I know that spirituality can be a touchy subject for people who don't identify as straight. I remember religion being the reason that I suppressed all those thoughts and sentiments that I had for people of the same sex. People in the South ( I should say, many of the people I was surrounded by- family, friends, co-workers, etc.) can be really religious. There are churches on every corner. Churches that aren't necessarily accepting of us non-heteros. Some scriptures contain very hurtful interpretations of what past spiritual teachers have said about non-hetero sexual actions. Few preachers, pastors, etc. bother to acknowledge that few past spiritual leaders have commented on an actual non-hetero lifestyle. We queers (or however we may choose to identify) are not only the sum of our sexual actions. A friend of mine is always saying "I don't care what you do in the bedroom. I don't care what any of you do, as long as it doesn't affect me." And after a few years of hearing this, I finally countered with "It's not just about who I'm sleeping with. This is my partner. It's not just about sex." But for some reason...we are reduced to this solitary action. Some spiritual teachers teach about desires of the flesh and lust and put our love into that category. When I was younger I couldn't help but feel ashamed for the feelings I had about women. I was taught that this was wrong...not just wrong but abominable. Lots of us walk around feeling a lot of shame and guilt about who we are. That's why the pride parade was invented. It was us being proud about who we are in a society that makes us feel "less than". It was also satire. They made fun of all that heteros felt we were by dressing up as that. I feel like we've lost that message a lot of times...
Spirituality is an important tool. I feel that one of the many reasons that there are so many people who are dependent on drugs and alcohol in our community is because we are so often rejected from different spiritual paths (and of course, society). I remember feeling animosity for the church and vowing never to go to another church. I felt really hurt and I couldn't understand a God that didn't love part of his creation. God specifically hated me, or as some preachers said...my actions. And this whole "don't hate the sinner, hate the sin." Ugh. What kind of God or religion would say that we should hate anyway? I couldn't comprehend. Luckily I found one of the only churches in the U.S. with an LGBT congregation and pastor. I felt more at ease with my faith and sexuality, then. Though I decided to continue with my spiritual search and didn't stay with that particular church- it definitely was my first step in the reclamation of Self. It was a step towards reconciliation and the obliteration of internalized homophobia. I found other spiritual paths that were open to members learning about other religions and this opened a whole new world for me, unfortunately some of these paths were not accepting of LGBT members- or they taught that one day we would change. There is nothing worse than being closeted on your spiritual path. How can we find our true Self if we are hiding parts of it from our spiritual community. I don't believe that we can truly discover Self if we have such intense feelings of shame.
Some spiritual paths teach that our sexuality, gender, etc. are not "who" we are. I agree. At the core of all of us-- we are That. The Great Spirit. Creator. Brahman. Ultimate Reality. Tao. God. However we choose to identify how we are interconnected. To me, spirituality is about sifting through these layers around our true identity to find our true inner Self. Believing that one of these layers- our sexuality- can prevent us from discovering Who we are is very dangerous. It's extremely difficulty feeling guilty and, at times, even questioning our very existence because of one aspect of our identity. You know, there are actual religions that say it is better for LGBTTSGNC to kill themselves. Suicides are becoming more and more frequent for queer and questioning youth. For many youth, they do not have a choice as to what religion they will be or what spiritual path they will take.
The fear that some of us deal with on a regular basis and the affect that it has on us reminds me of a curanderismo term called susto or soul loss. It is believed that various fearful and traumatic events can cause us to experience this loss of a part of our soul. Soul retrievals are performed to heal us of past traumatic events and to help us regain that part of ourselves. I feel that many spiritual traditions have a form of this whether through prayer, chant, or meditation. These are tools for finding, understanding, and healing our self and ultimately understanding each other. Our community is being denied the chance to heal. Sometimes we are even told that we cannot heal unless we give up our "unnatural" actions which causes further harm.
I wonder how in the course of history queer people went from being heavily revered soothsayers and medicine (wo)men to being rejected from society? Obviously western religion and culture had a lot to do with this in the West. (I am not exactly sure how things went down in the East but suspect that religion has a part in discrimination there as well). Sexuality has become yet another grounds for discrimination and injustice.
How do we find what's "right" or believe that we can do what's "right" when some religions are always telling us how wrong we are? How can we feel whole again, and for those of us who are spiritual seekers in search of community- how do we continue the search and keep from being discouraged? The answer is different for everyone. I have been very lucky in that, though much of my journey has been alone, I have found accepting and inspiring people along the way. I hope that everyone at some point unplugs for a bit and makes an attempt at self-realization and the reclamation of Self. With all that our community faces- healing is imperative for survival. I believe that we can heal ourselves by learning to understand ourselves and each other. We certainly must be compassionate to ourselves first and foremost and seriously acknowledge our own suffering and hardships before we can be supportive of others. This might be one of the first steps in reclaiming our Self. Bit by bit we must reconstruct ourselves into that which we aspire to be. The truth is...we've been that all along and how can we ever feel ashamed of the beautiful butterflies we are?