Advice to Young Gays, Queers, and Homophiles

 

Source: samm4mrox on Flickr

Note: During this BETA period of the blog, I will occasionally be offering selections from my recent writings. This selection is reprinted from Soulfully Gay (Integral Books/Shambhala). All Rights Reserved.

Today, a friend forwarded me a link to a blog by a young man in his early twenties who describes himself as a Christian and says he’s “turning away from homosexuality and toward God.” What can I say to a young Christian, when I myself have chosen a path outside the institutional religion?

The first thing that comes to mind for me to say to a young man in this situation is that I will not preach to you. I will not tell you that once you learn to accept your gayness you will be happier. I will not encourage you to join a gay Christian church or give any other sort of unsolicited advice. There are plenty of well-intentioned folks who are sure to try to fix the way you are. I don’t think you need to hear another voice encouraging you to just keep your chin up and be happy.

The second thing that comes to mind is to tell you that whatever choices you make about how to express or not express your sexuality, you are a wonderful, beautiful, precious gift to the world. Be the gift that you are. Nobody else can bring that gift to the world except you.

Don’t just think about homosexuality. Feel what comes up for you around your sexuality. Be with your feelings, whatever they are. You can do no good by denying them. You may not know what those feelings are, and some of your deepest feelings may be so deeply buried that they are a mystery to you. Get help to be with your feelings from a therapist you are comfortable with and from friends with different points of view.

A word about friends: you are likely to change your opinions about God, the Bible, Christianity, homosexuality, sex, George W. Bush, and a whole host of other things many, many times. Your true friends will stick with you whether you are conservative or liberal, Christian or ex-Christian, gay or ex-gay. It’s a cliché, but your true friends will accept you for you.

You are on a difficult path—bringing together your spirituality and sexuality—and you don’t have to have all the answers. It’s okay to be frightened, confused, and unsure where to turn. It’s okay to question those who seem totally confident in their beliefs about homosexuality or Christianity. It’s okay to doubt the dogmas of gay activists. It’s okay to question the dogmas of the people in your Bible study group.

It’s okay to flip-flop in your attitudes toward homosexuality—one moment thinking it’s awesome with a hot man’s body pressed against yours and the next praying to God to make you straight. It’s okay to wonder if your faith (whether in God or the dogmas of gay community) is genuine or if you’re just kidding yourself.

What’s not okay is to latch on to certainties that promise to make your life easier if you will only deny a little bit of reality. What’s not okay is to just keep repeating something over and over again to yourself, figuring that if you just keep with it, you will eventually start to believe it.

It’s okay to not know what to think about your homosexuality or God or the Universe. I heard Thomas Moore say recently that he doesn’t know if everything in life happens for a reason. He said, “What I don’t know, I don’t know.” I liked the sound of that. Enter deeply into the profound mysteries of life. Don’t deny them. It’s not always necessary to try to figure them out. Just try to accept the state of unknowing.

The Bridge of Light Approaches

Source: Craig Photography. Reprinted with Permission.

MEDIA RELEASE

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.

A dialogue with David Morrison and retrospective

I’ve been perusing my old stomping grounds on the web and came across a blast from the past. More than three years ago, I had a blog-a-log with conservative Roman Catholic and same-sex attracted David Morrison. The conversation began here and continued here. If I recall correctly, I had the last word.

Times change, though if we were to judge growth by the appearances of our blogs, it seems that perhaps I’ve changed a bit more than David. David’s still got the same Sed Contra blog, a traditionalist Roman Catholic spirituality blog with frequent incursions into moralizing against “the gay lifestyle,” and various other (mostly sexual) sins in US culture and the world at large. He does it in a way that’s somewhat less snarky and cruel than the ordinary way it’s done in the RC blogosphere, so he should be appreciated for that. Sed Contra is cultural critique, 1950s style, wrapped in 00’s accessories. I hope I don’t sound too negative–actually if Sed Contra weren’t any good I wouldn’t include it on my color-coded blogroll (see sidebar). In a blogosphere in constant motion, Sed Contra never seems to change.
Meanwhile, my blogs have gone through several reinventions (or “refreshes” as I prefer to say). My first blog, The Soulful Blogger, had a seeker and astrology student’s and angry ex-Catholic thing going for it. All the good stuff made it into my book Soulfully Gay, along with enough of the bad stuff to keep me honest and paint a realistic portrait of who I was at the time. Some of my 2003 and 2004 writing, like a brief excerpt from the blog-a-log with David, made it into the book.
Then, following a year of blogging The Soulful Blogger and finishing the book Soulfully Gay, came serious breakdowns (requiring two periods of institutionalization) and a remarkably brief six months or so of blogging hiatus. My follow-up blog, Rising Up, helped me to stretch my writer’s wings at a time when I was just learning to fly again. You can read the good stuff in a cheap ebook or POD book.
It was during this time of my life that it became clear to me that I didn’t share most of the animosity that many fellow gays feel towards “ex-gays” and religiously conservative gays. David’s one of the good guys. He’s just doing his best work in an area that I don’t happen to spend much time in–the conservative wing of the Roman Catholic Church. Gays who are offended by David’s writings are best advised to simply ignore him. I penned my thoughts on the positive role of religiously conservative gays for Rising Up. Here’s an example: “The role of conservative religionists…”
My third personal blogging incarnation (THIS blog), Until, gives me the flexibility to have a writer’s platform in an informal and experimental mode that I don’t have anywhere else. Lots of the posts are hit or miss, but I learn as much from every miss as from the hits. I don’t write much on homosexuality in this blog and tend to avoid writing about religious conservatives here. Done that; been there; moved on. And I’m busy enough as it is that my posts on Until are often only one or two per week, so I have to choose my topics carefully.
My current passion is in honing my writer’s voice and style in continuing to talk about spirituality, life in general, and exploring what it means to have an “integral” outlook. It’s an open secret that many of my posts are practice writes for my future work, Kronology, in which I use the Kronos mandala (a 12-pointed figure within a 30-tiered model of Spirit) to collect, organize, synthesize, explain, symbolize, and pay respect to Spirit.

To write well about Spirit, one must BE Spirit. One must incarnate the mystical Body of Christ, Light from Light. That takes work to express in a way that won’t get you thrown in jail or the psychiatric ward. And my blogs allow me to practice the role of teacher as well as student of Spirit. In 2007 and 2008, I also plan to write much more on my spiritual journey with Christianity … and my health struggles with HIV/AIDS.
I’ve continually refreshed the outer appearance of my blogs and gone through “phases” as I do in life itself. I try different things, see how they work, take what I like, and move on. David’s blog Sed Contra has probably done some of that, too, but more subtly. I’ve barely noticed the changes. He’s still writing regularly about his harmful shadow projections onto the gay community … and still surprising with beautiful attempts to make sense of the world.

Sometimes as an occasional visitor to Sed Contra, I stop by and hear a lecture from David. Here’s my impersonation: just LOOK at those filthy sexual sinners, Glory be, add them to your prayers and be glad like I am that celibacy is available to all of us as a wonderful gift from God. My oh my, too bad not everyone gets how wonderful celibacy can be, especially those 19 friends of mine I lost to AIDS. I love them so and remember them fondly, but I sure do wish they hadn’t had so much anal sex.Uh, not taking anything away from the beautiful poetry and sensitive imagination that often crops up from the pen of David Morrison, his blog is not my cup of tea. I rate it mythic-membership with synthetic essentialism undertones (translation). Moving on.

Three blogs

I get mail asking why I so frequently comment on Andrew Sullivan’s blogs and articles. (I also occasionally get mail telling me I shouldn’t care what he thinks. Sullivan has earned his share of enemies in the gay community.) No mystery, basically he’s my favorite mainstream blogger and I think his writing is a great touchstone. He’s certainly one of the few mainstream bloggers taking an approach that is arguably integral (though still miles away from AQAL or STEAM-based). I am frequently disappointed by some of his flatland politics, but I learn a helluva lot even when I disagree. What more could anyone want of any writer?

Tonight, Sullivan linked to another site called Independent Gay Forum, and praised it. So have I (see “Why I Read Independent Gay Forum,”) and I also praise this site and recommend its articles. The site’s writers have earned Sullivan’s praise (Dale Carpenter’s columns are usually the most thought provocative, in my opinion), but I simply cannot let Sullivan’s characterization of the site as “non-left” go unchallenged. Of course, Sullivan is merely repeating the Indegayforum party line, that theirs is the “alternative” to the gay left. What’s truly accurate is that theirs is a genuine alternative to the left by presenting conservative, libertarian, and classical liberal opinions only. And that’s all they offer. Of course, to their readers like Sullivan, that’s all there is that’s worth mentioning on the “non-left.” Puke.

From the standpoint of an integral philosophy, Independent Gay Forum is primarily a sounding board for mostly rationalist-level writing by some of the gay community’s best writers. There is occasionally an integral bent to a piece, and when I find it, it always makes me happy to see. And their opponents on the mainstream left are mostly rationalists. And with their opponents on the far left in gay academia, you have a heavy pluralist streak. Not exactly a huge difference between the left and the so-called “non-left,” from where I’m standing.

P.S.: In the spirit of full disclosure, I should mention that I have in the past (it’s been a few years) submitted a few of my previously published columns to Independent Gay Forum for publication, and they were all rejected without explanation. For example, I submitted one of my best columns, a piece about gay and straight men healing from sexual abuse, and I drew the connections to healing homophobia on the terrain of individual consciousness. Rejected. Too spiritual, I guess. (They include stories by religionists, but only the rationalist-level stuff like explanations for why Roman Catholic natural law philosophy isn’t rational enough.) The story I make up is that their editors have no use for spirituality and are utterly clueless about the connections between inner growth, consciousness, and cultural/political change.

Subsequently, I founded Gay Spirituality & Culture where writers and readers less clueless about spirituality can congregate and see what magic might develop… It’s a group blog that allows for voices and perspectives excluded by the rationalist-level blogs like The Daily Dish and Indegayforum. The motto begins with this phrase: “We are a group of independent writers with interests in inner transformation, personal growth, spirituality, religion, and culture …” It’s still a baby, and I make no claims that it’s all that, but feel free to check it out. The GS&C blog will turn two years old in just over a week. Ghandi once said that you have to “be the change” you want to see in the world. Not everybody gets that, but some blogs are drawing the connections.