On Thursday night, the summit wrapped up its "ice breaking" exercises and introductions. After dinner, we were led in a group exercise to connect us to erotic energy in a safe way that strived to respect the boundaries of each man at the summit. Afterwards, the group broke into our 18 smaller groups to "process" and discuss the previous exercise.
Friday was a full and busy day where the summit moved into articulating visions, dreams, and convening discussions on a wide variety of topics. Every man had the opportunity to convene a group discussion on a topic of his choosing. When men had described the topics they wanted to talk about, the discussions were divided into three separate time slots, so men could attend up to three different discussions (or float between various groups of interest).
The discussion topics ranged from discussing ways to move beyond separatism to exploring the question of what unique gifts gays bring to spirituality and religions. Some topics allowed men from specific faith traditions to meet, or explore issues such as race and ethnicity that cut across a variety of traditions. Several topics explored youth and elder issues, music, art and performance, intentional communities, and topics peculiar to areas of the country. Some men brought a topic based on the work they do in the community, such as healing, religious ministry, or erotic workers.
When not participating in small groups, some men enjoyed the beautiful weather and outdoors near the Hudson River. Some men were interviewed on videotape by an ethnographer who is also a participant at the summit. The ethnographer is recording the summit as an event of historical importance in the history of the gay movement, and he spent time taping the stories of men. He is considering producing a documentary feature based on the interviews and other material from the summit.
I attended three sessions yesterday. In the morning, I convened a group to discuss applications of Ken Wilber's philosophy, Spiral Dynamics, and integral theory to contemporary gay issues. Later in the morning, I attended a group of writers who shared about the work and issues common to writers. In the afternoon, I attended a group focused on HIV/AIDS issues. This group was convened by two men who've created a performance piece that explores ethical and social questions related to HIV/AIDS, such as "who owns the stories?" Their piece was inspired by an actual situation in which a man revealed his own HIV status and the status of another man to a mutual friend.
After the small groups met yesterday, the entire summit met once again. This time, there was an opportunity for men to briefly report back to the larger group a few thoughts or impressions related to the day's work. The group also took the time to honor the (self-identified) elders in attendance. Afterwards, the group returned to our small group. My own small group, the Fuzzy Fruits, shared our experiences from the day. I enjoyed hearing about the experiences of men in groups that I didn't attend. I heard from Joe about a group he convened to discuss the role of sexual fantasies in the lifes and healing of gay men... it also sounded like there was an interesting discussion surrounding the topic of reforming institutional religion from within and moving work into the broader gay community.
The day ended with a dinner that included traditional elements from the Jewish faith, organized by Jewish summit participants. Afterwards, men participated in an evening ritual organized by various participants. The ritual blended elements from African and pagan practices and included storytelling, dancing, drumming, and singing. Many men dressed in "traditional pagan attire." There was also an opportunity for elders to provide a blessing for the queer youth. There were also "post-ritual" festivities including parties and an experiential process involving erotic massage organized by Joseph Kramer and men from Body Electric.