I am starting to see an amazing, life-changing movement surfacing through what is now called the “LGBTQ movement,” although frankly at this point I can only speak for gay men, not women or trans people. But I have a feeling that women are a part of it, and trans people as well. It is “Gay Spirituality,” and what it means is basically finding an expression for the deepest parts of us, while leaving none of what used to be called the “dirty parts” out.
In other words, you don’t have to check sex at the door.
Or your own feelings about even the more forbidden aspects of sex, such as group sex, polyamorous sexuality, and S&M. In genuine Gay Spirituality, there needs to be a place for all of that, and there is. In fact, much of Gay Spirituality (as opposed to, simply, queer people in religion, or the Old Religion based on mainstream Judaism, Protestantism, or Catholicism) comes directly from those more secretive margins of sexuality, where gay men have a long history of surviving, and even, often, comfortably residing.
Gay men receive huge emotional and spiritual benefits from their ability to submit sexually and emotionally to other men, and also to value the sexual/emotional submission of others. In our Trumpian environment of 24/7 competition, insecurity, and distrust among men (in which suicide, gun violence, and chronic stress-related problems are rampant) being able to do this and feel extremely emotionally rewarded from these acts of submission is profoundly enriching and stabilizing.
All of religion is based on human submission to a “God-force,” and in Gay Spirituality, gay men can experience this God-force luminously transferred to the very singular man to (or from) whom they are either giving or experiencing submission—and sometimes both, simultaneously. In other words, using S&M practices as a model, sexual submission becomes Spiritual Submission, and in the process becomes an act of such intense intimacy that it not only bonds two men together, but it can bond groups of men as well.
In Old Religious practices, submission to a Superior such as a bishop or abbot produced a real S&M intimacy that very few could speak about honestly. In Gay Spirituality, this intimacy is shared openly, frankly, and honestly. These men are giving their will—their genuine volition—to another man in exchange for the protection and security of their most intimate emotional feelings. Therefore S&M rituals become Spiritual rituals.
Nature is sexuality, and sexuality is true to nature: you cannot divide the two.
Gay Spirituality seeks what is natural and free, yet also has knowledge of the risks and needs for protection that nature requires. In the Old Religion nature and sexuality had to be tamed, especially as far as women, the “spawn of Eve,” were concerned. This produced a built-in gynophobia and misogyny that Gay Spirituality inherently rejects.
Gay men value women because they are not forcibly tied to them sexually, and therefore don’t have to distrust them.
Gay men do have a series of essential natures and characteristics that are different from the mainstream and this difference, if recognized fully and with positive feelings, makes us more open to the suffering and sensitivities of others.
It allows us an empathy and closeness to people whom society rejects, as well as a heart-felt closeness to one another that society “normally,” even in this time of gay marriage, still has big difficulties recognizing. Despite the trend now for gay men to wed and produce either biological or adopted-children families, we pioneered the “family of choice,” a family not based on biology, or even racial or class similarities.
This has meant that queer men can exist in a mini-society apart from class and race, one based on pure emotional empathies and allowances for feelings, a society that is positive, supportive and enriching. This is that very real “City on the Hill” ideal that the Old Religion envisioned but could not come close to realizing without blame, shame, coercion, or even brute force.
Gay men—in their often customary roles as healers, nurses, caretakers both of humans and of nature; as guardians of beauty and producers of art and consciousness, who were often politically aware years before their time—participate in a “secret history” that mainstream society either chooses to ignore or to ridicule. At moments of intense Spiritual awareness, we can feel the presence of those queer men who came before us, many of whom died because of who they were. This includes men who died due to governmental neglect in the AIDS epidemic, and centuries of us who were burned at the stake as “sodomites”; who were forced into poverty and being outcastes, not allowed job or professional security; who had to leave their homes in the middle of the night because the police were knocking at their doors; who were incarcerated in mental hospitals, forced into suicide, and/or who were forced into ostracism or shame by their families or social environment.
We understand this history firsthand.
It is us being there. We can feel it as surely as those in the Old Religion understand the martyrdom of sainthood.
There are men who have an “angelic” presence in our lives that is emotionally and psychologically profound, and also of a sexual nature that may be beyond genital sex: It is a feeling of spiritual brotherhood, kinship, and even twinship. This intense penetration by another man into the most intimate and sacred areas of your life and psyche can feel at moments both emotionally explosive as well as utterly at peace. It is finding yourself within another human being of the same gender who shares a lot of your innermost makeup.
Gay men invite and allow themselves the intense privilege of this relationship, this “secret sharing,” to use a term from Joseph Conrad, that at moments can become (or even begs to become) physicalized.
This angelic presence is real to us, and the reality of it makes us question the validity of putting strictures of “desexualization” on spiritual figures, a practice Western Christianity has done for centuries as it tries to enforce its own boundaries on any form of sexuality.