Number 164 Winter 2015/16 $9.95
Not Losing My Religion
Issue 165 / Spring 2016
RFD FUNNY PAPERS Submission Deadline: January 21, 2016 www.rfdmag.org/upload
RFD is looking to promote cartoonists in our community and encourage faeries to take a serious look at comix. To this end, RFD 165 will showcase works of talented comix creators of Fairydom in the RFD FUNNY PAPERS. We look forward to amazing Queer stories that encompass the experience of self-publishing, DIY printing, fans, readers, the highs and lows of being a fairy and gatherings, and all the fantasy and magic of being a cartoonist living the dream. Send your cartoon or graphic story to submissions@rfdmag. org or submit through our website at www. rfdmag.org/upload. Comix are preferred but written pieces will be considered. Thank you for being a part of the RFD over the years. We look forward to seeing your beautiful stories. Questions? submissions@ rfdmag.org.
Reaching for Divinity Vol 42 No 2 #164 Winter 2015/16
Between the Lines
In this issue, our readers share their experiences with religions of origin, family and tradition. We understand that experience is filled with and fraught with painful memories for many and yet we felt the need to reflect upon positive experiences and we hope you enjoy the issue. We also have several reports from gatherings around the world and share several remembrances. Sadly, we didnâ€™t have a chance to collect a remembrance for Joe Birdsong and hope to include one in the upcoming issue. RFD is a labor of love and you the readers make much of its content possible. We hope you engage in itâ€™s creation by sending in ideas for themes, by writing articles and submitting artwork. We also benefit from your kind donations which helps RFD stay on track and in print. Every little bit helps.
RFD 164 Winter 2015/16 1
Submission Deadlines Spring–January 21, 2016 Summer–April 21, 2016 See inside covers for themes and specifics.
On the Covers Front: Alan Kaplan Back: Eugene Salandra (Peacock)
Managing Editor: Bambi Gauthier Assistant Editor: Rosie Delicious Art Director: Matt Bucy
For advertising, subscriptions, back issues and other information visit www.rfdmag.org RFD is a reader-written journal for gay people which focuses on country living and encourages alternative lifestyles. We foster community building and networking, explore the diverse expressions of our sexuality, care for the environment, Radical Faerie consciousness, and nature-centered spirituality, and share experiences of our lives. RFD is produced by volunteers. We welcome your participation. The business and general production are coordinated by a collective. Features and entire issues are prepared by different groups in various places. RFD (ISSN# 0149-709X) is published quarterly for $25 a year by RFD Press, P.O. Box 302, Hadley MA 01035-0302. Postmaster: Send address changes to RFD, P.O. Box 302, Hadley MA
01035-0302. Non-profit tax exempt #62-1723644, a function of RFD Press with office of registration at 231 Ten Penny Rd., Woodbury, TN 37190. RFD Cover Price: $9.95. A regular subscription is the least expensive way to receive it four times a year. First class mailed issues will be forwarded. Others will not. Send address changes to email@example.com or to our Hadley, MA address. Copyright © RFD Press. The records required by Title 18 U.S.D. Section 2257 and associated with respect to this magazine (and all graphic material associated therewith on which this label appears) are kept by the custodian of records at the following location: RFD Press, 85 N Main St, Ste 200, White River Junction, VT 05001.
RFD 164 Winter 2015/16
Artists in this Issue Alan Kaplan Cover, 22 John Waiblinger 2, 25, 37, 57 Daniel Schmude 7 Benyamin Reich 13, 14 David Townsend 26 Eric J. Klein 28 Faerie Dwoo (Andrew Purchin) 32 Streetcandy 43 Danny Ferrell 51 Eugene Salandra (Peacock) Back Cover, 52 George William Russell 54
“Trellis Melody” by John Waiblinger
CONTENTS Gatherings and Announcments. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Journal of Chinese Heart Circle Gathering at Mid-autumn Festival, 2015 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Sunny Heart, Adam, Gary, Francis, Translated by Jing. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 “For Her”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Omri. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Five Gay Jewish Prayers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Perry Brass. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 Rabbi Dumpty’s Crack Lets Light Get In . . . . . . . . . . Endora. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 Struck Dumb . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . by Jeff Pavek. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 Hand of God. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jimmi Kocher-Hillmer. . . . . . . . . . . . 21 My Radical Faerie Journey through Modern Day Christianity. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Rev. Yolanda. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 Reading the Bible with Harry Hay . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Rev. Glen Morton Ganaway IM. . . . 24 A Wildwood Eucharist. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . David Townsend. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 Not Losing My Religion. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Greg SeaLion Cotten. . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 Not Losing My Religion. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Alan Yount. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33 Testimony of a Christian Fairy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Luckylips. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34 Woo-Hoo!. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Even Song. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36 Miriam. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Eli M. Ross. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38 Even Song. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Petra Kuppers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 Guests . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mushroom. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40 Who Walks With You When I’m Gone?. . . . . . . . . . . Timmothy Holt. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41 Earthly Father. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Steven Riel. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42 An Atheist Christian Among the Faeries . . . . . . . . . . Tricky . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44 I Knew Jesus Loved Me . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Two Bears. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48 An Interview with Tantric Lutheran John Ballew. . . Franklin Abbott. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53 Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55 The Day Before I Went To The Mental Hospital I Wrote:. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56 What Makes Me Curl Up In A Ball: A List Of Sorts. 56 Richard P. Wagner. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Darumajin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58 Richard Perin. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Darumajin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59
RFD 164 Winter 2015/16 3
ANNOUNCEMENTS & GATHERINGS RFD Archive Scanning Update After a number of generous RFD readers sent us their back issues to help in creating a clean scan set our beloved Board member Kwai came to Northampton MA and helped collate and select a good set so we can send them to the archival scanning company. Hopefully, we’ll be able to deliver them to the scanning company by January, so in the new year look for news about the scans. Our goal is to have the back issues available online for our readers to peruse. Efforts to create an index and searchable text may take longer as the old issues were not laid out with a mind for OCR (optical character recognition) software. Stay tuned and thanks for the support on making this happen.
Medium of Desire: An International Anthology of Photography and Video Curated by Peter Weiermair. December 18, 2015 – March 16, 201. Using human beauty, desire, Eros, and sexuality, this new photography based exhibition reveals that cultural differences, whether 4
RFD 164 Winter 2015/16
defined by national borders, sexual orientation, or gender identification, can be simultaneously vast yet familiar. Regardless of one’s sexual orientation or country of origin, feelings of desire, when successfully represented, can serve to minimize our differences and bring us closer. By using the theme “desire,” this exhibition draws together the work of fourteen contemporary artists from China, Japan, Greece, Russia, Italy, Germany, Great Britain, and the U.S., as expressed through the medium of photography and video.
“In looking at these works,” says curator Peter Weiermair, “we see the expression of desire between those depicted in the images. Then, in other works we see the desire between the artists and their subjects. In many instances, as we witness this desire, it evokes our own feelings, regardless of our individual perspective.” “Peter has brought us a thoughtful exhibition which depicts desire on the most human level. The work presented varies greatly in style, and ranges from documentation to elaborately staged photo shoots,” says Museum Director Hunter O’Hanian. “He presents us with work by artists who have established careers such as Catherine Opie and
Left: Kwai by Bambi; Right: “Ben” by Joseph Maida (at Leslie-Lohman Museum)
Greg Gorman as well as work by younger emerging artists. Because of the international element to the exhibition, this will be the first time some of the artists have shown in the United States.”
GATHERINGS Gay Spirit Visions 2016 Winter Meditation. Happiness: Positive Emotion and Creating a More Vibrant GSV, LGBT Community, and World. January 15-17, 2016 at The Mountain, Highlands, NC. www.gayspiritvisions.org.
Tantrastic Faerie Gathering! The First Tantric Themed Experience @ Folleterre Yooo Hooo lovely faeries, submissive tops and power bottoms (1), here is the report of our Magical Tantrical Tour @Folleterre from August 28 until September 6, 2015. “Dear friend, Queer friend. Let me tell you how I feel. You have given me such pleasure, I love you so…” the song that remains in our hearts after our Tantrastic Gathering. We were with 35 Faeries, always present in body, or spirit all the time. Faeries were arriving on August 28 and 29 and “Lala, Zhangjie, Pandra, Sichuan Province 2011” by Tomoko Kikucki (at Leslie-Lohman Musuem)
we enjoyed a beautiful opening ceremony by joint effort on August 29 after dinner. So beautiful to notice we celebrated Full Moon on this Opening Ceremony, while the Pan gathering in July had a Full Moon at the Closing Ceremony! We went to the sacred field below our sandy beach, where we brought offerings under the tree and were introduced to the basics of Tantra: Breathing, Chakras, awareness of the elements, Earth, Water (2), Fire, Air, Folleterre, the House, the eco system, the beautiful nature. All this while listening to the blissful sounds from the singing bowls by Gentle Sound. We were blindfolded and invited by the gatekeeper to be walked to a Sacred Fire ceremony. Like a blind human snake we slit pace for pace slowly, holding each other, to the fire pit next to the Sweat Lodge. Sitting around the fire, still blind folded, we heard and feel the fire was lit. We were invited to share our gratefulness. Undone from the blindfolds we could see the stars again. We chanted and sounded. On the first day Faeries volunteered for main tasks like Kitchen, Fire, Water, Cleaning, Household Goddess and Shit Angel. They performed with ever lasting dedication and joy and did a great job, making the task for the submissive facilitator top’s so much lighter leaving them time to bring love and RFD 164 Winter 2015/16 5
energy to you all. Our days were filled with activities and ceremonies but we had enough free time slots for Faerie creativity and energy. Days usually began with a yoga session on the sacred field by (breath..... breath...) Embrace, before and during breakfast at Faerie time 8:00 -10:01 am followed by a Practical Circle, often enriched by Jingles sung by Foxie’s power bottoms for the practical tip of the day. We would welcome lunch and dinner tops and bottoms and the household and cleaning goddesses would organise the daily dishwashing and cleaning parties. At 11:01 or so (Faerie time) a daily active Osho Meditation by Ankh-Aton or Wave or a morning Heart Circle. Then lunch every day at Faerie time 13:11, afternoon Session, dinner at 19:01 and an evening Tantra Experience. Breakfast was self service prepared by the breakfast top’s and bottoms. Lunch and dinner always were vegetarian, creative, beautiful, amazing and surprising with Fusion food from all over the world including crispy spring rolls by Daffodil, spicy dishes, nutritious soups, salads and deserts with an “encore” of the now Faerie famous avocado mousse. Always choice for the vegan and gluten tolerant Faeries as well. We enjoyed sacred undressing rituals, Kashmiri and Tantra massages by Ank-Athon and Wave, Sound Healing and Bathing by Gentle Sound, Fire Breathing by Galactica, Symbol Drawing by Embrace, Conscious Touch by Ankh-Aton, Pain and Touch Themed Heart Circles, Nature Walk and Grand Tour by Foxie, Sweat Hut Ceremony by Embrace, Sky and Pikachu, Five Rhythm Dance by Silver Dragon Fly, Cacao Ceremony by Sparkle. We enjoyed a Story Telling evening with the theme Fire during which time we sent our love and energy to a beautiful Faerie who went on an adventure with French Pompiers to Belfort (3). In another joined effort our week was concluded with a closing Tantra Ceremony lasting until the very early hours, honouring the elements Air, Water, Earth and Fire. The Air element Faeries opened the closing ceremony in the Circus Room with a hilarious performance as Air Faeries France Stewardesses, offering Business Class Service with a twist and prospective First Class upgrades for the next flight booked. Business Class for us common Business Faeries, was poorly seated on old yoga mats, while 1st class passengers were receiving very, very special services. We were given an impression of First Class Service (behind closed curtains of course). We honoured each other with colourful bracelets of love. Then the Water element Faeries brought us to Folletaire’s wash6
RFD 164 Winter 2015/16
ing area performing a water dance and singing the water song: “We are the flow, we are the ebb, we are the rivers, we are the waves…” (4) leading us through the stream of life, carrying with us the experiences of the past week and baptising us with Holy Faerie Water. Then the Earth element Faeries brought us to the Ancestor’s tree. We offered a handful of earth and Faerie dust to the tree and were made aware of the Folleterre earth. Finally the Fire element Faeries were leading us to the Sacred Fire Ground. We were asked to bring something precious from Folleterre’s nature grounds, to burn it or not. We hummed a fire song and raised to our feet one by one. We said our names and talked to the fire. We were told to bring home the precious something or leave it behind if it had served it’s purpose to transmute in the fire. Summarized: We experienced a blessed spiritual, sensual, ceremonial, and energetic Tantrastic Faerie Gathering with new Faeries, many of them Francophones, some even not familiar until now with Faeries and Tantra. We all blended in amazingly from day one and shared love, feelings, touch, intimacy, energy, playfulness, creativity, talents, wisdom, bodies. Thank you: Aerion, Alep, Ankh-Aton, Arbr-akam, Baby V, Balcal Carnaval, Edelweiss, Eilendes Wasser, Festiv Al Regal, Foxie Deux Milles, Galactica Plexux, Gentle Sound, Glorious Erection, Gustavo, Jumping Daffodil, Little Worm, Lub Skywawka, Mario Dancing Crane, Pikachu, Respiro Zephyrus, Silver Dragon Fly, Sky, Sparkle, Spicy Pie, Tornade Le Mignon (Coco), Ursulo Undress, Wairan, Wave Rider, Wise Breeze… � (1) There have been discussions this summer about putting labels on persons, like the word slave, or mum.....so we found other words and indeed tops and bottoms are also labels often used in gay life, but we have to use some functional names for persons to perform a certain activity. To give it a swinging playful twist we came with Submissive Tops and Powerful Bottoms at least for this gathering. Who knows what labels come to us next season.... (2) This year the region suffered a severe water shortage. Where normally water flows superfluously out of the mountain, or from the sky we experienced a very dry season. Thus forcing us to always pay attention to our water usage, minimising it and sometimes even retrieve water from the fountain in Ternuay. (3) As in many gatherings some accidents occur, and we must be prepared for them to happen by always being aware what we do and then possibly prevent them. A lovely and joyful Faerie experienced a painful close encounter with the elements Fire and Water and was taken by the Pompiers (Firemen) to first aid. There the burn was eased and taken care of and he/she returned home to Folletaire happily with the help of two other caring Faeries. (4) An adaptation of a Beltane song, changed for the occasion.
Photograph by Daniel Schmude
RFD 164 Winter 2015/16 7
Journal of Chinese Heart Circle Gathering at Mid-autumn Festival, 2015 By Sunny Heart, Adam, Gary, Francis, Translated by Jing
t was about to rain when I returned home. Some family members were playing Mahjong while others cooking, neither of which I could join in. So I took a walk outside to spend the last minutes of my Mid-autumn Festival. Skater boys flew by, puppies rubbed against my feet and ran awayâ€ŚYes, I was still bathed in serenity, warmth and joy. It is as if the moonlight on the past two nights, pure and soft, were still glimmering above the clouds, penetrating to the bottom of my heartâ€Ś
RFD 164 Winter 2015/16
Departure Seeing so many new faces at KFC, I was a bit uneasy. Yet, looking back today, they all look so familiar and heart-warming. The queue was long at the bus terminal. The moon was clear but not yet full. Moonlight and flashlight joint hands to light up the mundane world.On the bus, I was pondering if the trip would be boring, if there would be generation gaps, and many other ifs. Yet, it turned out that when we arrived, a community soon started to form. Three hours passed by while we waited in queue and later in traffic jam. But the moment we stepped onto the podium by the lake, it was clear that all the waiting was worthwhile.Faraway on the lake, which had been covered by moonlight, was reflecting the road lights from the bridge. On the podium, we held hands and introduced and shared about ourselves. Looking up, stars spread across the sky.Just that the cool weather made me feel cold after the long sharing. Back to the guest room, I heard violin sound. That was from Jing, the violin player.The Photographs courtesy the authors.
next morning was also a surprise to me. Pushing out the balcony door, I saw that sunshine penetrated through leaves and landed on grass. The lake was visible from the gaps between the leaves. It was so quiet around, except the birding singing.
They left us their hotel suit for our evening party. Many thanks to them.The suit hall could contain the 17 of us. Food piled up on the table. After a long day, we had got to know each other and thus
relaxed. There were laughter and joyful chats all around.Cunhong was a key person. Wherever he went, his words put him at the center of attention. Needless to say, he was the Master of Ceremony at the party. He was good at talking about any stuff. There were performances and games. In a game, we were asked to pass on a piece of paper with our mouth…so you could imagine the scene!Thanks Qianqian for the unforgettable mix-flower wine he brought to us.
Confession Naked swimming After lunch, we were hiking. Soon we arrived at a narrow place where body shape could prevent us from passing through. Some had problems with their chest, others with their stomach…not me, of course. There were the lake and the mountain at the horizon…There were naked men swimming… A naked old-aged asked us, why you had no girls with you…I answered a phone call and returned. Some were sleeping, while others went to… naked swimming! I hurried to the site and saw several eye-catching bodies in the water: Moming, Feng, Qianqian, as well as the gorgeous view of Zhan’s back… I felt we should not let them swim alone, so I returned and called everyone to come. Only Jing was taking a nap and thus missed the scene.The mountain…the falling sun…the lake…so beautiful!
After the evening party, we went to the podium by the lake to share, to welcome new members, and to appreciate the moon.The welcoming party for new members was like this: old guys stood in two rows facing each other, new guys walked through in between with their eyes covered with cloth, and all of a sudden he felt dozens of hands wandering around his body…Is this the welfare of old guys?!During the later sharing session, two “fresh
Evening Party Due to stomach ache, Ben, together with his boyfriend Oscar, returned to town in the afternoon.
RFD 164 Winter 2015/16 9
meat” (young boys) bravely confessed to their loved ones. They received cheers and applauses. So good to be young. Bless them. Bathed in moonlight, Zhan and Moming started to dance in Jing’s violin sound. Others were whispering in groups of three or five… When the melody of Massenet’s Meditation arose, the world seemed to fade away. Jing was so much into his playing. I thought of his sad face when I first saw him…And then everyone hugged each other. During the sharing, a boy talked about the good body shape of the naked swimmers. But he missed Qianqian. So when I hugged Qianqian, I mentioned to him his good body shape. He replied glad that you liked it…Well, I liked every good body…Also many thanks to Norman for his heavy photo-taking equipment, with which he took a group photo of us.At one o’clock, my fresh meat roommate, who had just took a walk with his loved one to which he confessed, returned. I woke up in sleepiness and asked, “how was it?” “Fine,” He replied. Soon we fell asleep.
and names.When Cunhong was quiet, it was such a scene of loneliness. Master Zhan was like a white lotus blooming and dancing in the moon. Of course, the scene of his diving into the lake was equally fantastic. When Francis danced, he was like a genderless fairy bathing in moonlight.
Return After breakfast, we returned to the grassland where we did our morning heart circle yesterday. There was sunshine and no mosquitoes. During the sharing, Francis mentioned that he could be a bi-sexual…I thought we should display our charm to attract him to stay in the gay world… The last round of sharing was still pretty enriching. We listened to others’ voices, cared about others’ world, reflected over our own issues… We shared books, films, and our puzzles… Everyone was like a flower growing to its potential; each had its own beauty. On the way back to the bus terminal Feng said that we were returning to the secular world…we all understood how it felt! I said we should keep that moonlight in our heart. This was not the end, but the beginning.Closing my eyes and I could think of everyone’s faces
10 RFD 164 Winter 2015/16
The Swan and the Meditation played by Jing were charged with emotions. Together with moonlight, they reached the bottom of my heart. When he smiled, he did not seem to be truly happy. I hope he is a sunshine and happy boy. Qianqian had no answers to his inquiries into philosophy and reality. But when he made ghostly faces with his phone’s light, he was cute. Gary was like a teenage beauty, as cool and calm as the moon…Try to be more sunshine! Norman was gentle and mature. Dingding was another lovely teenage beauty. Ludou thought he was rational…perhaps not, actually. I wish he wasn’t too rational. When Oscar and Ben were making fun with each other, it was a scene as enchanting as the naked swimmers. It was a pity that they missed the evening party. The life and views of David inspired me a lot. He was a cool uncle. Tony was almost perfect. His job, values, his marriage with a lesbian…I was jealous that so many pieces of fresh meat were attracted to him.Blue arrived late. The scene of his reunion with Cunhong, his old buddy, and their close chats could move me to tears. What’s more, he was a rich beauty.Jin was like a former classmate of mine. He always had a shy smile on his face. When Fish arrived with his big travel kit, I was surprised. But it meant that he was strong…and frank. He shared a room with Moming, which made
me jealous… Shelton had his own beliefs to fight for. But I wish he wasn’t too anxious. Even if the sky falls, we have Fish, who is taller, to shoulder it…
of you is emitting spiritual fire with unique colors… Last but not least, many thanks to the lovely ones who organized the activity, including Pure Lake, Francis, Jing, and Norman…and many thanks to you who listened to my story.
Feng…it was like calling myself. I noticed that he liked to be taken photo of. He must want to keep these happy moments. I wish he also keeps these moments in his heart, no matter where he goes. Closing my eyes and I can imagine that every one
I remember that on the first night, we sat in a circle in the moonlight. I put a piece of black cloth on the ground to stand for darkness, and put a piece of yellow cloth upon the black cloth to stand for the moon, and then put a piece of moonstone above to stand for with the full moon in the sky. I remember that the moonstone was passed on in our hands; some clutched the stone with their hands to see how bright it was. By Francis I remember people were friendly, and their sharing was sincere. I listened to many stories, made many friends, and learnt a lot. I missed them a lot after the gathering. I wish that everyone lives happily in their own life, and I look forward to our future gatherings. By Gary I remember that the moon was so big and the talisman was so thick. It was so cold on the first night, but much warmer later. By Adam. �
RFD 164 Winter 2015/16 11
“For Her” By Omri
walk into the Lubavitch World Headquarters along with hundreds of Hasidic men, filing in for Yom Kippur evening service. All around me there are black hats, holy books, and prayer shawls. I must stick out like a sore thumb with my pierced ears and blue jeans, but no one pays me any attention. The synagogue’s in a dank chamber in the basement of an old Brooklyn building. They call this place “770” after its address on Eastern Parkway. The number 770 has mystical significance in Hebrew numerology, equivalent to “House of the Messiah.” The words “Long live our master, our teacher, our Rebbe, King Moshiach” are plastered along the wall. I fumble through a prayer book, but I have no idea where the service starts. Meanwhile, more and more men are pouring in. I try to pick out individuals—is that guy handsome under his unruly beard?—but it’s a wash of black jackets and sidecurls. They daven, bowing back and forth, their faces buried in the liturgy. There’s an alien eroticism to the ritual, a thousand men pressed against one another in an undulating trance. It reminds me of the Beltane maypole ceremony, or at least I want it to. Services are about to begin and people are still packing in. I was warned that 770 gets crowded on this holiest night of the year, but I didn’t know it would be this bad. The mass of bodies has taken on a life of its own, pressing me against a pew with a crushing force. I can hardly breathe. Small fights erupt around me. Harsh yelling. I think I should flee before I get trampled. I’m here for her, I remind myself. I accompanied my twin sister here, but now she’s hidden somewhere behind the gender-dividing barricade. Five years ago, she started on a journey of reclaiming her Jewish faith, and I’ve come along to show my support. I witnessed Judaism transform her. For the better part of a decade, my sister was in crisis, plagued by physical pain, emotional instability, hypochondria, and depression. Today, she has regained her happiness, her health, and sense of humor. Religion wasn’t a magic pill—getting her life back together took a lot of work on her part and a lot of family support. But the faith and practices of Judaism gave her a spiritual grounding that’s been central to her healing. 12 RFD 164 Winter 2015/16
We were raised without religion. Like most Israelis, we were ethnic, secular Jews. Rosh Hashana was nothing more than an occasion for a family meal and a day off from school. Our parents grew up on a kibbutz, an Israeli agricultural commune. Our grandparents had founded the kibbutz after fleeing Europe, relinquishing their religious traditions and taking on a secular Zionist identity. My sister’s rebirth into Judaism coincided with my own spiritual journey. At the same moment she discovered Torah and Kabbalah, I was exploring yoga, Buddhism, and pagan practices. She found her Hasidic community in a religious town in Israel. I found my faerie community in Burning Man and Short Mountain. She balks at the statue of Ganesh I keep on my shelf. It’s Avodah Zarah—idol worship. Words like zen and sangha irritate her—You’re not Buddhist, you’re Jewish. I ask her to respect my practice the way I respect hers. And for the most part, she does. Still, I don’t discuss the details of my spirituality with her. After all, she’s the one who went towards our birth religion, and that gives her a sort of home court advantage. Our atheist, liberal parents don’t necessarily see it that way. To them, she’s the one who’s gone further off the deep end. My New Age beliefs are harmless when compared to her restrictive way of life. She can’t eat at their house because of kosher laws; she can’t talk on the phone on the Sabbath; and she won’t hug or even shake hands with male friends of the family. I’m grateful that she remains accepting of me and open-minded about gay issues (It helps that she dated women herself back in the day). For my part, it takes effort to stay open-minded. Being queer makes orthodox Judaism a nonstarter for me. And even if that weren’t the case, I find many of the practices medieval. The gender politics of my sister’s brand of Judaism are nothing short of fundamental, and the geopolitics are even worse. I find the ultra-orthodox world foreign and unsettling, but I want to share in my sister’s life, so I follow along. She doesn’t pressure me to come with her to synagogue, but it pleases her when I do. In her own practice she’s exacting, but when I mumble clumsily through prayers she’s got infinite patience. She’s just happy I’m trying.
She loves to teach me new rituals—did you know there’s a special blessing for when you see a rainbow?—and explain the intricate theology—every day this month corresponds to a different aspect of God. She forwards me Kabbalistic articles from chabad.org and sings Jewish songs that are as beautiful as any I’ve ever heard. When the services in 770 are over, my sister wants to go to a Chabad house. On our way, a young man asks if I had laid tefillin yet today. I brush him off, saying we are running late. But my sister insists that we have time. She looks on proudly as I wrap my arm and forehead with the leather tefillin strap. I can’t help but see it as fetish gear. The young man helps me recite the prayers. It’s an arcane, vexing
“Tefilin schel jad” by Benyamin Reich
ritual, but I do it anyway. For her. My sister thanks the young man, proud of the mitzvah all three of us have conspired in. At the Chabad house, the rabbi (who I’ve never met) welcomes me with a deep, warm hug. Seeing that I’m secular, he says to me, “You and I, we have the same soul. The body takes many different forms, but the soul—there’s only one.”It occurs to me that what started out as doing service to my sister has ended up serving me as well. I’m never going to become Hasidic myself, but she has helped me see the beauty and nuance of my ancestors’ religion. I’m here for her, I tell myself. But am I really? As Rabbi Hillel said, “If I’m not for myself, who will be for me?” �
RFD 164 Winter 2015/16 13
14 RFD 164 Winter 2015/16
“Water Boys” by Benyamin Reich
Five Gay Jewish Prayers by Perry Brass 1. *B’raeshees B’raeshees Bahrah Elohim Es Ha ‘Shahmayim V’ Es Ha Ahretz I hear your words sometimes and I am amazed that they include me. Although your words existed before my deeds, before all deeds, still I think my deeds existed before wordsna and are lost in all but blood. Allow me into your words and be kind with me. Allow me the silence of peace and the silence of pure space between time and people, between light and darkness, between your word and my acceptance. How often I have rebelled and seen frozen in my own exhausted face your words. Allow them now to comfort me, to touch me, to kindle in me a ceremony of light. * “In the Beginning ...” “In the Beginning God created heaven and earth.” 2. When I’m alone and curse the uncleared path I must take, allow me please to look out from my dense and cluttered view, and see the world with good, untired eyes. Allow me this simple pleasure of a single person, burdened with undiluted thoughts, with private prejudices and opinions held too close for their own sakes. Let me find relaxation from my brambles, dear shade without darkness, and your kind warmth while I travel alone. 3. When I wondered how I came to be me, you told me not how, but why, and told me how important I am to your plan
and how I fit into a space that was already mine. And although the fit sometimes seems so less than perfect, you made this place and I am very thankful for it. And I only wish (if I may be allowed to wish) that others kindly allow for me my space you made for me. 4. The Shortened Life The lesson of the shortened life is grace, as of the long life is patience. The lesson of all life at end is courage, not to be confused with resignation, although its road may be dug through that land. Still I wait here on your shore, hoping you will call me forth, hoping not to fail your test, and that my eyes and heart will be open to love. 5. *Haverim Allow all I love to prosper and accept my love without guilt; to hold its shining goodness in their hands, and accept my love and pardon arrogance. And allow some love to return to me, as comes from your great heart.W * “Friends”t Additional note: all italicized words in titles are in Hebrew.
RFD 164 Winter 2015/16 15
Rabbi Dumpty’s Crack Lets Light Get In by Endora
hen I was a small child, I already knew I was different. I cried for three days when I got my first haircut, and I refused to wear anything but my sister’s pleated cheerleading skirt with its gold satin lining. When my parents took us to synagogue, with its great stained-glass eye in the domed ceiling, I prayed that God would bring me more skirts in more colors. And a new baton to twirl. God did not answer my prayers. When I got to junior high school, and puberty set in, I knew I was different. I played the flute and wore sassy bell-bottoms in Peter Max fabrics. I went to church with my friends instead of studying for a bar mitzvah, and at night, in my room, after jerking off to images of Captain Kirk, Little Joe or the Mark Spitz poster above my bed, I would start crying and begin to pray to God, “Please, God, let me be… a Christian.” I never felt bad or tortured about being gay – my mother was sex-positive and had openly gay friends – but I tortured myself trying to be Christian. In rural Georgia, with a church on every corner, the Lord’s Prayer in public schools, and not a synagogue in sight, not to be Christian was to be in exile from the promised land of parties and trips to Six Flags. Today, the Baptists just love the Jews and Israel, but when I was growing up, people regularly told me I was going to hell and that I had killed Christ. We moved often, and in each new school, just as I was about to make friends, the Jew-thing would come out and I would find myself sitting alone at lunch and disinvited from cliques. I tried; I had a good voice so I sang in several church choirs over the years, and even went to lessons to become several of the protestant denominations, but at some point, I would just look at the teacher and say to myself, “I can’t believe this.” Then at night, I would cry and pray because I so wanted to believe it. God did not answer my prayers. If Jesus was knocking on the door to my heart, I couldn’t figure out how to open it. At age three, I was kicked out of a nursery school when they found out we were Jewish. Or because I insisted on wearing my sister’s cheerleading skirt every day. “Damn Lutheran anti-Semites,” my mother screamed. “Make him wear pants,” my father hurled back. 16 RFD 164 Winter 2015/16
At four, I went into a minimart with my father, and when the man behind the counter, took my father’s money, he muttered ‘dirty Jews” not-quiteunder his breath. When we got back to the car and sat down, my father was shaking and I asked him what the man meant. My father, a man who never had a ‘real’ discussion with any of his children, who knew Hebrew but told no one, who tried to be a normal “American” more than anyone I’ve ever known, who gleefully set up a Christmas tree every December, turned to me and said, “David, you are a Jew. No matter what you do to fit in they will always see you as a Jew. If they come to kill Jews, they will take you. Don’t ever forget that no matter what you think you are, in this world, you are a Jew.” He blew his nose and wiped his eyes and drove home and never mentioned it again. At nine, my sister became Valedictorian of her public high school, but bomb threats offering reasons that were both racist and anti-Semitic cancelled her ceremony. At seven, we had a dead eagle shoved in our mailbox with a note that read, “the Jews are killing America.” On childhood car rides to visit relatives or to go on vacation, if I asked questions about Christianity, my father would say, “Jesus was a rabbi.” My mother would roll her eyes and offer, “Honey, your father won’t say this, but Christians are stupid. People who believe in a virgin birth or that unfairly executing an innocent man is God’s plan just aren’t too bright. We have to be nice, but remember they aren’t as smart as Jews are. They can’t help it.”
nd so in middle school, I never told my parents, or anyone, about my nightly prayers to please let me believe this stuff so I could fit in. My boyfriend was Baptist. My girlfriend was Church of God. I was burdened with Jewish skepticism. I was not grace-full. At the end of my freshman year in my new high school, I was elected drum major of the marching band, an important status in the football game and marching band obsessed south. I won first prize in every band contest we attended. At the end of the year, I was told I would need to audition again, something that was unheard of, and that instead of the band voting, an outside judge was coming in.
I auditioned and was told I had lost. The kid that won couldn’t keep time. My ears were ringing and my heart pounded, but I went in to ask the band director, a Mr. Gilreath who was also a Church of Christ minister, how I had lost. He looked me in the eye, leaned across his desk and said, ‘David, the band parents got together and decided they weren’t comfortable with a Jew leading the band down Main Street.”
with him and Judaism, and at time, the two seemed inseparable; the erotic divine wrapped itself around me in those days like my new prayer shawl. At 15, I was made bar mitzvah. That was the same year that Tim, my best friend, and I first had sex in the hayloft of the barn on his family farm. At 16, a dear friend told me during Algebra that I was no longer invited to her birthday party because her parents didn’t want “Christ-killers” in their home.
The prayers to Jesus stopped. I started reading about Judaism, set up an independent study on Mainmonides, and, having just gotten my driver’s license, began driving my silver Camaro the hour to the nearest synagogue where I studied for my late bar mitzvah. The rabbi that taught me was gorgeous, bearded, and had curly black chest hair that poured out over his white t-shirts. I was in love
The girl next to us asked to see my tail. My first semester at college, my professor gave me an F for refusing to take an exam on Yom Kippur, and I had to take the fight all the way to the president of the college. The next year, I was elected president of my college Hillel and remained so until I graduated; I was also president of a mostly gay music fraternity. I was the only student
Photo courtesy author.
RFD 164 Winter 2015/16 17
I knew at William and Mary that wore openly gay New York, but I had little to offer them. They were political t-shirts, buttons and yes, bandanas. The young, terrified and angry; I was, too. I joined ACT day I turned in my last paper, I drove all night to UP and went to long claustrophobic meetings and Atlanta and moved in with Tim. I was a tenor in raucous protests all over New York City. I cleaned the Gay Men’s Chorus and was working for the Isup the messes my dying friends’ bodies could not raeli Consulate. We volunteered at a shelter run by stop making. Afterward, when I would get home our local synagogue. At the gay pride march that from school and chaplaincy and protests, I would year, almost half the people wore masks out of fear go to the bathroom to check myself for lesions. of being identified. My gay roommate from college At school, this was not seen. Even among those in who also had moved to Atlanta died suddenly of a Hinenu, we did not discuss what we were going strange pneumonia. The next year, we went to Jethrough outside of school and congregations. I rusalem where we lived and worked for two years. know I didn’t want even my fellow gay classmates I began rabbinical school that second year in to see how wrecked and on the edge I was. In criJerusalem. It was 1985, and openly gay and lesbian sis, it becomes crucial to hold it together. rabbis were not yet We belonged to ordained, but in my CBST, the gay and psych evals and in my lesbian synagogue in interview, when asked, New York, where I I told. I was accepted, regularly led services and Tim and I were the and Tim helped lay Naively, it didn’t occur to me token openly gay—and out the newsletter. Sethat despite being accepted, fully embraced—coucretly, though, Jewish my ordination was not a given. ple during that year. ritual had begun to be Naively, it didn’t ocincapable of addressOnce we returned to New York cur to me that despite ing what I was expeto finish my studies, we found being accepted, my riencing as a gay man a Jewish community immersed ordination was not in the AIDS crisis. in issues of “who’s a Jew” a given. Once we reTim and I had lived turned to New York to in a faerie household and a gay community literally finish my studies, we in Atlanta, but never fighting for its life and being found a Jewish comwent to gatherings. largely ignored by that Jewish munity immersed in When one of his cocommunity. issues of “who’s a Jew” workers invited him to and a gay community a gathering in Pennliterally fighting for its sylvania, we went and life and being largely never looked back. We ignored by that Jewish started going to Radicommunity. Several of cal Faerie gatherings us founded an organization of LGBT students and as much as we could, and we screamed and cried their allies, called Hinenu (We Are Here), and we with other gay men around enormous bonfires, put flyers in mailboxes and elevators; the logo of an or in small circles in the woods. At almost every open door was drawn in the chunky pixels of those gathering, word of another death trickled in and first Macs. the eruption of grief would carry us into another The fight for the ordination of gay and lesbian ritual of angry grief. Judaism inhabited my head, rabbis would have been my driving passion, if not but faeries inhabited my heart and my spirit. for the holocaust that was happening all around me. While we argued over Talmud, the AIDS was ordained a Reform rabbi in 1990, moved to crisis now defined much of my world. When I kibbutz with Tim in 1991, and in 1993, returned walked out the doors of rabbinical school each to the US and became a founding member of Faerday, I stepped into another world that was terrifyie Camp Destiny in Vermont. I became involved in ing and much more real. At nights, I would leave Reclaiming, was on teaching teams with Starhawk, class to go visit friends in the hospitals, or dying at and was one of ‘those’ ritual queens at faerie gathhome. I volunteered as a chaplain in a hospital in erings. On a few distinct occasions, faerie elders
18 RFD 164 Winter 2015/16
would come up to me and tell me that ‘this isn’t church’. They were wounded by and angry at their birth-traditions, and painted religion with one clumbsy brush. Spirituality=good; Religion=evil. Tradition was the original sin. Liturgy was an abomination. Long circle castings were oppressive. Taking our beliefs seriously was heteronormative. Boring the tweaking faeries around the fire was a cardinal sin. In contrast, I love religion. I study and teach it at the college level. I read widely. I spend long chunks of time in India to encounter the diversity of religion there, and I dabble widely here in the US. While I know that not all religions are the same, I also know that all religions include strands that focus on mystical beauty and strands that focus on oppressive dogma. Old traditions are accretions of many beliefs and approaches, and there is great good and great bad in them all. I know many faeries that flee their birth traditions because they are sexist, classist or homophobic, only to then become dedicated Hindus or Buddhists by overlooking the sexist, homophobic, and class traditions of those faiths. Some faeries reject all ‘organized religion,’ failing to see that in their choice of the most personal, individual, eclectic and ecstatic relationship with the divine, they are simply part of the long tradition of divergent Protestantism that focuses only on the individual’s experience of the divine, unmediated by tradition.
n the past few years, I have felt my heart called back to Jewish tradition. Some of it is because in the spiritual left, visceral argument and passionate debate has become seen by too many as ‘unsafe’ or even “violent.’ Jews not only believe in argument; our tradition is rooted in it. I have also experienced the odd passive-aggressive anti-Semitism of leftist and faerie circles. At a Reclaiming event a few years ago, I wore a t-shirt that had the single word “Zionist” on it, and was told by Starhawk, who famously reclaimed the word ‘Witch’, that ‘Zionist’ was a word that she believed could not be reclaimed. I began attending the Havurah in my town the next month. We can trade the problems of tradition for the security of the skeptic or the freedom of the fool. In our longing for the universal we can dismiss the profound pleasure and spiritual value of the particular. We can create new sanctuaries and still feel like outsiders. We can party in exile and convince ourselves we’re home. I realize now that I allowed that terror and pain
of those years of ACT-UP to come between me and the tradition of my birth. I was righteously angry at my tradition for its part in millennia of homophobia that was silencing and killing us. But Jewish tradition is so much more than that, and the liberal Jewish world I am a part of is now fully supportive of gay and lesbian marriage, ordination, and the inclusion of transgendered Jews in all parts of Jewish life. They have moved on from those years, and in some ways, I’m still here nursing my injuries to prove a point. How many of us continue to nurse our injuries and call it ‘principle?’ At eight days old, I was circumcised. I am deeply grateful for my gay Jewish penis. Every time I have sex, my penis looks up at me and winks. “You’re a Jew,” it says before again burying its head in gayness. I love being gay. I see it as one of the great blessings of my life, but I also love being Jewish, love the idea of text study and argument being sacred and numinous, love the food, love the painfully human narratives of the Hebrew Bible with its flawed characters that struggle as we do to be holy. I love the sound of Hebrew, the depth of its layered meanings, the dark tonal chanting. Most of all, I love other Jews the way I love gay people, with all our flaws, humor, mendacity, and hope. I could no more move away from being a Jew than I could from being a gay man. There is power in religious traditions, including Biblical ones. It is almost taboo to say that in faerie space, and I have rebelled against those traditions more than most. Now, I can see more clearly that these traditions are not the oppressive monolithic behemoths that we experienced them to be as young queers. At that age, we need these vaulted traditions to be perfect offerings, but as Leonard Cohen has taught us, ‘there is a crack in everything/that’s how the light gets in.’ These days, I want to let in all the light I can, through my gay cracks, my Jewish cracks, and aging body’s cracks, and through those cracks in my identity where the parts don’t quite fit together. It is from those broken places in the Humpty-Dumpty shell I’ve tried to cobble together all these years that the most brilliant healing light shines through. I lift my eyes. �
RFD 164 Winter 2015/16 19
Struck Dumb by Jeff Pavek
e are all one family” was my motto when I rose from meditation one day in the midst of this molting. ‘The Holy Spirit is bigger than all of us’ spoke to my experience when the whole thing shook out to take me to a new place, where the lady introduced herself as YE, and her last name starts with an S. ‘Respect our differences’ is what the pope said, but we’ll see how the pastor responds to my appeal. Today I read that Francis greeted the defiant county clerk and told her to “stay strong.” What’s going on here?Couple weeks earlier, we’d wed in Montana, Dave, my twenty-thee year and twenty surgeries companion, me seventy, him sixty. The Holy Spirit flapped his wings and I blurted out to John, the sacristan at the cathedral, him who makes up the schedule of readers, “We got married.” Couple weeks later, on the Sunday when the Gospel talks of Jesus healing the deaf mute, John, who shares my orientation but not my situation, silenced my tongue by announcing that he could not schedule me to read at the cathedral anymore because I, like those divorced and re-married, could bring scandal to the church. Seriously? Is it not scandalous to silence our well trained tongues or keep them muzzled? After thirty-five years. Half my life. We got married, I had the temerity to tell, and then I got banned. This is like don’t ask don’t tell: if I’d just shut up, could I still be assigned to read? With a mandate to proclaim signed by an Archbishop in 1977, I’ve read for five bishops. Don’t worry, there’s a happy ending, and I am telling you this story so that you might be on alert for the Spirit moving. This omission of my name from the schedule, sort of a back-handed recognition of a union that is not recognized, is “mean and hurtful” as my dead American Indian friend Emily would have said. Having lost sleep and dreading that if he’d cut off my tongue, could he stuff up my ears so I could not hear the blessed words at communion, I asked him on the phone if I could appeal? John said talk to the pastor, and I have. Also, two confessors heard my sin of stupidity, not of the marriage, but for the telling, and counseled me. The first said play now the part of the Jew in the holocaust; if the rule were uniformly enforced, we’d have no priests; and find yourself another community. The second said, wait a minute, 20 RFD 164 Winter 2015/16
you’re gay? Well, if they knew your orientation and situation all along anyway, what’s the difference, the church doesn’t recognize same sex marriage? And again, see the pastor. The Monsignor said no, no, no, any minister must not be in an invalid marriage. I wonder could I sing in choir, take up the collection, usher the congregants? The pastor left a message said he’d take it up with the archdiocesan liturgical canonical master of the offices and get back to me in a couple weeks. I think maybe my chances of reinstatement as a minister of the word at the cathedral are slim. It’s been a month now since he left that message. Meantime, after my niece’s boyfriend’s grandfather’s funeral in the middle of the week, out back, him dumping coals from the thurifer and stomping them with his boot, I asked this the fourth priest if, knowing I had been banned and why, would he welcome me to read from his lectionary? And he responded, are you a good reader? For fear of his being reprimanded or worse for welcoming me, I will not tell his name or that of his parish.So I went to their Sunday Mass and he invited me to sign up to read and I’m on the schedule at the new place, and in all this process, I find the Holy Spirit in action, making me contrite as I had been in pursuit of my happiness, and until John rained on my parade. Mine is the face of gay marriage in the church today, not a young face, but one looking forward to an old age when at least one person in the world will care for me and I for him, taxes apply, and unto death, the survivor can benefit just like any other spouse. I wish I had foreseen the liturgical ramifications of marriage on my ministry. Getting banned caught me by surprise. Now I am proclaiming the word in the land of YES! And the renewal of my happiness has evened my keel.Couple weeks later, after I’d read at the new parish for the first time, the priest told me I’m not the only reader at this parish who is in a gay marriage. That was kind of him. Then, when consulting the I Ching and taking another kind of reading, the stalks confirmed that the change is from Opposition to Following. But be warned, anyone who works, for pay or as a volunteer for the church: if you are contemplating marrying your pal, and you decide to say the I do’s and tell about it, you won’t minister in the church anymore. Talk about a Book of Changes! �
Hand of God by Jimmi Kocher-Hillmer
o as a small gay boy I was “called” to church by a power greater than I. Church provided a sanctuary were sunlight streamed through stained glass, music filled the spheres and liturgy provided order - order and peace that was missing from the alcoholic family I was brought into this time around. This Lutheran Church (LCA) in my small eastern Pennsylvania town gave me opportunities to serve as Acolyte and later gave me an organ scholarship—three years of lessons at no charge to learn to accompany services. As a senior in high school I felt an inkling of possibly wanting to go into the ministry, but that was cut short by a church official denying my desire to pursue an undergrad course of study in Fine Art instead of Music. I thought, well if they do not want me as an artist, then they surely do not want me as a gay boy. As I looked around A few years later…as my father drove the family into Pittsburgh where I was beto determine where ginning undergraduate studies in Fine Art, we were, I saw this we stopped at an intersection. As I looked enormous stotne around to determine where we were, I saw church, felt a warmth this enormous stone church, felt a warmth in my chest and for all intents and purin my chest and for all poses in the effort to describe a spiritual intents and purposes in experience beyond words, felt the Hand of the effort to describe God call me to that place. a spiritual experience It took me more than a year to actually venture there. This Hand of God stuff callbeyond words, felt the ing one is not always easy to respond to, Hand of God call me to just ask Jonah. Well this church was in the that place. throes of dying as lots of small inner city churches are - old founding families dying out and moving away, wanting to keep dead traditions going, fear of change, average age of members 60+. Exclusivity drew a hard line around the place. Bottom line—this gay boy was a seed for change as many of us are in various earthly arenas. Seventeen years after I arrived, three years after I had been president of the church council, the congregation was at a place where enough new life had been breathed into the old place that a public stance of welcoming gay and lesbian members became a reality. Twenty years after that point of claiming a stance for diversity and an influx of gay and lesbian members, the congregation is now experiencing a growth spurt of new young straight couples and members with families. Our inclusivity is our strength. There are so many children that we are now instituting the role of acolyte so young folks can plug into the service more directly. The Hand of God moves in mysterious ways and sometimes comes full circle. �
RFD 164 Winter 2015/16 21
My Radical Faerie Journey through Modern Day Christianity by Rev. Yolanda
ince 2011 when I graduated from One Spirit Interfaith Seminary as Rev. Roger Anthony Yolanda Mapes, I have had a desire to re-connect with the Christian faith and heal old wounding from the hateful actions of ignorant people that supposedly follow that faith. I had a very deep background in the Christian faith before becoming a Radical Faerie. I was born and raised in the Methodist church and then became a Jesus Freak in the 70’s- moving into an evangelical non-denominational Jesus Freak commune when I was eighteen years old. I left that commune after two years because I fell in love with my roommate and caught all kinds of hell for it. After the commune, I went to college to study musical theater, moved to NYC, and later met the NY Radical Faeries, quickly moving to Vermont and becoming one of the first residents of the original Faerie Camp Destiny in Northfield Vermont.I always understood that anyone who is pro-hate towards others is not following a spiritual path of any type. 22 RFD 164 Winter 2015/16
The spiritual walk—regardless of the path—is about loving your neighbor as you love yourself. Love your enemies, bless them that curse you. Even Jesus on the cross said “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” I started the healing journey by creating an autobiographical musical production called “Rev. Yolanda’s Old Time Gospel Hour”. I performed this show live for three years in NYC and won two MAC Awards (Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs) for the show, was inducted into the NY Chapter of The Blues Hall of Fame and a full feature documentary film was created and is now available for streaming on Amazon.com... all based on this healing journey. From 2011-2014, on my “pulpit” at The Duplex on Christopher Street in the West Village, I began to create a bridge building musical ministry with the intention of traveling across the country to mainstream churches. I wanted to break the ice, make people laugh, and get them to sing along with me, “The Preacher Man In Yolanda by Alan Kaplan
A Dress”, to old timey gospel songs and my original inspirational music. It definitely worked onstage in NYC at The Duplex. People of many faiths and no faith came to be inspired by our “Church With A 2 Drink Minimum”.In 2015, I decided it was time to tour the country as much as I could and to go to as many mainstream Christian churches, and “New Thought” churches as possible. I had no idea how amazing it would be to do this. In 2015 I traveled from NYC to Upstate New York, Vermont and down the East Coast all the way to Florida and then out to Colorado and back. Along the way, I went to churches, LGBT Centers/Fundraisers, Music Festivals, Synagogues, Churches and more Churches. I met Jews, Muslims, Baptist Indians, Hindus, Born Again Christians, New Thought Christians, Mainstream Christians, and Atheists. I visited the communities of Methodists, Presbyterians, Catholics, Unitarians, PFLAG, Arts Centers, Unity, Centers For Spiritual Living, MCC, The Evangelical Network, and house concerts of people with various faith backgrounds. There were some “bad” reactions in North Carolina and Colorado where I was walked out on and trashed in the papers by ministers of certain churches – BUT - overwhelmingly people were ecstatic with my show and the intentional bridge building I was doing. I discovered that there is a very strong movement with in mainstream Christian churches to embrace the LGBT Community, not just tolerate, but EMBRACE us with loving open arms. Of course there are those who remain hateful, but I see a lot of love for us out there. Conscious, intentional love and respect for our lives and journeys. This movement is not only happening in MCC churches, but in many mainstream denominations. I was at a Presbyterian church in Chattanooga who renamed their church Mercy Peace and Justice Center. They do amazing work in their community with LGBT people as well as taking on many social issues. I was thrilled to meet the Trans people in their church as well as the LGBT community mem
bers and allies who came to my Gospel Hour. We sang and laughed and shared food and conversation together. Before I left Chattanooga, another Presbyterian church called me from Cookeville Tennessee and asked if I could come to their Sunday night service and present my Gospel Hour. I had no idea who this church was but I said yes. When I arrived, I was greeted by the youth pastor of the church who was a Radical Faerie!! Sunfrog was his name and he had started an LGBT potluck and support group in Cookeville at the church. It was awesome! Not only did the LGBT community in the area turn out in droves, the board members of the church were there. We had a GREAT time together. What a surprise and what an amazing experience. When I came back to NYC, I was contacted by the pastor of Unity Center of NYC. He asked me if I would give the Sunday morning talk, the topic being “Authenticity”. I was so excited about this because the worst experience I ever had with a church was a Unity church in Colorado whose gay male pastor trashed me in the papers. That was funny to me because the Unity slogan is “All Are Welcome Here”, and the pastor was gay. I was thrilled that Unity Center of NY, with a straight pastor and mostly straight, older congregation said that I was definitely welcome and asked me to deliver the Sunday talk. It went beautifully and I and the congregation had a “hug fest” afterwards. In closing I just want to say it’s easy to trash Christianity because it has done some horrible things in its history, BUT, it much more life giving to heal your own wounding from these events and create the world that you really want to see. I believe there are more people who want to connect than there are that want to hate. I have taken it on as my work to see hateful people through the eyes of love. It takes practice but it’s possible and it’s worth it. Rev. Yolanda’s Old Time Gospel Hour-The Movie: www.goyolanda.com and available for streaming on Amazon. Visit www.yolanda.net! � RFD 164 Winter 2015/16 23
Reading the Bible with Harry Hay by Rev. Glen Morton Ganaway IM
ing Josiah’s priest, Hilkiah, also broke down the houses of the male cult prostitutes which were in the house of the Lord, where the women were weaving hangings for the Asherah.” II Kings 23: 7. I was raised in the Southern Baptist tradition, my father is an ordained Minister. He was a chaplain for the United States Navy. He was the scholarly type and it wasn’t unusual to find him writing a sermon at his desk with Strong’s Concordance, a Hebrew Torah, Greek New Testament and perfunctory dictionaries strewn about. He was not a dynamic speaker, but he had a great deal of integrity and respect in the community. I take after my father in a lot of ways. I was the youth pastor of my church; until they found out I was fucking Tony from my high school’s production of West Side Story. I was immediately erased from their records. It was like I was never there, not a member of the church, not in the Youth Group, nothing. Erased. I was devastated. I had shamed my family and in so doing lost my spiritual community in one weekend. I did go to a Southern Baptist College for a few years. Dropping out, I quickly fell into the company of hustlers, prostitutes, drag queens and strippers. They saved my life. I learned how trip on mushrooms and LSD. I learned the successful rituals to have a good trip and learn the lessons the drugs were teaching. I did get arrested for possession eventually and did my time in drug rehab. It was that or jail. I went looking for community. I found it in a clothing optional retreat center near Leavenworth, Kansas, of all places. It was full of Pagans and Faeries. I spent a lot of time there in the 90’s as I learned that I had a spirituality that was uniquely mine and 24 RFD 164 Winter 2015/16
has a unique expression. I did sweat lodges, herb gathers, mead making events, holidays, but most importantly I did ritual every month. Every month a different coven would do the full moon ritual. All were invited and then we’d have pot luck. Here I saw men, women, children, gay, straight (and everything in between and otherwise indescribable) participating together in co-creating worship. I saw folks attempting to seriously walk the talk they were living in ritual. I was hooked. I began to read everything I could get my hands on. I found Harry Hay. I read the biographies, but what I loved most were his magazine essays. He wrote for the One Institute Quarterly: Homophile Studies. Six years before I was born he wrote the words that would change my life and usher in a time of healing and reconciliation for me and many others. I read the two part series ‘The Moral Climate of Canaan at the Time of the Judges’ (1958) in 1992. It turned my Christian understandings on its head. When I understood what he was saying, I knew what I had to do. I had to get to a library. I didn’t want to take Harry’s word for it. He told me exactly where to go and where to look. So I did. What I found sent me over the edge of my comfortability. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my mind still placed weight on these traditions, this book, this writing, this phrase, etc. So I did what my father would do. I went to the source. I went to the library, got a Concordance, a Hebrew Dictionary and the second book of Judges to see what I could find. I looked at several different English translations of the passage in II Kings. Sodomites, Prostitutes, Perverts, etc. were abundant translations of the personification of the three letters (Qoph[eye of the needle], Dalet [door] and Shin [who is] with the Photo couresy author.
plural ending ‘im, denoting more than two. I fully needed to know what word Josiah, King of the Jews used to record his expelling of the ‘male cult prostitutes’ and ‘weavers’ for Asherah. The word means “Those dedicated and set aside for a holy purpose by God.” Another, extremely literal translation might read: “Those holy ones, dedicated and set aside for this purpose, are the narrow door, like the eye of a needle, to God, Herself. Sound familiar? And this got translated as pervert, prostitute and sodomite? I had a profound religious experience and have never been the same. So much so that I had it tattooed on the back of my neck. Kasosh (-im) also has the connotation of neck or nape, in that we don’t bend to pressure. In Faerie parlance that would translate
Image by John Waiblinger
to never assimilate as Harry suggested in his many essays and writings. So that’s what I’m about. I fell in love with A Course In Miracles a few years later; which offers its own unique way of healing the damage from organized religion. I’m an ordained Interfaith Reverend and Integral Mentor (See Ken Wilber). Mostly my practice today is about helping others heal the wounds from their traditions. We, as Faeries, sometimes called male cult prostitutes, sodomites and perverts are actually founding members of the church and its structures and offer truly needed spiritual experiences as the doors to God. She is in us, as us and uses our bodies and heals others. Blessed Be. �
RFD 164 Winter 2015/16 25
26 RFD 164 Winter 2015/16
Image by David Townsend
A Wildwood Eucharist by David Townsend
n a mountaintop at the end of a twisting road Milwaukee, chants the psalm. At last year’s retreat, through the redwoods, at the end of a six-day he and I sat on sarongs spread at the edge of this Body Electric retreat, eight of us make Eucharist a same promontory to exchange the stories of our little after dawn on the first day of the week. The erotic lives. The telling led to half an hour of cavalley spreads out beneath us, a river of blue fog resses and synchronized breath while we gazed into catching fire and flowing in reverse as the sun rises one another’s eyes. over it. The ashes of dozens of men have been scatWe hold history’s shortest (and probably chattitered here over the years of the AIDS epidemic. A est) Quaker meeting in lieu of a sermon; and yet by sublime spot, holy ground, and blessed by gay men some miracle, though all eight of us in the course who through perilous experience have forged of of fifteen minutes has something (conscientiously irony an essential tool for negotiating the Sacred, brief ) to say about the readings we’ve just heard, our smashing the idols, looking on God and continuing words emerge from the silence without diminishing to live: we call it Julie Andrews Point. These hills are its power. alive. Bob, a Disciple of Christ from Oklahoma, says Peter, a physician from the Words of Institution Mississippi, reads the over bread confiscated Epistle; Bill, a Christian for our dark ritual purBrother who teaches at poses from the yesterday’s The confessional a Midwestern Catholic lunch buffet. These last college, the Gospel. Facfew days, he’s been the distinctions that divide us ing Bill across our circle, beloved of my New York have fallen away like skins I recall from earlier in the friend Hank. we’ve outgrown. And here week our sweet evening Dell, a Presbyterian the eight of us stand to take of animated, heartfelt turned Sufi turned Antalk, at the end of which glican turned seeker who up once again the words and we drifted to the hot tub now contemplates angestures of one tradition to float naked in each other foray into organised among many–a path toward other’s arms late into the Christianity, pronounces the Divine as flawed in its night. Listening to Peter, I a benediction. The warm think back to the exerconnection between us unfolding as any other cise for which we found falls short of what I long ourselves partnered two for. I’ve hung helplessly days ago, bearing silent, head over heels for him intentional witness to since our first fifteen minone another’s erotic self-exploration, out on the utes together six days ago. Two days into our time same sweeping overlook where we’re now celebrattogether I patched together the courage to tell him ing the Divine Liturgy. I’ve known extraordinary this, in a nightly checkin group that includes as well bliss in his presence: my ejaculation marked only the man who by then had already won his most inthe beginning of an orgasm that played over my tense and focused affection for the remainder of the body and soul like living phosphorous stirred in the week. I nearly hyperventilated at the risk of owning nocturnal waters of a luminescent bay. I couldn’t my jealousy of the bond between them; and received pinpoint the moment when it finally ended, as the from each of them in turn acceptance, grace, and light poured down over me through the branches of words of respect for my courage. the oak above our blanket; as dragonflies and grass Forty of us have spent a week creating a miracle fulfilled their glorious, mortal natures; and I along of mutual love, support, and radical honesty, a comwith them. munity of the beloved. All of us have come to this Robert, a Roman Catholic church musician from place as men of Spirit–the eight of us in this circle,
RFD 164 Winter 2015/16 27
the thirty-two still asleep up the slope–Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, atheists, radical faeries, souls of the New Age, none of the above. The lived experience of love–the vibrating, enlivening, penetrating, transforming experience of love–has united us all, however variously we’ve understood that experience. The confessional distinctions that divide us have fallen away like skins we’ve outgrown. And here the eight of us stand to take up once again the words and gestures of one tradition among many–a path toward the Divine as flawed in its unfolding as any other; a tradition that has misled so many gay men so heartlessly, in so much of the world, for so many centuries. The fearless, grace-filled truth-telling that we’ve learned together to practice over the last five days, the acceptance of deep joy into our lives, the blessings we’ve laid on one another’s lives in compassion for our own wounds and one another’s, under the tutelage of two extraordinary men who have led us through the experience–these constitute the lived experience of a culture of love and mutual support. What overwhelms me this Sunday morning, in the presence of the seven brothers who have come with me out to the Point to commemorate the life and death of God made visible in human flesh, is how deeply and how authentically that culture has become the hermeneutic ground for theological reflection. The day’s reading from Colossians 3:5-11 would normally have me muttering under my breath
28 RFD 164 Winter 2015/16
against Paul, the narrow prick who never got a life. The words sound here and now as though they’re spoken to us of the community that we ourselves have embodied: “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator.” In that renewal there is no longer Protestant nor Roman Catholic, neither Californian nor Argentinian, and ultimately neither Christian, Buddhist, nor atheist; but for us, Love among us in our flesh is all in all. In short, I’ve never heard the Scriptures opened so powerfully by the Spirit as I do this blessed morning. I’ve never heard the Words of Institution spoken so powerfully to those who happen to be present at the moment of their recitation. Like Wesley listening to the words of Luther read aloud, I feel my heart strangely warmed.Christianity, I said last night to Dell as we sat looking at the moon over this valley, is a crock of shit, but it’s my crock of shit. It’s my flawed, broken vessel for carrying what cannot and must be carried, what must and cannot be contained in human language. To stand with these men, to claim together– fearlessly, defiantly, subversively, and lovingly–the power and authority of the People of God: this is to behold the vessel at once broken and mended, at once marred and perfect. This is to behold all things being made new. �
Ian Ayres. Photo by Eric J. Klein
Not Losing My Religion by Greg SeaLion Cotten
dmitting that there’s positive light that comes from my Catholic/ Christian upbringing is not an easy thing for me. Furthermore, doing it behind a microphone in front cameras for an audience of predominately Native Americans who endured the California Catholic Mission genocide was nearly excruciating. It would have been excruciating if I hadn’t stepped through that struggle and into a profound love for life. The same love for life the Church told me about through the story of Christ. In a surprising twist of fate, my stand for others and a Christian statement written with marker and published on Facebook gave me what I revere as one of the greatest honors of my life. I was raised in the Midwest and come from a lineage of working class northern and central European ancestry. My family attended Catholic mass every Sunday along with the popular Catholic holidays. I think it was a typical Midwest Catholic practice. The churches that we attended were a pretty standard “moderate” US Catholic perspec-
Photo courtesy author.
tive. Of course in a Pagan or Native context ‘moderate’ isn’t an accurate description. I think this would have been a fairly painless situation except my love and attraction to guys was a serious sin in the eyes of that faith. When I was nineteen and home on summer break from college my parents found me a job building the new Catholic Church which paid about $18/ hour. Because they were helping pay for my education they said “Unless you can find a better paying job, that’s where you are going to work if you want us to keep paying for your tuition.” Now from their perspective I can see that’s a perfectly reasonable stand but since I was currently struggling with coming out it created the greatest struggle of my life. Vilifying homosexuality was created in this country by the very church my parents were insisting I help build. To date this was the most painful time of my life. Every day at that job I felt like I was tightening a noose around my own neck to the point where I felt trapped in Hell. Running away and leaving it RFD 164 Winter 2015/16 29
all behind seemed to be a very healthy option. My affinity for a safe bed and regular meals had me stay but now finally at forty-one years old, I’m forgiving my parents for that painful struggle. The transformation of that anger and gut wrenching disdain for the church has come from a surprising place. February of this year the Catholic Church said they wanted to glorify Junipero Serra (the ‘Father of the California Mission system) with sainthood. If you don’t know about the California Missions, they are the places from which most of coastal California is named. San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, San Diego et cetera. They were literally evangelical slave camps that were the final blows of the Spanish Inquisition that came up from Mexico into what is now California. In the 1800’s capitalists from the east coast glorified the missions as tourist attractions with huge propaganda campaigns to get people to head west. This denial campaign continues and the glorification of the missions is in full swing. Denying that Native Americans were enslaved and brutalized in every California mission is easier for us colonizers than to try to repair the wounds of the genocide. It is a fact that once the natives were baptized at a mission they could never leave without permission. If they did, Junipero Serra insisted the Spanish army hunt them down, kidnap them, put them in shackles and whip them. This was standard practice at every mission and this was just the beginning of the horrific genocide that took place here. Now the Catholic Church has made this brutal leader a saint?! In fact that is what they now call him. An interesting thing happened this year when the Supreme Court ruled that under the law, same sex love is equal to opposite sex love. At that moment I felt that in some way we got to the top of a big hill that our community has been climbing for decades or longer. While I recognize there’s still so much work to be done, I felt a relief that I didn’t have to fight so hard to carve out a place of respect in public. To publically express my love and affection openly seemed to no longer be unpopular or socially unacceptable. The court ruling was just enough for me to feel a profound space of freedom and a clarity I never experienced before. It became clear I was beginning to see and confront oppression outside my own life and to support others to stand up and face theirs. The Catholic Church’s oppression and cultural denial of the California Indigenous genocide has become my next front line. I quickly called to other Faeries to form a solidarity group to confront this Native American insult 30 RFD 164 Winter 2015/16
and to confront the cultural denial of this history. The group quickly expanded beyond the Faeries. We tabled in front of the Missions, handed out flyers, talked to parishioners, to priests, tapped into all our contact lists in that church and others. There were strategy meetings, lots of emails, sign making, and a social media bonanza. In many ways my inside view of the church made me a perfect match for this effort. Out of self-preservation, I certainly didn’t consider myself Catholic anymore and I wasn’t afraid to confront the power structure. I also hold dear to my heart many Indigenous friendships and ceremonies as well as enjoy walking a spiritual path. My unbridled passion and pursuit of supporting this effort was stunning even to me. It seemed that I had endless energy to spend late nights online, meeting leaders in the movement, creating memes for social media, I even devoured the book A Cross Of Thorns by Elias Castillo in only a few days. Reading isn’t my thing and I normally take five years to finish a book. The love and commitment that I stepped into has been such a gift and an extraordinary context to transform many many personal issues not the least of which was my relationship with the Catholic Church and the man, the myth, Christ. It felt like my heart was coming out of me many times in this process. The conversations I would have were full of love and power and unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. At those times when I felt my heart coming out of my chest I had this strange clarity that this was similar to the heart of Christ I was taught about. This was that love. An elevated force of love. Standing for others. Standing for what is right in your heart. This was the love that sometimes I heard about at Church. “This was the gold that the Church was built around” I would say to myself.
here was a spontaneous movement on Facebook where people would write a on a piece of paper in opposition of Serra’s sainthood and they’d take a picture of themselves holding it and post it. I had this conflicting but inspiring burning sensation to write one for myself that read “CHRISTIAN = SERRA’S NO SAINT”. I was conflicted because I had Christ mixed up with the Catholic Church and I didn’t want to be an advocate for anything associated with that church but my heart kept telling me to write it. I knew that this thing that I wanted to do was correct. It was strangely true for me. So one afternoon I pulled out a black marker and a large piece of drafting paper and placed that ink on that paper and spelled out the message
CHRISTIAN = SERRA’S NO SAINT, took a photo of myself with it... and posted it! Within 3 hours of me posting that picture on Facebook, the main Indigenous organizer with whom I’d become friends with at this point called me. Her first words out of her mouth “You’re Christian?!!!” “Among other things but as I’m finding out, yes, I guess I am” I said. She then says to me “Will you be one of our speakers on the panel at the Weekend of Opposition in Santa Barbara?! You’d be perfect!” This panel of presenters she was referring to was a panel of eleven Indigenous Tribal Chairman and Chairwoman, a Pulitzer Prize nominee author, an Indigenous United Nations representative and other indigenous representatives including Sasheene Littlefeather who accepted Marlon Brando’s Oscar for the Godfather in 1973 to give a native voice to the offensive portrayal of Native Americans in Hollywood. This was the panel I would be perfect for?! Other than a PhD in historical trauma I was the only non-native person and I was the youngest. Did I mention she asked me to present my Christian opposition to the Canonization? So briefly my face flushed and I said to myself ‘do I want to be the white Christian male on the panel speaking to a predominantly Indigenous audience with media coverage including a team of people doing a documentary?’ “I’m shocked but if that’s what you want, I’d be honored.” “Great!” she said. “I need you to send me a little bio of yourself by the end of the day. The press release is going out tonight.” That new found “heart of Christ” I was feeling was about to get a real test. Long story short, I gave my fifteen minute
presentation acknowledging the sad history that Native Americans have endured and our culture denial of it. I acknowledged how glorifying Junipero Serra was a Catholic political stunt and had nothing to do with Christ. I acknowledged that it was my Christian upbringing and my understanding that insisted I stand in opposition to this insult. I said ‘Christ would not sit by idle and watch this happen. He would probably not be a fan of saints in general if you ask me.” The audience applauded at times, and laughed at times and I feel what I said made a difference. Confronting these subtle lines in spirituality has strengthened my ability to draw boundaries. To hold and practice that which serves me and to let go of what does not and even to confront unhealthy components from an empowered place of love and compassion. I no longer feel the need to fight. I know that my magical spiritual soup comprised of Pagan, Native American, Buddhist, and a renewed understanding of Christ is a great thing for me. I don’t know how much I will continue to outwardly identify as Christian. ‘Christianity’ is loaded with so many interpretations that it feels easier to leave it off the list. However in my heart I know there’s still some of it there and I’m empowered by it in a beautiful way. I’ve always known that love and understanding is the key but the limits of spiritual teachings and various interpretations of them can be conflicting and even harmful. Sorting through all of that seems like a lifelong process. I’m currently supporting the Walk For The Ancestors.org, a native 650 mile pilgrimage led by a Native mother
Solidarity group, mostly Faeries stand in opposition to the glorification of Junipero Serra (the leader of the California Native American Genocide)
RFD 164 Winter 2015/16 31
and her tent-oner year old son to all twenty-one missions to raise awareness of the people who suffered terribly inside them. Last weekend we met with a Chumash Indian medicine man on the reservation. It was everything you might imagine. One of the first things he said to us was, “Don’t worry about what they are doing. That’s their business. We have much bigger and more important work to do. Don’t let them distract you from that.” What he meant by that is don’t let people or their actions take you away from your spiritual journey. Staying on your path and continuing to practice will provide what is needed and more. This human journey is long and transcends many realms that few, if any, fully understand.
32 RFD 164 Winter 2015/16
ronically, the thing I wanted to get away from most turned out to be one of my greatest strengths. At this time I’m beginning to see something very beautiful. As our queer tribe once again creates a world where we are understood and safe, energy and talent becomes available for realms outside our circle. The pain and struggles of the LGBTIQ continue but as we make progress, the fire and light of our two-spirit gifts is an extraordinary source of contribution to the world. Because our tribe spans all races, ages, and nations the light that we carry is woven into profound and surprising places. I’m deeply grateful to be on this spiritual journey with you Faerie. It is with You that I find my greatest spiritual practice. �
Painting by Faerie Dwoo (Andrew Purchin) of a public protest in front of a St Josephs Catholic Church in Santa Cruz, CA
Not Losing My Religion by Alan Yount
orn in the South at the end of the Baby Boom, I of Atlanta, and I found myself with a boyfriend. As have a long and complicated relationship with Christmas approached, I realized that I was going to the church. ‘The church’ for me being Christian, have to choose between spending the holiday with and, more specifically, the conservative Missouri my family or with my new boyfriend—an untenSynod branch of the Lutheran Church. able choice in my mind. Hoping to be able to spend As a child, I loved my religion. I remember Christmas with my family and my boyfriend, I came sitting in Christ Lutheran’s sanctuary of blond out to my mother. Not surprisingly, my mother, a wood and stained glass windows, a larger-thangood Missouri Synod Christian woman, struggled life statue of Christ resurrected hanging over the with my revelation. “Are you sure?” she asked, altar, feeling transported by the setting, the music, hoping that I had somehow made a mistake. My and the rhythms of the liturgy. Some of my earliest boyfriend did not come home for Christmas. I, howmemories are of liturgy—the Te Deum laudamus ever, continued coming home every weekend after and Create in Me a coming out in hopes Clean Heart, O God. As of showing my mother, a gay child, I found great recently widowed, that comfort in the teachings I was the same person She walked up behind me of love and meekness and she had always known. the reverence of a savior One evening, as I as I continued washing the who taught us to “turn was standing at the dishes, wrapped her arms the other cheek.” Fights at kitchen sink doing the around me, and said, “I school and the bus stop dishes, my mother talked to Pastor about you were common occurreturned home from rences growing up, and a Lutheran Women’s after everyone else left the I was a ‘sensitive’ child Missionary League meeting. He said that God in my mother’s words; a meeting. She walked still loves and accepts you. ‘mama’s boy’ in my older up behind me as I I hope you know that I do, brothers’ eyes; a ‘sissy’ in continued washing the the words of at least one dishes, wrapped her too.” teacher; and all that or arms around me, and much worse in the taunts said, “I talked to Pastor of my classmates. Church about you after everywas truly a refuge for the one else left the meetpre-adolescent me. ing. He said that God still loves and accepts you. I All that changed with my sexual awakening, hope you know that I do, too.” My hands immersed which was so different than that of my straight in the hot soapy water, I stared forward, out the brothers and peers. I came to hear more clearly the kitchen window, unable to wipe the tears that ran message of the church that I was wrong—an abomi- down my face. We had a good talk that night, and I nation. Like so many other gay and lesbian men and called ‘Pastor’ the next morning to set up a meeting women, I slowly turned away from religion, dismiss- to talk with him. He admitted that he didn’t know ing my previous feelings of comfort and belief as anyone who was gay, but he was sure that God loved being primitive and naïve. I stopped going to church me. He and I became pen pals for several years when I left home for college, and it was a long time after, corresponding regularly while I was away in before I found my way back there again. the Peace Corps in Guatemala.While his loving— Two pivotal things worked to bring me back his Christian—response was enough to keep me into the church’s orbit and, finally, into a pew. The interested in God, it was not enough to overcome first incident happened soon after I graduated from my fears of condemnation by God’s church, and I college. I found myself in the Southern gay mecca continued to keep my distance through my years in
RFD 164 Winter 2015/16 33
the Peace Corps and my return to the United States. I did, however, read and study on my own, finding much comfort, to my surprise, in the Bible. I also read historian John Boswell’s Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality and Scanzoni and Mollenkott’s Is the Homosexual My Neighbor? and began to realize that ‘God’ and ‘church’ might not be synonymous. Nonetheless, I avoided the institution and the risks associated with it. Then, something happened in 1987 that brought me back through its doors and into a pew. I had returned from the Peace Corps and was a nurse at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, DC, working with AIDS patients. One afternoon, as I was walking into a patient’s room to hang an IV, I heard a conversation taking place and, for some reason, I stopped and waited—and listened. A minister was visiting the patient, a gay man with AIDS, and they were having a beautiful talk, full of kindness and acceptance—no condemnation or guilt. I even heard the minister talk about the patient’s partner, who was also apparently a parish ioner, in loving words. I was surprised—genuinely and pleasantly surprised. When the minister walked out, I asked him about his church. He was also a Lutheran, of the more liberal Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and he invited me to come to a service. After thinking it over for a few weeks, I did, and I felt as if I’d returned home, easily falling into the rhythms of the liturgy. I ended up joining, and God seemed to bless my return by introducing
me to the man who has been my partner for over 25 years at that church. I still go to church, although I moved to the Episcopal Church in 2002 because I found them more theologically welcoming to LGBTQ persons. The Evangelical Lutheran Church has since opened its doors wide as well, but I’m a committed Episcopalian now, often serving on the altar with the priest. I remember the first time I gave communion to my partner—I had to choke back the tears as I offered the cup of wine, “The blood of Christ, the cup of salvation.” Another time, a parishioner called me after church to tell me that he had watched as the priest and I walked out into the congregation to commune an elderly member who couldn’t come forward. He said he had watched as I offered her the cup, and my face was changed. In truth, I do feel changed into a better version of me when participating in the service this way. While I, too, have wandered down alternative paths on my spiritual journey, they have always brought me back home to ‘church’ through the blessings of clergy and others who have truly shown me the loving image of Christ that is at the heart of all true Christianity. At the same time, I understand that is not the case for so many of my LGBTQ brothers and sisters, and I pray that all of us find that love and acceptance somewhere, whether it be a church, a synagogue, a mosque, or in community or nature. We are all children of a loving God. �
Testimony of a Christian Fairy by Luckylipst
It’s not simple to talk about my faith in a short article because, in some way, talking about my faith is talking about my whole life. Often, when I am asked about this topic, to be understood, I try, whenever possible, to recount my journey as a whole. I try to explain the different stages of a long process which, although perfectly clear, stretched out over years, evolved, and changes year after year. I am always afraid of caricatures, reductions, the prejudices… And respect for the other comes before all kinds of proselytisms. I hate proselytism. Everyone is free to believe, not to believe, to believe differently, and this freedom, for me, is what makes the same value of man, as the value of his faith, 34 RFD 164 Winter 2015/16
whatsoever it is. Caution is always a good counselor when I talk about it. Yet it doesn’t prevent me, for all that, from talking about my faith which remains for me a great source of joy. Yes, I am a believer. Yes I am a practicing Catholic. The story of my spirituality, like other similar stories, has been a long struggle. The Church is really full of hate towards us, gays, lesbians, trans…Even if it said otherwise, there is a real hate against us. Not everyone, fortunately, but so wide spread! The appalling “manifs for all”(demonstrations) which raged in France two years ago on the occasion of gay marriage, are terrible evidence. If I didn’t have faith that was hard to kill, for the last twenty years,
intellectually I would be without a doubt a strong When I did my first gathering, sixteen years ago, warrior against the Church. The Church caused me at Terchreling, for the first time in my life, both funa lot of pain, as it has done to many other gays. Yet I damental parts of my personality suddenly ceased have never doubt this great force of love, this magbeing in duality. I met a community of brothers nificent torrent of tenderness, of peace, of joy, that I and sisters with a common purpose, a search for felt when I was twenty years old, the age at which I kindness, for friendship, acceptance of the other in really understood. This experience is engraved in my its difference, whatsoever, and I understood that heart as with a red hot iron, and nothing, not even my sexuality was not antithetical to this quest. The wounds, these tests of life, have made me doubt. connection with nature that is so important in sancI believe first of all there is Love, call it God, or tuaries endorsed this reconciliation: my sexuality, we can give it another name, whatever. I believe that my way of giving myself and receiving the other in for all time, for all eternity, Love remains. Love gives the depths of my heart, unlike the stupid things that itself, is exchanged, is shared, and life was born. they had told me, had become what it is in truth: Each man, each animal, the least leaf in a tree, the just a natural thing. I understood, contemplating smallest drop of water, is the fruit of Love. Man is the sea at Terschreling, that I was an integral part of on Earth, for love and to love. It’s the only meaning this beauty, my person, as a whole, in part. That is of life, the only thing that thanks to the fairies that I matters. I believe that understood. In the fairies, love never dies. I believe I reconciled with myself. that the love given during Looking back over When I did my first gathering, our earthly life carries a the years, I now wonder sixteen years ago, at Terchreling, sacred dimension, a part how I could believe what for the first time in my life, of eternity, which does I was led to believe about both fundamental parts of my not disappear after our myself? I also wonder death and that it is this why we tell such lies. personality suddenly ceased being part that is the very heart What for? Honestly, I do in duality. I met a community of our identity. This is not understand. Lookof brothers and sisters with what I believe. ing back over the years, a common purpose, a search More than fifteen I also understood that if years ago, when I met the there are some people for kindness, for friendship, fairies, I had that faith. As who don’t like me at the acceptance of the other in its I said before, it has not table, it’s not a reason to difference, whatsoever, and I changed for twenty years. deprive me of eating. I understood that my sexuality was For all that, I was in great am a practicing Catholic. pain. I met God in the I like prayer, I need the not antithetical to this quest. framework of the catholic Eucharist, I recognize religion. That is how it myself in the Gospel, was. If I had been in the in Christ. There are Amazon, or in an Arabian wonderful things in the region, it would have been different, but I know that Gospels, if we try to look past the dust and mistakes I would have encountered the same force of love. committed by some, there is an incredible force of I would have just named it differently, whatever. love, peace, joy. I have never received so much as in Still, I encountered God in a Catholic monastery. prayer. I also understood that any spirituality is conThrough the Eucharist. (That is a word which causes structed, framed, is part of a course. There is a way, fear, sorry, I am just being honest, I say things as of exercises, of decisions, that move us, that make they happened). The encounter was so strong, obvius sometimes just hold. There is a time for everyous, simple, peaceful and so beautiful, that I knew thing, a time for wandering, a time for adulthood. right then that here, in this faith, I would find my That is why I am practicing. One day I realized that life, my truth. Always. I am a faithful guy, I held. prayer makes me happy and I decided not to deprive But, the way, after my conversion, has not been easy. myself . Christian, Catholic, and gay? I was quite tortured, Here is what I can say briefly on my faith, on my like many, between my spirituality on one side and experience as a Christian fairy. � my sexuality on the other.
RFD 164 Winter 2015/16 35
Woo-Hoo! Follow your Woo Whatever you do! If you follow your Woo I’ll follow my Woo too. The Woo in me ... Bows to the Woo in you. Namaste
36 RFD 164 Winter 2015/16
“Absorbed #4” by JohnWaiblinger
RFD 164 Winter 2015/16 37
Miriam In preparation for Passover Seder a woman places a full cup of water for Miriam, sister of Moses beside the cup of Elijah’s wine. In her heart, they are still holy. When her parents spoke of Miriam, prophetess snow-white with sore for questioning God, struck with leprosy for saying “Has not the Lord also spoken to me?” the woman tried not to wonder if her point wasn’t that she heard God calling clearly in the desert and felt the spring bubbling up insider her. She tries not to wonder if Miriam was eager, rather than blasphemous as when the army of the pharaoh was drowned in the Red Sea perhaps Miriam felt the oceans turning inside her and said “Throw me the horse and the rider and let God do his work.” perhaps she understood, as only women can what a terrible thing is it to mistake a fountain of life for a body Instead of a blessing for Elijah, the woman prays, Meribah may you find peace in the desert, a cup of water to your people emptying yourself for them over and over but never running dry
38 RFD 164 Winter 2015/16
—Eli M. Roe
Even Song Rose Cardamon Sea Salt touch and silk and the rough edges of my fingers catch light Rose Lavender Bergamot Long hair twists across the plane of the eyebrow and lands, draped, across a single eyelash. Frankincense creamy and warmed in the palm it spreads ocean of a camelâ€™s back sways in the valley. Rose Cardamon Sea Salt sun field crusting crystal white rings around blue and green a red star in your third eye, opening Rose Lavender Bergamot Gather fields in the hills, sundrenched and thirsty, a wasp in my hand. Hay, and a light brown earth, sandy, drains well. Frankincense Altar boys, rows deep, red and white. Sneakers peek out beneath the cassock, an unruly rubble that sways through the village, the cross. Smoke ascends. Waxen smell of grave candles. Drip red and white into the Mars channels of my back of my hand, pools when I open like a bird. Now, new seepage of charter across the deep wrinkles of a new time, my hand a ruined map, longs lavender drowsy rose drop salty taste of my dry desert forgive all my trespasses and let me enter, in splendor, gracias madret red and white and purple, under the banner and the monstrance, my head bows into the depth of your nape. â€”Petra Kuppers
RFD 164 Winter 2015/16 39
Guests You brought your god back for drinks, I wasnâ€™t sure. He looked kinda cross floating there. You said he was nice once you got to know him. The way he glared at the wine set my clavicle on edge but I tried. Made conversation about celebrity outings, those must-have converses, the latest doings at crystal mountain. He kept his eyes in the clouds, said nothing. I was ready to give up, then I noticed the angels. Wow those guys sure can tango.
40 RFD 164 Winter 2015/16
â€”Qweaver / Kevin jackson
Who Walks With You When I’m Gone? At the grave, a yellow backhoe gouges the ground, making a hole as if the dirt an infected tooth cavity, blackness, its replacement an alacritous convert, life to death, mine. Then covered with wilting yellow roses, green grass, reminiscence, trite words, tears, a pink headstone, its empty date now irrelevant. My annoyance of a name without a date is resolved. My dark grave obscures the uncertainty of resurrection. My duty absolved, I will count on the grace of God blindly, content my spirit walks with those I’ve touched, as I was that God’s spirit walked life with me.
RFD 164 Winter 2015/16 41
Earthly Father In my apocrypha, St. Joseph is anything but a wizened, impotent codger, The Good Book’s fumbling cuckold. Lugging his toolbox from job to job, his lats thick as sirloin, chest hair salted with sawdust, his scrotum shifts with unspent seed while ripe lips wait for miracles that can’t alight inside the manger. Our eyes meet behind a stable. We both know what’s up. Busy keeping Little Mister Thinks-He’s-God’s-Gift-to-the-World out of Herod’s way, Mary suspects nothing, gives thanks the reek of what she doesn’t realize were her husband’s leaking dreams no longer shrouds their bed. A week after Little Mister lectures the rabbis, the future patron saint of fathers bellows, like generations of believers to come, “Jesus! Mary, Mother of God!” as his rod sprouts its flower & he dies, spent, in my arms, my cheekbones cradled in his calloused palms.
42 RFD 164 Winter 2015/16
— Steven Riel
“Novena” by Streetcandy
RFD 164 Winter 2015/16 43
An Atheist Christian Among the Faeries by Tricky
I’m a Faerie from Belgium, that little country in Europe on the border between protestant NorthernEurope and catholic Southern Europe. Like the majority of the Belgians from my generation (°1969), I was raised as a Roman Catholic and went to a catholic school (in my case, a Jesuit college, with still a few Jesuits as teachers). When my father was a student in that same school, he was required to collect a stamp each day to prove that he had attended mass before school. In my school years, which started more than a decade after the second Vatican Council, this kind of catholicismthat-regulates-every-hour had faded away. What remained were the weekly holy mass on Sunday, the trimestral confession at school, and the occasional religious service at the boy scouts. My appreciation for the weekly holy mass varied with the church we went to and the pastor that was preaching (each weekend, we chose the church based on the time that suited us best). The Saturday evening mass in the small, modern chapel of a nearby hamlet was my favorite. The priest there had a positive, lifeembracing attitude, and he knew how to address both adults and children. Never did I feel guilt imposed on me; all the more I felt attracted to the message of “love thy neighbor” that I still believe is the quintessence of christian faith. The trimestral confession at school on the contrary was a dull experience. What sins does a fourteen year old have to confess? I wasn’t even aware that masturbation was considered a (small) sin, so I confined myself to peanuts like “I have not always helped my mother as much as I could.” And for the rest, I admired the architecture of the neo-gothic church where we were sitting on our knees to pray our penitence. Does this mean that my sexuality was not problematic? Oh no… But it was more a vague feeling that something was not “proper to do” (or to “be”), or that I was “not meeting expectations”, rather than a belief that what I did or failed to do would result in punishment in this or the next life. So when in the 5th year of secondary school (at the age of 17), during a 2-day retreat with our class, we were asked by a priest to discuss masturbation, I kept as low a profile as possible, lest I would give 44 RFD 164 Winter 2015/16
away that my fantasies were about boys rather than girls. One (lay) teacher tried to open our minds on the theme by having us read Manuel Puig’s “Kiss of the Spiderwoman”, with all its footnotes on theories about homosexuality. But the social pressure remained too high for me, and in the 6th year, I wrote in my diary that ”they would lynch me” if they were to find out that I was gay. Going to university changed the setting. I went to the ‘liberal’ Free University Brussels, where being member of the freemasonry was said to be a prerequisite to become a professor. Soon I got in contact with the gay students association, came out to my friends and family, and eventually even got elected president of the gay students association. It was the time were everywhere in Flanders, gay youngsters started organizing themselves in groups (with an age limit of 26), thus challenging the public’s prejudice of the homosexual as a ‘dirty old man’. At a gathering of all these new groups organized by gay students from the Catholic University of Leuven, I realized how quenching the typical Catholic attitude can be, and how accustomed I had become to my freedom in Brussels. My religious faith continued to erode. At the age of 21, I still found myself leading an evening of reflection on the Easter story with my youth sailing club (by lack of a priest or an opportunity to go to the Easter mass the next day–and because I felt it my duty towards their parents). But attending Sunday mass had become an exception, and I became more and more irritated by the position the Catholic Church was taking in all kinds of ethical discussions. With homosexuality being more publicly debated upon than before, I was also confronted more often by the Church’s official view that it was an aberration and a sin, and that we were to be treated with ‘compassion’ rather than with respect. So I hardly had any interest anymore in religion (let alone spirituality–I didn’t even know the term), when around the age of 30, I was confronted with the illness and death of my father, the end of my first long term relationship, and a burnout at work. I found myself desperately looking around for anything that could bring back meaning into my life. New Age was the most obvious life buoy, and for
Photo courtesy author. The very simply decorated Romanesque church of the monastery of Senanque.
RFD 164 Winter 2015/16 45
the first time in my life, I was actively reading and reflecting on religion, spirituality and all alike. But I wanted to know more than what could be found in the bookshops. So I quit working and started a 4-year full-time degree in Comparative Study of Religion. The quality of the curriculum was below expectations, but it still provided me a broad insight in the vast topic of religion, from shamanism to Scientology. In that same period, I came in touch with the “Life at the Old Brewery of Viersel”, a community in Belgium founded in 1970 by a non-conformist Jesuit priest/teacher. It was not permanently inhabited, but people (mostly young adults) would meet there during weekends and school holidays to live together according to the monastic core values of Silence, Sobriety and Solidarity. The combination of the nostalgic back-to-basics (making fire! cranking a water pump! gardening!) with the warmth of a caring community was balsam to my bruised soul, and as usual, I eventually also got involved in a more responsible role. Viersel was definitely a christian-inspired place, yet most of us hardly noticed it, for it hardly looked like anything catholic we had seen before. There was no daily prayer, just silently holding hands before meals. There were no crucifixes; there was no talk of Jesus. Yes, there was “the story of bread and wine” on Sunday, but it felt more like a communal meal than a holy mass. The main ‘ritual’ of Viersel consisted of the daily ‘written conversations’: seated around a fire in total silence, we would write each other messages, like when chatting on a computer. And like in virtual space, these conversations sometimes went much deeper than we would have dared when we’d had to speak out the words. There was one ritual that did remind us strongly about the Church–and hence was often skipped by some: the noon prayer. Seated on opposite benches in the attic, we would read in silence a randomly chosen Psalm, and whenever a word or phrase resonated in us, we would break the silence citing it together with the verse number. When no new words were cited, we would all sing the Psalm, in the typical monastic, repetitive melody.It took a long time before I could appreciate this noon-prayer. The archaic vocabulary of the Old Testament, the Psalm books inherited from a cloister... it all reminded me too much of the institutional Church. Until I started reading the texts without that context, just for what they were; noticing that their words moved us so often because they were written by a people in despair, just like many of us when they came (especially for the first time) to Viersel. It was a liberating experience for me, being able to appreciate elements of the christian tradition 46 RFD 164 Winter 2015/16
without letting associations with the institutional Church spoil it. Then, in 2008, approaching my forties, two new milestone events occurred: I found Folleterre, and two weeks later, I met Sacados, with whom I still live. Folleterre was a “Viersel2” to me: the same communal warmth, the same back-to-basics, but with the big difference that being gay was no longer a non-issue, but a very big issue–in the most positive sense. Homosexuality was not a taboo in Viersel, on the contrary, but it was just seen as one of the options for being intimate with someone; there was no recognition of a gay identity. Experiencing the parallels and the differences between the two communities, I realized more and more how ‘christian’ Viersel had been: the monastic rhythm of the day (which definitely has some advantages...) versus the ‘we’ll-decide-every-dayagain-when-things happen’ way; the tempered mode of being versus the ecstatic frenzy; the sober meals versus the delicious feasts. And off course, last but not least, the patriarchic person cult around the founding-father versus the anarchistic self-organizing way of decision making. As much as Folleterre made me realize again how muffling christianity (and the civil society arising from it) can be, so much did my meeting with Sacados again revitalize my appreciation for its heritage. A protestant who had converted to catholicism at the age of 16, Sacados had been active in the ecumenical1 community of Taizé in Burgundy, France, and travelled throughout Eastern Europe on behalf of them before starting his 6 years study of theology. At the time we met, he was a parish priest on the verge of a burn out–two months later, he collapsed. My meeting with Sacados did not change my disbelief in the existence of God (or any other supernatural being) though. The little belief that had remained in me–and had helped me through my depression– had been wiped away during my theological studies. One of the professors pointed out that the belief that “there must be something” is but the last straw by which crypto-atheists try to prevent themselves from falling in the abyss. I decided to let go…But Sacados, devoted to but also very critical of the Roman Catholic church, led me to discover the spiritual side of Christianity, as it can still be found in some of the remaining monasteries in Belgium. (I now often join him for Sunday mass to the nearby trappist monastery of Westmalle). Once cured from his burn-out, he stepped down as parish priest and started teaching religion in a (catholic) secondary school. I was surprised to see how he managed to let his students grasp the
possibility of linking actual private or social problems to bible texts–not as a single source of truth, but as a valuable source of inspiration. He made me realize that many of the critics of Christianity take its sources just as literally as those whom they criticize. Being a theologian, it was obvious for Sacados that one must continually re-interpret holy texts, lest they become fossilized remnants of a historical belief system. Sacados did have his troubles with the Church, not
does not resonate with me. But I do appreciate the interest in ritual, and try to make the best of it. As for being a ‘christian’ among the Faeries (be it an atheist one): more than in everyday Belgian society, I’ve felt in Faeriespace a certain hostility (or at least unease) towards christianity and its symbols– I’ll never forget the tension rising when Sacados chose a chalice-shaped talking stick for a heart-circle (although I’ve also met a number of Faeries that do
in the least because of his refusal to live his relationship with me secretly. But that’s a different story… let’s stick to mine. So with all this luggage, I met the Faeries during a small autumn equinox gathering at Folleterre. I was very glad to find at last a community that valued both ecology, spirituality and being ‘gay’. The neo-pagan side of it was less charming for me. For instance, I participated in the equinox ritual of honoring Mother Nature for its produce, but felt I could not really relate to it: spending most of my life in a city, I hardly have the same connection with nature and agriculture as the ‘pagans’ of the pre-industrial world had. It simply
not share this aversion). I recognize in that hostility the same attitude I used to have in Viersel towards the noon-ritual with the psalm-books: too many connotations with the oppressive side of the institutions. I understand it, but I regret the missed opportunity to look behind the institute. I believe it is possible to embrace much of the rich heritage of christianity–like its imagery, or its monastic focus on spirituality–without betraying the fundamental values of the Faerie movement. And I believe that if we’d take a closer look at some of our Faerie values, we’d discover many of them just as indebted to christian tradition as to (neo) paganism. �
Photo courtesy author. The cistercienser monastery of Senanque (Provence, France), where they live of the produce of their lavender fields.
RFD 164 Winter 2015/16 47
I Knew Jesus Loved Me by Two Bears
knew Jesus loved me from the very first time we met. I was a young boy of maybe five or six and it was late at night. I had said my prayers with mother sitting beside me on my bed then snuggled in waiting for her to start singing to me. She often sang me to sleep despite her off-key voice and I loved her for it. I didn’t always fall asleep before she left and this was one of those nights. Turning on my side I could stare out the window which was right next to the head of my bed, the sill being level with my chin. I could see some of the stars, the tops of the trees and the houses with the quiet street below from my second story bedroom. I’d think about the world beyond and the universe among the stars. Turning to lay on my back I would look up at the images in the grain of the wood paneling that was the slanted ceiling of my room. It was here, a little while after my mother left and while I was still awake, that Jesus began to visit with me. He would fade into appearance facing and smiling at me, sitting next to my legs where my mother had sat. I wasn’t scared. I was never scared, that first time or ever. I had no reason to be scared. I knew who this was, right away, and I knew that he loved me; I could even feel it as his presence became more solid. He would say, “Hi, how are you?” and we would talk about my day and my family and the simple, mundane things of a little boy’s life. He was always friendly and gentle and kind as he listened to me. He never got angry or scolded me. He would laugh sometimes too, and sometimes we would stop talking and interweave our fingers and just look at each other with a quiet joy. He would stay awhile with me, usually till I felt sleepy, say good night, and fade away just before my eyes closed and I drifted off. These in-person visits continued throughout my childhood. They didn’t happen every night, there was no regularity to them, but it didn’t keep me from silently talking to Jesus either, whenever and wherever I wanted to. I didn’t have to see him to know he was always with me. I also never told anyone about these visits when I was young and even very rarely when I was older. This in fact is the most public telling of them I have ever made. I had no desire to brag about them. I didn’t want to tell the nuns at school or any of the priests; I didn’t want 48 RFD 164 Winter 2015/16
them to think I was trying to get attention or that I was crazy or that I was mistaken or wrong or a bad boy for making up such things. I didn’t even tell my mom. For one thing, I didn’t think these visits were… well… extraordinary. All we did was talk and hold hands sometimes. Mostly though these were my own private times with someone who was like no one else in my life, and I didn’t want to share them with anyone. I wanted it to be just me and Jesus. Not long after these Jesus visits began I started astral projecting. I’d feel myself rise out of my body over my bed through the ceiling, the joists, the nails and shingles of the roof and out into the night air. The monks in Tibet were my favorites to visit because they could tell I was there. They seemed ageless and exotic and their temples were so beautiful, so were their sand mandalas. I never went on any of these trips with Jesus, I don’t know why. He only showed up in my bedroom at night, just the two of us. During my eight years of Roman Catholic grade school education all of that got filtered through the experiences of my Jesus visits. Over time we had become friends, fast friends. He was my confidant, my ally. I became closer to him than anyone else in my life. He was always there for me; I could always rely on him, unlike everyone else. He was always on my side. He understood me and more than anything he loved me no matter what. When I would hear about this angry, judgmental God up there in the sky, always watching me, always waiting for me at every moment to do the slightest thing wrong so he could gleefully let loose his almighty, all-powerful wrath and hurl my immortal soul into ever-burning flames of Hell for all eternity… it just never made sense to me! That was NOT the God I knew! Jesus told me about our Father, his and mine, and our Father loved me just as much as he, Jesus, did. Our Father wants nothing but the best for me Jesus would tell me, and when it’s time he wants me to come Home and with be with him forever. Thus began my calling God, Father, when I would speak to him, and calling heaven, “Home”. In 1970 when I was fifteen and thinking about what I wanted to do with my life I decided it would be good for me to become a priest. I also decided I
wanted to have some “life experience” in the world and squarer pegs into rounder and rounder holes to so I wouldn’t be so isolated from other people so I preserve the venerable past and keep from admittook two years off and got a job after high school. ting they were wrong. It didn’t surprise me though; After that I entered college and began to live at the these were the same people who had yet to officially seminary on campus. I was there for two years living admit that Galileo was right. In their eyes, to change with 120-some other young men who were wonderwas to loose authority, and that was not an option. ful, gifted, deeply caring people whose experience I didn’t care… Jesus was my champion. “Judge of God, while not necessarily like mine, were at least not lest ye be judged… you set up stumbling blocks as meaningful. Still riding on the exuberant energy for others… you shut the doors of the Kingdom… of Vatican II we all wanted to change the world. In you overlook the weightier demands of the law, jushindsight it was fortunate I was eventually guided tice, mercy and good faith”. Time and again he railed away from priesthood. It was also during this time against the religious authorities of his day, and I saw I’d gotten a copy of William James’ book, “The Varithose same hypocrites doing the same things in my eties of Religious Experience”. As I was reading one day. Well, let them… I knew my Father and I were particular section and noting each element applied ok. to me, I had one of those instances in my life where I don’t remember talking with Jesus very much I discovered there was a word for what I had already about being gay. It was pretty much a non-issue for been living. The word was “mystic”. us. It was more the repercussions, the way the other Several years previous though I also found there boys treated me, how they used and abused me, and was another word, “homosexual”. Being a curious made me feel “less than”. Through all that Jesus was child and being encouraged my comforter, my consoler, to be so as I was growing the one who hugged me and up I started researching kissed me and made me feel Becoming sexually what homosexual meant. safe and cared for. I was preThe sexology data of the late cious in his sight, I always active with the other ‘60’-early ‘70’s was not the have been, I always will be. boys in my neighborhood most positive. The position He made that clear to me, so was never a problem of the Church was even the struggle of being a gay with Jesus. In fact my worse. However, I knew teenage boy in those days the catechism was wrong. was not quite as harsh as it first sexual experience I didn’t know yet how or could have been. was an ecstatic epiphany where they’d made their Becoming sexually active for me. mistake but I knew they with the other boys in my were wrong. I knew God neighborhood was never a loved me, that I was his creproblem with Jesus. In fact ation, made to be exactly who I am, and that anyone my first sexual experience was an ecstatic epiphany who said anything different was wrong. I knew this for me. When Mark, that beautiful blonde, bluebecause of Jesus, my brother and friend. eyed boy who was my first, opened his zipper and I went to the public library and started readslid down his white jockeys to show me his cock ing everything I could find about homosexuality and balls… they became surrounded in a nimbus both scientific and religious. I’d go and get the of yellow-white light, just like Jesus was sometimes books, find a corner to myself, read what the book when he visited me. I knelt down in front of Mark. said, take another one down, and so on, spendInstinctively motivated, I knew just what to do. I ing two, three hours or more and then go home. I hungered to taste him. I took him in my mouth, didn’t dare check out any of them. I didn’t want my closed my eyes, and it was sweet rapture. Mark folks to know what I was reading. The knowledge never said a word… and neither did Jesus, ever. I gained after a time was substantial. At fifteen I I wanted sex to be like those divine ecstatic erotic was far more informed about sex than any of my experiences of St. Theresa of Avila. What I got from peers, from the Greeks and Romans down to the the neighborhood boys was “let’s hurry up quick present, and all about the Catholic worldview too. so we don’t get caught”. I didn’t want to get caught I had found where they’d gone wrong and it really either but I sure wanted more than that. Although turned out to be a matter of not keeping up with the I was shamed by others I never felt sex itself was findings of science and then having to force squarer shameful, not even the desire to do it. Wanting and
RFD 164 Winter 2015/16 49
having sex was always a good thing, a natural thing, plump me up and then lean forward and take me in its part of our hardwiring; we are supposed to do his mouth. In my head I was screaming, “No!, No!, it. Who we do it with and how and when have long NO!!!” I didn’t want this to be happening! I knew been subject to Church teaching, but that always he could hear me. I begged him to stop. I told him, struck me as an attempt to control a force of Nature “You shouldn’t be doing this!”, but it was all to no and about as effective as try to stop the tides. The avail. He just kept on and on and on, his head bobauthoritarian types knowing they couldn’t enforce bing up and down on me, and, well, doing all the their rules could at least make everyone feel guilty. right things to get my body to respond the way he Jesus never told me any of that although he had wanted me to. It was the greatest blow job I never plenty of opportunity to do so. wanted. So, after leaving the priestly vocational path I was Of course I came - not wanting to do that either kind of lost for awhile. The boys I’d sexed with back –he took it in his mouth, and swallowed it with in our teens had all me still resisting and moved on to girls, so I shocked. He drew started focusing on Jehimself up, drawing sus as being my lover. every drop up as his By my mid-twenties lips followed the conit sure didn’t look like tour of my cock and After leaving the priestly there was ever going to closed at the tip and vocational path I was kind of be anyone else in my then finally off me. He lost for awhile. The boys I’d life to fulfill that role, still cupped my balls sexed with back in our teens and there certainly with his thumb and wasn’t ever going to forefinger either side had all moved on to girls, so I be anyone as reliable. of my now deflated started focusing on Jesus as I soon found out Jesus penis. This wasn’t a being my lover. had other ideas. dream, and it surely I was laying in bed wasn’t a fantasy. It late one night in a was just as real as all tiny bedroom much the other visits he’d like a monk’s cell in made to me. It was, the house some friends and I shared. I had a single and remains, the most startling and unexpected one candle burning that easily filled the space and lad though. there thinking about what I was going to do with my It took me about a week to recover and comprelife now when Jesus came to me. He appeared sithend why he had done this to me. First, I knew it ting on my bed with his usual comforting smile with was because he loved me but second because this a nimbus around his head and shoulders this time. was his way of telling me, profoundly, that he was He didn’t speak a word the whole time he was there. not going to be my lover. Our relationship was never After just looking at each other intently as was our going to be like that. I’d have to face up to the chalnorm he leaned forward slightly and calmly took lenge of finding a real live human boyfriend, (who hold of the edge of the blanket and sheet covering wasn’t also divine), and make a life with him. Trying me from the middle of my chest down. The covers to take Jesus as my life-partner was a cop-out. It slowly curled back evenly exposing more and more wasn’t to be allowed; he’d made that very clear. of my body. I was naked underneath. By the time he Eventually I found my partner of nearly thirty got to my bellybutton I began to wonder what he years. I also discovered my true vocation as a was up to. When I realized he was going to uncover Hearth Keeper, (RFD Fall, 2012). I still go to Mass, my genitals I started getting nervous. He finally it feeds my soul and gives me joy. I pray and talk stopped, resting the sheet and blanket at mid-thigh to Jesus and our Father every day just like I would on me. He looked down at my cock before him then with anyone else in the same room with me. I do the back up at me again. It was then that I understood work he has given me: give rest to the weary, hope what he was about to do. I was stunned… dumbto the disheartened, compassion to all, and so on. struck… mortified; and I couldn’t stop him! My eyes Now, as I get closer to the end of my time here, I were as huge as saucers as I saw him reach for my try to be patient for the time when I finally get to go dick, wrapping his fingers around me, stroke and Home and be with him forever. � 50 RFD 164 Winter 2015/16
Painting by Danny Ferrell
RFD 164 Winter 2015/16 51
52 RFD 164 Winter 2015/16
Painting by Eugene Salandra (Peacock)
An Interview with Tantric Lutheran John Ballew by Franklin Abbott
John Ballew is an Atlanta based professional counselor and massage therapist who has taught for The Body Electric School for more than twenty years. He has also been active in the Gay Spirit Visions community and the Lutheran Church. He discusses his experiences both in gay spirituality and in Lutheran Christianity in the interview. For more on John visit his website: www.bodymindsoul.org. 1. Can you talk a little about the spiritual and religious experiences you had growing up? I grew up in a conservative, protestant household in the Midwest and was pretty much on my own discovering both my spirituality and my sexuality. I think my first experience of spiritual transcendence probably came through being outdoors in the Boy Scouts. Of course, that was also where some of my first homoerotic experiences happened. It sort of set a pattern: growing as a sexual being was the source of a lot of spiritual growth for me. 2. How did your awareness of being gay affect you regarding your spiritual and religious life. At first it was frightening; I thought I was unacceptable because I was gay. That set up a lot of spiritual struggle – much of it not very pretty. Two gay friends took their lives when we were all in our late teens. I struggled with questions. Who am I? Why am I who I am, the way I am? The struggle included psychoanalysis to try to change my sexual orientation. It was awful. Then I came out, and life got much better. Instead of asking why I was flawed, I started to notice how fabulous life could be! 3. Did you ever break with your religion over the issue of being gay? When I came out I became an activist in the Lutheran church. I did a lot of public speaking and social justice agitating, and connected with people who were racially or economically different from me. I couldn’t stay silent. While I was living in rural Illinois, that led to being tossed out of the church I attended for being open about being gay. In the way Photo courtesy author.
that things sometimes work out, that turbocharged my activism. And my activism brought me in contact with The Body Electric School, which caused me to rethink the connection between sexuality and the sacred. I also learned that life is much more interesting when you say “yes,” even if it means stepping out into the unknown. 4. How has being gay become a part of your spiritual journey and practice? Being gay is a part of everything in my life, particularly my spiritual practices. Understanding that sexuality can be sacred was mind-boggling for me, another opening of my eyes. I ended up moving simultaneously in very different directions – becoming a teacher for the Body Electric School teaching Tantra and the sexual healing arts, while simultaneously sitting on a Lutheran task force on human sexuality, working to develop a new social statement for the church. One of the things I’ve really treasured about my journey as a gay man is being a bridge, a walker between worlds. I’ve had to embrace paradox and ambiguity, and to move beyond the dualism of one-way-or-the-other. If asked to identify my spirituality these days I say that I follow a path of Taoist, neo-pagan Lutheranism. 5. How have you reconciled your religious life and your gay spirituality? About 15 years ago I thought I was finally done with the church. It wasn’t so much a matter of alienation as one of boredom. Then an openly-gay friend of mine was called to be pastor of a Lutheran church in Atlanta. I visited the congregation and found it to be a welcoming, spiritually-diverse place committed to a spirituality of justice, mercy and kindness. It was liberating for me. And a few years later I was elected president of the congregation – proof to me of God’s sense of humor. The congregation very much feels like a spiritual home for my partner and me; far from being merely tolerated, LGBT people’s perspectives are part of the DNA of the spiritual community. I’m happy. � RFD 164 Winter 2015/16 53
54 RFD 164 Winter 2015/16
“The Winged Horse” by George William Russell
Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin In some other world I lead you there by the hand—Russell’s Winged Horse,
in Baghdad, Marrakesh, Cordoba. A contortion of limbs
a naked god in sea-blue light, suggests splendour, a place where
we spend all day, all night, without eating,
life and dream meet and dwell, kept promises and happy ever after.
without drinking, without speaking, the battling ram never sparing
On a mission from the god of love, he swoops down and takes me back
the ewe, the stubborn mule untamed by the Dervish’s stick,
to spring days, where minutes pass for hours and hours pass in minutes,
the trilling nightingale in tune with the silent starling.
a place where taverns never shut, of singers, dancers, gamblers.
All night we play into the morning,
A place of endless conversation on large benches, in gondolas,
we recite our prayers before taking our bath,
winding through plains of wheat and endless barley,
so far from Dublin, this November, aeons away
trembling veils of willow, poplar, sycamore,
from mist and rain, this darkness.
music, poetry and song, of Persian, Turk and Jew,
RFD 164 Winter 2015/16 55
The Day Before I Went To The Mental Hospital I Wrote: What Makes Me Curl Up In A Ball: A List Of Sorts God protect the young angel. I can tell that some people have never felt real happiness. They have just felt money, and the joy of greed. I’m not afraid to show you off, I’m afraid to show myself. I see the world through the eyes of a newborn. As we get older we become more conscious of others being aware of us. Eventually we just fade away. I never touch my face because it feels like my beard will fall off. Things I can never be, bumblebee in my mind, keep me awake at white collar dawn. Someone said that I write love poems even though the love shatters into a million pieces, the seeds of which make flowers grow, but yet, I write anyway. I haven’t been to any of the places the wind blew them, And I don’t think I ever will go. Even if I was stuck in a dungeon, I’d How am I supposed to know if you’d help thy neighbor? Pay it forward it a load of horse shat. Though I like the movie not the concept. Nobody ever does it. I’m real harsh because I’ve never seen a miracle. I realize children are the smartest among us, and they have no way to be heard. I’m more lonely than a desert. Impossible dream of two men laying on a cliff, holding hands. And happiness, flood their house until it suffocates them, tail’ death do we part. The rest of the fireplace smoke, signals and bets to heaven until the last wispy Grey sends a message to humanity. —Jason Bartlett
56 RFD 164 Winter 2015/16
I cut large sheets of white paper, into tiny little confetti. I imagine you walk by, and I am so delighted to see you, I rejoice and throw them all in the air. You stop and stare, because youâ€™ve never seen paper snow before. Then I tell you, oh yes you have, you are as beautiful as snow, and to see it again, just look at your reflection. â€”Jason Bartlett
Image by John Waiblinger
RFD 164 Winter 2015/16 57
Richard P. Wagner Richard P. Wagner, M.D., of Torrance, CA, passed away peacefully in his sleep April 29, 2015 at 87. He was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. June 27, 1927. Dick as he was fondly called, interacted with Radical Faeries, along with Kenneth Bennett, his husband of 52 years. Both were active in various humanitarian causes, gay politics, and social nudism. Their gay activism extended to the Radical Faerie (RF) Community and for many years and continuing, they have held Heart Circles at their home. At one point they hosted Harry Hay. Eventually, their Heart Circle was dubbed Hart Circle to honor the memory of Peter Hart, a very close RF friend. Dick’s many friends will remember his wonderful hospitality and his gourmet cooking. He loved his home, gardening, foreign travel, both instrumental and vocal music (especially opera), and little theater. The many who loved Richard will be sad at his passing, but hopefully all will join in celebrating his life with thanks and honor his memory for the significant example he gave to us. Dick wanted his friends and relatives to know of his love and best wishes for their happiness. He asked not to mourn, instead to celebrate the good times spent together. “I have had a very good life, enjoying your love and companionship. As you eat, drink, and if you wish skinny dip (after hours), think of me as being still with you. I am, you know, if only in spirit. I hope my memory will bless you.” On a more personal level, Dick, and husband Ken, readily became mentors for my partner Edoedo and me when we relocated to Torrance. Indeed, we became neighbors because our homes are within a five minute walk of each other. During our first meeting, they quickly invited us to use their pool where eventually we enjoyed many skinny dipping times with Heart Circle participants and others. During warm weather, I swam in the pool and often shared coffee and breakfast with them. When they traveled, I usually watched their home. Through them, my partner and I enlarged our circle of friends, many with whom we continue to maintain contact. As we bonded, Dick and Ken eagerly introduced us to the wonders that make L.A. the great city it has become. These excursions included world class ethnic eateries, some gay and other amateur and professional theater, touring, museums, special 58 RFD 164 Winter 2015/16
events, etc. Whenever we had visitors, Dick and Ken took time to meet them and often invited them to be part of any social event or Hart Circle being held. Partner and I attended their wedding ceremony in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park on June 21, 2008. A smiling Mother Nature knowingly bestowed a gorgeous sunny day with a clear and deep blue sky.
When my partner and I relocated to Texas, the saddest and most emotional part of leaving Torrance was separating from Dick and Ken. But, we have maintained our Torrance home and each time we visit, Dick and Ken always invite us to make their home ours as well. A few days before Dick’s demise, I was highly privileged to chat with him by phone. His mood at the time was quite upbeat as we reminisced. Both of us were looking forward to seeing each other during my annual visit. But that was not to be. So Be It! Lovingly submitted by Darumajin.
Richard Perin Richard Perin, Casey as he was fondly called, passed away in his sleep July 2nd 2015. Casey was a native of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada who had lived in Houston for many years. A little over two years ago, Casey along with Radical Faerie Gentle Heart, and myself, met and planned to revive Heart Circle here because it had ceased for a number of years. Casey was instrumental in assisting with this endeavor. He continuously hosted our small Circle at his home and weather permitting, we enjoyed skinny dipping in his pool. Casey lived in Houston for many years and had been active in various gay groups, including our Heart Circle and LSNG (Lone Star Nudist Group) among others. He and I have a common interest in things Asian; I shared my many years of experience living and working in Japan - I have a Japanese partner. Casey had been an assistant chef and thoroughly enjoyed cooking and taught me much. The attached photo of Casey was taken at a campground during an annual nudist campout that we attended with others from Houston and Austin. Casey had hoped to return to his native Canada to spend his last days at a hospice he had already contacted. We discussed plans whereby I would accompany him on the trip, but this was not to be. So be it. Namaste, Darumajin
RFD 164 Winter 2015/16 59
Advertise in RFD It really helps keep this magazine in production! We offer affordable rates and a growing subscriber base. If you have questions about advertising, please contact Bambi at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website at www.rfdmag.org/advertise.php.
Back Issue Sale!
20% off for Five or More
The poems of David Hatfield Sparks, with sketches by his faerie husband, Randy P. Conner, trace the defiant journey of a Queer spiritual seeker via elegies, dirges, ritual dramas, and chants. Sparks’ works, including the Encyclopedia of Queer Myth, Symbol, and Spirit (1997) and Queering Creole Spiritual Traditions (2004), have been praised by David W. Machacek, PhD, editor of Sexuality & the World’s Religious Traditions, as invaluable to LGBTQI people “seeking to better understand the spiritual dimension of alternative sexual and gender identities.” www.Xlibris .com ISBN: 978-1-4836-5345-7 AVAILABLE NOW to order online, from your local bookstore, or direct from email@example.com
60 RFD 164 Winter 2015/16
Issue 166 / Summer 2016
SWIMSUIT ISSUE Submission Deadline: April 21, 2016 www.rfdmag.org/upload
…Or how I spent my summer vacation... RFD is looking to unwind a bit and requests submissions for its summer issue which reflects summertime enjoyment—short stories, summer poems, beach photos, and tales of your favorite summer. All we ask is that you keep it light, breezy, dishy and of course do tell. Ideas to get you thinking: A perfect summer memory A tale of summer romance Your favorite summer book An excursion into your garden Your favorite swimming spot A summer roadtrip Don’t let the summer get away from you, submit your article and artwork to us at our website. Please keep in mind our deadline as things book up and often the RFD crew are out on the veranda sunny themselves.
RFD 164 Winter 2015/16 61
RFD Vol 42 No 2 #164 $9.95
62 RFD 164 Winter 2015/16
a reader created gay quarterly celebrating queer diversity
Published on Nov 26, 2017