking appropriate precautions with every risky situation? Do I know enough to not get AIDS? If I am HIV positive, am I keeping the virus in my body under control and keeping my emotional and spiritual health high enough so that I recognize my own inherent worth?

We should also ask: am I serving my community? How many people living with HIV are on your street, in your neighborhood, and in your city? What needs and challenges do they face? In this time of budget shortfalls and health insurance belt tightening, do not assume they have what they need. Find out who helps them, and if those organizations are healthy enough to do their work. What can you do?

Then we may whether we serve our country. Are we supporting leaders who back up their words about the need to combat AIDS with intelligent strategies that use methodologies proven effective by scientific research or driven by ideology? Do our leaders understand the connections between HIV, poverty, education, drug abuse, and crime—and do they see the big picture?

Do you serve the world? Among 33 million HIV positive people in the world, only about 4 million are getting the medicine they need. If UNAIDS and WHO statistics suggest that the global epidemic may be slowing, where are the hardest-hit countries who are lagging behind? What do millions upon millions of people need? If you do not know, this is a good day to educate yourself.

Imagine a world without AIDS, and act as if that vision were already true. God’s compassion reaches into the suffering depths of world through my hands and yours. Those hands can only reach as far as you let them, only as far as you let Spirit work through you. Compassion and love know no limits except those illusions and delusions that stop us from being who we truly are. Be who you are, let us all be who we are, and the suffering associated with HIV will vanish.

The Bridge of Light Approaches

Source: Craig Photography. Reprinted with Permission.


Less than forty days remain before the Bridge of Light, the LGBT winter cultural event on December 31, 2009, now in its fifth year. You are invited to bring in the New Year by dedicating yourself to continuing and developing the spiritual heritage of the gay community.

The Bridge of Light tradition is part of the 7th annual World Spirituality Day, an event sponsored by an unaffiliated group: Integrative Spirituality, a not-for-profit omni-denominational spiritual organization based in San Francisco, California. World Spirituality Day is regarded by some as “The Earth Day for the Spirit.”

Just as Earth Day is celebrated worldwide now, in many different ways, World Spirituality Day allows for a kaleidoscope of worldwide gatherings and events, big and small, year after year. Bridge of Light is one such type of event, celebrated by members of the LGBT community.

The central tradition for Bridge of Light is the lighting of candles in six colors, one for each color of the rainbow flag. According to followers of the tradition, each candle honors a universal spiritual principle: Creativity (by lighting a purple candle), Freedom (a red candle), Integrity (a blue candle), Self-Reliance (an orange candle), Harmony (a green candle), and Love (a yellow candle).

Like Kwanza, the holiday honoring African-American heritage first celebrated in 1966, Bridge of Light is a cultural celebration, not a religious one. Endorsers of the holiday include individuals from many different faith traditions and none.

Joe Perez, founder of the Bridge of Light holiday, says: “Today, New Year’s Eve is a mostly secular experience, yet for centuries the world’s wisdom traditions have recognized this one day as a special gateway between the old and the new, the sacred and the profane. Bridge of Light honors the unique way that Homophiles throughout the centuries have lived with spiritual dignity and beauty.”

According to Perez, the Bridge of Light is a symbol recognizing the hidden unity veiled by the many colors of the rainbow, the symbol most closely associated with the gay rights movement worldwide. As important as it is to appreciate the diversity of unique colors, it is also important to recognize our commonalities and dignity as human beings, he says.

Perez’s book, Soulfully Gay (Integral Books/Shambhala, 2007), tells the story of Bridge of Light’s origins. The first celebration was a simple gathering of friends, straight and gay, at Perez’s home, where each shared their visions of how things would be if they were the way they ought to be in the world. That year, 2004, the holiday was called Yuletide.

“Since the publication of my book Soulfully Gay two years ago,” said Perez, “I have heard from more men and women than ever before who want to begin celebrating Bridge of Light with their friends and family. Those of us with children are especially excited about the chance to educate children about the spiritual heritage of same-sex couples throughout history, and to bring in the New Year with a simple and ennobling ritual suitable for all ages.”

The first Bridge of Light events were celebrated by small clusters of people on at least two continents in 2004. Celebrations have been observed in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Great Britain. Today, nobody knows how many people celebrate the tradition.

New this year: a Facebook group “Bridge of Light” that anyone can join and upload ideas for celebrating the tradition. Also, for more information, check out http://www.integrallygay.com, Joe Perez’s Weblog, for updates related to the Bridge of Light tradition.

Endorsers of the Bridge of Light: Greg DiStefano, Carolyn Baker, David Rappaport, Andrew Ramer, Kip Dollar, Jim Toevs, Jacob Staub, Jim Marion, Fenton Johnson, Daniel Helminiak, Jari Dvorak, Greg Martinez, Scott Dillard, Craig Harwood, Rev. Koshin Paley Ellison, John Ditman, Ko Imani, Paul Browde, M.D., Cami Delgado, Toby Johnson, George S. Russell, and Joe Perez.

Heterophilia: The Evolutionary Impulse Towards the Future


Source: AndrewCohen.com

In some truly lofty poetic writing, Andrew Cohen describes the evolutionary pull of Eros, that principle that I call Heterophilia:

… When this teaching [of Evolutionary Enlightenment] is being lived in concert with others who share the same lofty aspirations, a spiritually enlivened worldspace is born—a worldspace that is humming and thriving with the unique vibrancy that is the authentic expression of what I call the Evolutionary Impulse. I’m referring to Eros, that powerful vertical thrust in the cosmos, which created and is still creating the entire universe, including you and me.

When we awaken to the primordial movement of this impulse at the core of our being, we become aware of a part of ourselves that is untouched by anything and everything that has ever occurred within the sphere of our personal psychological and emotional experience. This part of ourselves is always ecstatically and urgently compelled towards the as-yet-unmanifest future and is ever-focused on that alone. When we awaken to this evolutionary impulse, as the magnetic pull of the future tugs at our awareness, slowly but surely we drop our attachments to our personal history. No longer so distracted by the past and the present, no longer overwhelmed by the instinct to survive and the perpetual desire for security and comfort, we now see and feel an uncreated future potential that previously we simply were not aware of.

When we are awakened by Eros, what awakens? It is that primordial stillness, untouched by the vicissitudes of the personality, unneedful of any evolutionary impulse or future-orientation. It is the solidity capable of resisting the magnetic pull of evolution, even when doing so it must sacrifice, dissolve, or destroy. It is that sleeper in a slumber so rich and totally complete that it need not ever stir. It is not mere instinct or potential, but a Body resonant with the subtle frequencies interrupting even the finest psychological perception of stillness, just as the explosive dynamism of the subatomic world underlies the most tranquil experience of serenity. That simplicity paradoxically complex in unperceptible and incomprehensible ways is the pool in which Agape swims, the pure presence of mind, matter, and imperceptible dimensions. It is that suchness that I call homophilia, the Integrative Impulse, that grounds all existence.

Prayer for Ahmet Yildiz


Source: The Independent

Ahmet Yildiz, Ahmet Yildiz, Ahmet Yildiz …

We recall today how you have been absent for 16 months since you left a cafe near the Bosphorus strait in Istanbul, and yet you have not really left us and we believe you never will. Some of our brothers and sisters knew you closer, as a 26-year-old straight-A student of physics, an aspiring teacher, a loving son and brother, a stocky and fun-loving young man.

Or perhaps they knew you only as Turkey’s Gay Poster Boy, martyred by the tragic circumstances of your departure, victim of a so-called “honor killing,” shot five times by a religion-crazed father on account of openly acknowledging your homophilia. He is not the only perpetrator; every soul who harbors hatred of homophiles shares part of the collective guilt.

Amhet Yildiz, your spirit endures forever. It endures not only in Muslim lands, but as a beacon for homophiles everywhere. May memory of your life and death raise awareness of the need for healing the wound in all our families and all our nations that is homophobia. Through your sacrifice, let us have faith that there is greater hope for reconciliation in areas of women’s rights, sexuality, and the place of religion in our societies.

Let us not forget your death, and the sacrifices of so many victims of anti-homophile violence, lest we fail to heed Spirit’s call for us to extend our capacity for compassion and love everywhere on the globe. And let us require justice for your killer (who remains unapprehended) and all perpetrators of evil. Until the world is healed of Fear, duty and fraternity binds homophiles everywhere to keep your memory alive and to honor your name whenever we act with justice.

Thanksgiving is the Gayest of Holidays


Source: kevindooley on Flickr

The day given over to gratitude is the most homophilic of the holidays, because the act of expressing thanks is one of the most immanent or self-directed of spiritual acts (just as Christmas, defined by the act of giving, is the most heterophilic of the seasonal celebrations).

In receiving gifts with gratitude, we accept that which is, and we take into our soul Fullness; in giving gifts with generosity, we transform our relations, and we open our soul into Emptiness.

Gratitude is gay. Every act of acceptance opens our soul into the suchness of existence. Every embrace, every enclosure, every praise: all gay, every day, all the time. Every act of thanks reveals the Holy in our midst, specifically the homo-tastic face of Holiness.

Yet the madness of our age is to live in a world scandalized by homophilia, as evidenced by the fear and contempt potentially faced every time a gay person encounters a straight person. In a society still burdened by homophobia, every meeting is a potential coming out; every coming out is a potential wounding.

Ramon Johnson, Gay Life Guide at About.com, suggests some reading material for gays to bring Thanksgiving cheer. Some articles he recommends:

  • “Should You Come Out Over Thanksgiving?”
  • “Not Going Home For The Holidays?”
  • “Holiday Gift Shopping”

How depressing! Today’s stereotypical gay life is defined by (a) the stress of disclosing your identity to loved ones, (b) isolation from family, and (c) consumerism. I suppose there is so much anxiety associated with (a) and (b) that one has to shop to shake it all off.

Linda Villarosa, writing “My Gay Thanksgiving” on The Root, captures the coming out dynamic beautifully as she encounters it around the dinner table:

Still, as I looked at my mother’s face that evening, trying to read the emotion I saw flicker across her brow, I wondered, “Does my mother really accept me for who I am?”

That is the central dilemma that plagues so many of us who are black and LGBT. The closet is a dark and lonely place, and even in the gay pride decade of Wanda Sykes, Adam Lambert, Rachel Maddow, The L Word, Ellen and Portia, Brokeback Mountain and Milk, many of us remain stuck inside. Whether we call it on the down low or undercover, large numbers of us are still sitting in the darkness wondering and worrying, will I still be invited to Thanksgiving if my family, my black family, knows I’m gay?

Linda’s answer (delivered in a response by her mother to the question, “Do you wish I was straight?”) deserves a full reading. As she discovered, there is no greater gift for a homophile than to be accepted for one’s self as a beautiful, perfect image of the divine.

Anthony Robbins once said, “When you are grateful fear disappears and abundance appears.” Remember that being thankful is a variety of gayness, a moment in which the loving inward embrace of the divine arises. This Thanksgiving, be grateful.

Poem: “The Absent God”

Source: Colin Kloecker by Flickr
“The Absent God”

By Joe Perez

It’s 8:20. You’ve splashed
Water on the crotch-seam of your Levi’s.
The boys in health class laugh and say:
“You came in your pants. You homo. You dork.”
You are wrapped in eighty Hanes T-shirts,
Under forty Chiefs sweatshirts,
Under six orange parkas. You say:
“Someone, please tell me what I need.”

Recall your first dance lesson
With your legs pointing to the mirrors in
Two corners of the ceiling. Your
God watches you jack your little cock,
Hating with every stroke
Like the old folks speak of niggers.
Finally. You let yourself doubt his existence
But I know you still don’t, not really.

Soon you will wrestle like Jacob with Me
As you used to rustle with your daddy,
Red skins, shirts off, until that incident
When your chones wet with cum.
You tried real hard, I know,
Not to think about bulging muscles.
How you felt then. A family meeting
Where every member sat at the table.

He moved to Alaska. If you asked why,
They might have said it was your fault
So you kept silent and secretly
Blamed Jesus. Nome is far away. No
One knows you sob on Sunday nights.
Crying baby, clutching his white afghan,
Forgetting twenty-three hours &
Fifty-six minutes when you did not blubber.

Do you know what gay feelings mean?
Wondering about homosexuals. Your
Tongue sticks in your throat every time.
Put a label on desire when
You picture Marco’s body holding
Every inch of yours. Your eyelids shut,
Your torso tenses. Everywhere you’re numb.
Your mind is not with gayness at all.

Part of you, the Chiefs part, rises
To the heaven you say you don’t believe,
Leaving behind your body-mind and soul
(Though of these concepts you know little.)
You are not gay here, where
That furry belly trail leads north. I let you
Be homosexual because your soul denies
Lost souls need to be rescued from heaven.

Six-thousand one-hundred and ten days
Passed since you came from your mother’s
Womb. Few measured in sadness or pain,
Too many metered by guilty worries.
None so bad as the men unfortunate
With wayward genes. Or womens’ lot when
They were worth less than men. All
Are equal and precious in My eyes.

Yes. I let you say for many years:
“God is perfect, just, and always blameless.”
You used to believe in Adam’s sin. How
You deserved the Lord’s crucifixion.
I knew you couldn’t long persist
In blaming a god as absent from
Science books as from your prayers. That’s
Why I let you. Because I am not he.

Note: Appears in Kronology (unpublished)

Poem: “Differences”

Source: Espis on Flickr

By Joe Perez

We speak our differences
(Unless they are ordinary).
We speak “I” here. I
Am an “I”, So you
Can be an “I”. My
Identity is contained
Within an acronym, but
I will not speak for you.
We sit in the circle,
We tell our stories,
I confess my great sin:
I have taken too much
(But I was so important!)
The door in the committee-
Room stands ajar three inches.
The professor stops. Let us
Shoo him. Hell is being
Different but not accepted.
When we are in power
We will own our stories,
And not let them go.
You must listen to mine.
I will not judge you;
You will not judge me.
Hand in hand, we are
As in a true marriage.
How privileged to be with-
Out difference, a new “I”.

Note: Appears in Kronology (unpublished).