Queer Spirituality is the movement of lgbt+ people taking matters of faith into our own hands, making way for the discovery of the innate, magical flow of the divine gifts of the Soul. It is queer people finding our own ways to commune with and celebrate the Mystery behind all Creation, however we perceive that.
It is queers opening the doors to freedom of self-expression, learning how we mould our own reality and chart our own path in life through our beliefs and attitudes, opening the heart to unconditional love and compassion, celebrating the ecstatic in the erotic and the divinity to be found in nature, each other and all existence.
I am Shokti, one of the organisers of Queer Spirit Festival – my motivation to create this space of exploration and celebration comes out of the awakening to the spiritual side of life while sick with AIDS in the mid 1990s. I was a smalltown boy, coming out of the sexual closet aged 21 in the mid 80s and racing to London to find the fun. I had no religious belief and no direction in life, but I was motivated from within to seek to love and be loved. Within a few years of coming out I was diagnosed HIV+ and preparing myself to die – this led me to open my mind to the big spiritual questions of life, and once the blinkers were off the light came flooding in. The deep love relationship I enjoyed at that time with a wonderful French man gave me the base from which to open my heart to life and to Spirit – and the strength to survive three years of full blown AIDS, returning to life with a new vision and understanding of a spiritual beauty, and power, in sexuality.
I now believe that Queer Spirituality is about the lgbt+ people of the planet becoming conscious of the Unity of all life: it's not that we have ONE LIFE, it's that there is ONE LIFE and we are it. We can use religious terms and imagery to describe this, but we can also find our own forms of expression. By being outside the mainstream norms of society queers are perfectly placed to work our own answers, this applies to spirituality as much as to our sexual expression, the relationships and cultures that we create. Life is a queer journey of constant discovery, most enjoyed when lived with passion. Everyone on earth is an incarnation of the oneness, and deserving of the right to self-expression, to be who they truly are and to love whom they wish to love. This is the message Queer Spirit brings to the world.
Spiritual liberation is the missing element in the modern journey of lgbt+ people around the world. Coming out about our sexuality or gender identity results from our need to be true to ourselves, we listen to our souls and from the soul comes the courage to be who we are. The same principle applies to spirituality – it comes from inside us. External forms of spirituality, i.e. religions, are cultural manifestations of collective spirituality, but they are also controlling, often repressive forces, set up to bring order and cohesion to society. The fact that certain religions have got so caught up in their dark fascination with hatred of our kind should tell us something – perhaps that we have some power, some magic, in our souls that they are very afraid of.
Most coverage of lgbt+ spiritual matters in the media focusses on the religious debates about us, and the efforts some valiant queers are making to improve matters within faith groups. But there is another story – that of questing queers pursuing their own personal growth/evolution/enlightenment - and of them occasionally gathering together to explore what queer community could become with a major dose of spiritual awareness injected into it. Queer Spirit Festival is such a gathering, coming up July 26-30, 2017 at a beautiful site in Wiltshire – here 500 queers from all parts of our rainbow tribe will be exploring community, expanding our consciousness, sharing soul to soul, and rising in love. The festival seeks to highlight the passion and creative spirit of lgbt+ people, and be a space where we can explore embodied, heartfelt, playful queer spirituality free from religious constrictions.
Queer Spirit Festival brings together queers from a wide variety of backgrounds, including Radical Faeries (who have been holding magical and anarchic queer gatherings in the USA since 1979, in Europe since 1995 and UK since 2005), Queer Pagans, women's groups that have been active since the 1980s, gay and bi yoga facilitators, healers, mindfulness meditation facilitation, shamanic practitioners, campaigns and a whole temple space honouring the spiritual power of sexuality, with a packed programme of workshops and parties. There will be performance, group ceremonies, plus all the features that make a festival – DJs, cafes, sauna, fire circles and much more.
The festival is part of the development of queers finding our own spiritual paths, our own mystical expression and how that can deepen community connection. For young people coming out in the second decade of the 21st century the Festival is making a statement that here are queers who are joyfully and creatively uniting their sexuality and spirituality, that spirituality does not have to be tied in with religion, and that it can also be a lot of FUN.
Mainstream lgbt+ culture occasionally debates religious issues but gives so little attention to the individual journey to self-awareness that so many of us are on. It also usually completely ignores its own prophets …. it is to these queer pioneers that we could be looking for a greater understanding of who we are and what we bring to the world.
Prophets such as:
Walt Whitman:”If anything is sacred, the human body is sacred.”
Edward Carpenter: “When the individual self, reaching union with the universal, becomes consciously and willingly the creator and inspirer of the body – that is indeed a Transfiguration. The individual is no longer under the domination of the body and its heredity, but rising out of this tomb becomes lord and master of the body's powers, and identified with the immortal Self of the world.”
Harry Hay: “Our beautiful lovely sexuality is the gateway to spirit. under all organised religions of the past, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, there has been a separation of carnality, or shall we say of flesh or earth or sex, and spirituality. As far as I am concerned they are all the same thing, and what we need to do as faeries is to tie it all back together again.”
Allen Ginsberg: “Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy!
The world is holy! The soul is holy! The skin is holy!
The nose is holy! The tongue and cock and hand
and asshole holy!
Everything is holy! everybody's holy! everywhere is
holy! everyday is in eternity! Everyman's an angel!
The bum's as holy as the seraphim! the madman is
holy as you my soul are holy!”
Elsa Gidlow: “What if we smashed the mirrors
And saw our true face?
What if we left the Sacred Books to the worms
And found our True Mind?
What if we burned the wooden Buddhas?
Gave the stone Buddhas back to the mountains?
Dispersed the gurus with a great laugh
And discovered the path we had always been on?"
Audre Lorde: “The sharing of joy, whether physical, emotional, psychic or intellectual, forms a bridge between the sharers which can be the basis for understanding much of what is not shared between them, and lessens the threat of their difference.”
Judith Grahn: “The tribal attitude said, and continues to say, that Gay people are especially empowered because we are able to identify with both sexes and can see into more than one world at once, having the capacity to see from more than one point of view at a time.”
Arthur Evans: “The new socialism is not just political, it is magical and sexual.”
Larry Mitchell: “Romantic love, the last illusion, keeps us alive until the revolutions come.”
Ram Dass: “If I go into the place in myself that is love, and you go into the place in yourself that is love, we are together in love. Then you and I are truly in love, the state of being love. That's the entrance to Oneness.”
James Broughton: “If you don't fill your days with love, you are wasting your life.”
Andrew Ramer: “We enter a new era in our history. We enter an era when love and not pain will be our teacher, when joy and not sorrow will colour our lives. Never before on this planet have people lived this way. But after thousands and thousands of years of struggle and growth, we have come to the point in time when all of us fill be fully incarnate in our bodies, fully present as spirits manifesting in physical form. Without our wisdom and our power, humanity cannot make it to the next cycle. With our power and wisdom, shared freely with the tribe of all tribes, everything is possible.”
Raven Kaldera: “Transgendered people have long been robbed of their own spiritual history, not knowing that there were once times and places where ours was considered a spiritual path in and of itself... We are all sacred and it is time that the world knew it.”
Andrew Harvey: “It’s important to realize that you have the divine on your side, that the divine is not against love, or the body or sexuality, the divine wants the complete flowering of body, heart, mind and soul together to produce a completely different kind of human being.”
Queer Spirituality is not about religion. It is the story of lgbt+ people finding out who we are, uncovering our hidden spiritual history as shamans, healers, monks, artists around the planet, discovering what that inheritance means for us today and becoming a force for the growth of love, understanding and compassion in the world. Queers of all faiths and none reveal that beyond the divisions of the old religious paradigms awaits a rainbow land of light, colour and consciousness.
As another queer spiritual ancestor put it:
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I'll meet you there.” Rumi