usage from Webster's 1828 Dictionary
QUEER: Odd; singular; hence, whimsical.
Modern usage from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the
English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000.
ADJECTIVE: Inflected forms: queer·er, queer·est
1. Deviating from the expected or normal; strange: a queer situation.
2. Odd/ unconventional, as in behavior; eccentric.
Do You Mean By Queer Spirituality"
to the magic of Queer Spirituality, this column is for those of us who
live spiritual lives on the fringes of mainstream society. Written from
a perspective of woman-identified Queer Spirituality, it will not be
a religious column; it will, however, include religious philosophy.
For me Goddess and God are sometimes interchangeable and other times
refer to specific archetypes. Please replace them with whatever words/names
work for your truth.
the epithet Queer I risk conflict with those who are offended by the
word because it does not define their experience. I apologize in advance
for any offence. I write to give voice to the truth in my heart, not
to challenge the truth in yours. This is not an act of rebellion; it
is an act of reason -- when I attempt to comply with expected behavior
I fail beyond reason. Therefore it is more reasonable for me to live
authentically than to expect to be considered normal.
teachers and prophets such as: Buddha, Gandhi, Mohamed, Ra'bia, Mother
Teresa, Maya Angelou, Starhawk and even Jesus live(d) on the fringe or
in exile. They each challenge(d) the illusions of the majority, choosing
to live outside their assigned box, and proclaimed the need to embrace
those who were being marginalized. Jesus, the taproot of western patriarchy,
hung out on the fringes of society, with the tax collectors, the prostitutes,
the revolutionaries. If he were alive today, he'd be hanging out in San
Francisco in the Tenderloin or in the drag bars; Rabia, the Islamic saint
(who traveled alone and preferred to be without clothing), would be writing
her poetry at women's music festivals.
say the God of religions is rigid and outside of the self.(1)
The God that lives in the heart of the individual is the God that interests
me, the child of the Goddess ungendered and omnigendered. She is the core
of Queer spirituality. Queer Spirituality is a personal experience, not
religious tradition. There is no doctrine or institution, but there are
spiritual practices that are intrinsic to queer life.
are elements of Queer life that have become the foundations of Queer Spirituality.
Elements, which become spiritual practices, open us to both the Goddess
and the Gods. They are:
- Coming Out
It is in coming out that Queer Spirituality is born. Coming out is about
claiming ourselves as blessed by the Goddess/God. This isn't "a
one walk dog," for the process of living from our authentic self
as creations of the Goddess has many initiations and is a life long
Authenticity is wonderfully insidious; it creeps into our hearts and
bursts into all areas of our lives. Everybody, gay or straight, is coming
out all the time; coming out occurs the moment we decide to tell the
truth about who we are inside. When we are forced to face our greatest
fears, to live who we are, it is easier to tell the truth about any
of the choices we make.
- Letting Go
To live authentically as Queers we must be willing to let go of the
privileges that come with the heterosexual life. Let go of life at the
center of society and embrace the exile. This supports letting go in
everyday life. The ability to let go is the first step to finding a
life of peace.
- Justice Making
The loss of standing we experience by coming out forces us to birth
spiritual community in the margins. The need to fully embrace our sexuality
and our spirituality forces us to look at our own privilege and 'isms.
One definition of spirituality I use is "a life lived with meaning
and value to self and community." As Queers attempting to live
spiritual lives, we challenge society and traditional religion to face
its own inauthenticity. We challenge them to live the essential meaning
of their doctrines and give value to everyone in the community. Queer
Spirituality says to everyone, "You must be more inclusive, and
more open, more embracing." We understand that all oppressions
are linked and seek to name all discrimination.
As people who do not conform to the restrictions of a binary system
we are forced to look outside the lines. We push the edges of our culture,
push it to grow and evolve; we are essential to its development. The
culture in general may not see the gifts we bring, but the truth is
that mainstream culture will stagnate and eventually die without us.
became our saints and our mystics if their work spoke to life
on the fringe of mainstream society or echoed our sense of social
justice and the need for unity without uniformity. We claimed
them as "queer mystics" regardless of their sexual preference,
because their work spoke to our hearts and illuminated our connection
to something greater than ourselves.
- Queer Lexicon
Divina The accepted translations of the world's sacred texts have,
at best, ignored us and our role as spiritual leaders. At worse, they
have declared our love a sin. We found books and poets who provided
positive images of our love and made them our Queer sacred books. The
content of these books did not have to be overtly spiritual as long
as they spoke to our experience and recognized our place in the universe.
Writers became our saints and our mystics if their work spoke to life
on the fringe of mainstream society or echoed our sense of social justice
and the need for unity without uniformity. We claimed them as "queer
mystics" regardless of their sexual preference, because their work
spoke to our hearts and illuminated our connection to something greater
than ourselves. The Beloved has always spoken thought artists and writers,
because they are the expression of living creation..
like Mona West, Richard Hardy, M.R.Ritley, and Troy Perry are reinterpreting
the Christian bible from a feminist, queer perspective. Those who make
their spiritual connection through the Christ energy of Jesus have been
freed by this work. I believe we must also reinterpret the sacred texts
of other major world religions with queer eyes, and look beyond the
patriarchal stories, for the Goddess stories on which they were based.
of Queer Spirituality
Lorde, Judy Grahn, Walt Whitman, Rumi, Starhawk, Andrew Harvey,
Rita Mae Brown, Alice Walker, Armistead Maupin, Dorothy Allison,
Alison Bechtel, Lillian Faderman Leslie Feinberg Allen Ginsberg,
Langston Hughes, Paul Monette, Joan Nestle, Mary Oliver, Minnie
Bruce Pratt, John Preston, Adrienne Rich, Randy Shilts, and
Edmund White, et al.
Only men have been recognized as the Prophets for mainstream religions,
but what is not recognized is that they were influenced by living in
cultures where the religions of the Goddess were alive and fertile.
She must have influenced their cosmology, their morality and their experience
of divinity. The cosmology of a society defines its culture. Until we
can rewrite these books to include the voice of the Divine Mother and
the Sacred Queer, queer children will continue to be defined by biased
translations of the Qur'an, the Bible, the Torah etc.
All sacred texts contain the power of word magic. Power charged by prayer,
belief and faith over time; power of the old-ways, the craft and women's
mysteries. Power encoded in words, numbers, and in intervals in sacred
music. Power they stole from us. If we dismiss these texts as patriarchal,
we continue to deny ourselves this elemental power, which could perhaps
be the keystone of the patriarchal dynasty.
- Prayer There
are a million ways to pray, some formal, most not. When we honor the
Goddess in everything and everyone; anytime we feel gratitude and say
thank you; anytime we do good work or hold the hand of a grieving friend,
these are all forms of prayer. Queer spirituality embraces the old prayers,
writing new words and then infusing them with the passion that is intrinsic
to our nature. These prayers become less about a conversation with a
God outside of the self and more about conversation with the Goddess,
the breath of intent holding everything together.
Queer spirituality rejects the myth of the separation between body and
spirit. We embody our prayers through dance and song, while claiming
our bodies as manifestations of the divine and reclaiming sex as a sacred
act. We welcome all varieties of sexual preference practiced under the
"Law of Three." We see all forms of gender expression as faces
of the Goddess. All expressions of Love must be, of their very nature,
Prayer is different from spell craft, which is also part of Queer
Spirituality. In spell craft, we honor our responsibility in the cycle
of creation that is the Goddess. "I was a hidden treasure and I
loved that I be known, so I created the creation in order to be known."
We accept our responsibility to participate in the recreation of the
world that honors life and the Law of Three.
- Ritual and Worship
We have created holidays and events all over the world that celebrate
our culture and our values, from the gay games to gay pride. We worship
in techno masses, women's festivals, Wiccan rituals, gay churches and
Queer identity is about opening up to life. It is time to own
our multiple identities, queer up everything and open the containers.
Even though we are lesbian or gay, and we may fight for social justice
or follow woman-centered Goddess religions, we may continue to be addicted
to the idea of binary reality; for example, it is much safer to be gay
than bi-sexual in either a gay or a religious setting. Frequently it's
easier to come out as a lesbian to your church than it is to come out
as Christian to your lesbian/gay friends. We are struggling with the
inherited tradition of 'demonizing', those we consider "other,"
those who are outside of our binary comfort zone. Overt bigotry or intolerance
may not be acceptable in most lesbian and gay groups, but we have mastered
the ability to kill spirits with tolerance -- I will talk more about
this another time -- and we confuse unity with uniformity.
Whatever your path,
your belief, your religion; wherever and however you experience the touch
of the infinite as the greatest of all human experience, I honor you.
The attraction of the blossoming Queer Spirituality is the possibility
of freedom from the bondage of duality, or uniformity. It is about the
freedom to see differences as manifestations of the infinite faces of
the Beloved, the children of the Mother.
In future columns I
will continue to expand upon my experience of Queer spirituality and the
connections between the religions of the world, known and unknown. I will
strive to make this work live up to the traditional definition of Queer,
"Odd; singular; hence, whimsical," while celebrating the joys,
passions, humor and ironies of Queer life and Queer Spirituality. I promise
to deviate from the expected or the norm, and expect to be considered
strange, odd, unconventional, and eccentric.
So Mote It Be.
Blessings and Peace...The
favorite definition of a Sufi is that the Sufi regards every thought,
feeling, and perception that he or she has (including his or her sense
of self) as a manifestation of the Beloved or as a particular view of
the Beloved's face ("Wherever you turn there is God's face"--Qur'an).This
means that every person and thing she encounters is also a manifestation
of the Beloved and should be treated accordingly.
+ Richard Hardy - Pacific School of Religion - First Queer Ministry
+ M.R.Ritley - Pacific School of Religion - First Queer Ministry Convention
+ Mona West - Pacific School of Religion - First Queer Ministry Convention
+ The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth