A potent mix: LGBT political activism infused with an understanding of our social purpose.
Something interesting happened this morning. In an unguarded moment of sheer frustration about another mass shooting, I posted a two-sentence commentary on Facebook.
With sarcasm, I called out the NRA for helping create an environment where mass killings are now part of American culture. This led to replies that exposed a dichotomy in prospective solutions to the problem: 1) the answer is consciousness change, and 2) the answer is political change.
Earlier this week I noticed a similar pattern. I reposted an article from the San Francisco Chronicle in which a white lesbian shares the pain of watching her wife and children, who are people of color, suffer from society’s racism.
She calls on the LGBT movement to fight this injustice, which I echoed. Replies to this post followed a similar pattern, with some pointing to consciousness change, not “fighting” as the answer.
Then it occurred to me: this dichotomy seems to characterize the gay rights movement. Consider that the political side of the movement and the gay media virtually ignore gay spirituality. And the spiritual side of the movement lacks strong connections with and messages about politics.
Back in the frightening days of AIDS when I came out, gay men were dying like flies. Activism thus took on an urgent purpose—for me personally and for the men and women in the movement: we needed to act, because our lives really did depend on it.
Today, that urgency is gone, mostly because of the incredible successes of the movement. With each victory, however, our political movement removes one more facet of our purpose. Like a farmer who has not replenished his field, our political movement has not replaced this dwindling asset.
The field of gay spirituality holds tremendous and largely untapped value for the political side of our movement. And here I should define what I mean by “gay spirituality”: it is, at its core, the quest to understand ourselves and our purpose on the planet.
When I began creating Gay Men of Wisdom, I discovered the treasure trove of writings that constituted this genre. Unbeknownst to me, generations of gay men had been asking the deeper questions about our purpose and the contributions we make to humanity. Their answers pointed to something much greater than mere survival.
Yet these two elements of the movement don’t speak to each other. The political side acts as if the spiritual side doesn’t exist. Our major political organizations focus on a narrow range of rights only.
Consider that even the provocative Against Equality collective, which critiques mainstream gay and lesbian politics, and which bills itself as “Queer challenges to the politics of inclusion,” focuses on three themes (marriage, military, and prison), none of which includes spirituality.
It could be that many in the political realm do not even know gay spirituality exists. And for what I am sure are complex reasons, the gay spirituality movement has not strongly connected with people in the political realm. Perhaps these sides of the movement draw very different people to them.
The legalization of gay marriage places us at an inflection point in our movement. Our reasons for coming together are dwindling, because our identity has not kept pace with the times. This disconnect is hurting us.
Gay spirituality offers answers that our political establishment can no longer provide. If we needed a new gay marriage initiative, it would be between gay spirituality and gay politics.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: In response to some of the comments I have received here and elsewhere, I want to emphasize my definition of gay spirituality as the search for meaning and purpose. I am not suggesting a merging of religion or any faith tradition with politics.
This article was originally published at Words to the Wise, my blog. Reprinted with permission from the author.