By Joe Perez
Every so often I address a column or blog post to my lesbian, bisexual, and gay readers. This one’s for you. And, because the gay journey is my journey, and ultimately there is only One True Self – this column is really for everybody.
Whereas mainstream pundits and public intellectuals in the U.S. are focused on the next election, and many other folks are focused on the next Saturday night, there is a wider and deeper perspective. Looking as wide as this moment in over 2,000 years of socio-cultural evolution since the beginning of the Common Era, and looking as deep as this moment arising when the cutting edge of individual consciousness is a postmodern mindset, and even this edge has become dull and dismal.
It is an odd time to be gay or bisexual. For American men of my generation – past 40 – our lives have been crises of meaning and meaninglessness. We were born into a world in which the reigning moral, religious, and spiritual authorities condemned how we love and would have forced us into closets, castration, or so-called reparative therapy, We could read the mystics and enlightened sages of centuries past and with only a few exceptions could find no evidence that affirming the spiritual dignity of same-sex love was meriting even a moment’s thought.
And we did, and by unprecedented numbers gays, lesbians, and bisexuals rejected organized religion and set out upon paths of individual spiritual seeking. They found their ways into Zen monasteries, radical faerie gatherings, drumming circles, hot yoga classes, and not a few very, very, very liberal churches and synagogues (places where they worried about marginalizing atheists and making sure language was neutered of any hint of white heterosexual patriarchy).
And yet for all this enthusiasm, a bona fide gay spiritual renaissance never happened. Not in the U.S., and nowhere else to my knowledge. I’ve had my boots on the ground in the LGBT spirituality movement for a decade (longer if I include the Dignity masses and addiction recovery circles of my twenties and early thirties). I’ve seen the energy in the gay spirituality movement ebb and flow. I attended the first and only Gay Spirituality & Culture Summit, an unprecedented gathering of “gay spiritual teachers and leaders” from around the world in Garrison, New York, in 2004 (and I blogged it and wrote about it in Soulfully Gay, my first book). There have been some modest success stories, and I don’t want to diminish the hard work and real progress made by those few spiritual activists to enter the fray.