By Joe Perez
In Chapter 1 of my eBook Gay Spirituality 101, I have this to say regarding the quest for a definition of Gay Spirituality:
Spirituality is connected to the human need or desire to be in relationship to the unmanifest or unseen or invisible realities which are considered sacred. This is true even when the transcendent nature of the divine is perceived only in immanent ways such as pantheism or in the definition of spirituality issued by a working group of gay spiritual leaders which read in part:
Spirituality pertains to life on this Earth and is measured by the compassion, love, truth, gratitude, growth, give and take that real, live human beings show one another. In the final analysis, spirituality is as spirituality does.
Spirituality may be perceived as being only about virtuous deeds or feelings such as love and kindness in the material world (as this statement sort of implies), but it actually includes the extramundane causal and non-dual realities. This is so if the states of consciousness and stages of development of mystics and esoteric thinkers of the Great Traditions and Indigenous Wisdom are to be taken seriously rather than limited to the visible world.
If you’re gay and your definition of spirituality doesn’t include belief in spirits and Spirit or Emptiness in the Buddhist sense (which is basically included in what I mean by Spirit), then why not be secular and move on?
I submit that Spirit is deeply embedded in human nature. We are made to be and evolve in relationship with realities which are set apart from the ordinary, secular world as sacred because we are meaning-making creatures. To be human is to have concerns about how to live and beliefs about what is valuable given the brokenness and nobility of the human condition.
To be spiritual is to search for or know our ultimate concern; to be secular is to believe that such a thing is non-sensical, pointless, or impossible. It is possible to not believe in God or Goddess or Spirit or Emptiness and yet have a spiritual life, say, in a pantheistic or quasi-Buddhist sense. To respect agnostic and atheist people one does not need to adopt their beliefs, only respect them and come to agreement about the overlapping worldviews and nature mysticism or reverence for silence. Atheists who are pantheists or humanists may very well say they are spiritual people, and we need not question that belief.
There is no one accepted definition of Gay Spirituality, but Gay Spirituality 101 teaches that an approach based on Integral principles is most inclusive, as we will see in the next chapter. Gay Spiritualities are the ways of being spiritual that are distinct to members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community in general, and especially gay men. It is certainly possible to speak of Lesbian Spirituality, Bisexual Spirituality, Transgender Spirituality, and Questioning/Queer Spirituality, but those conversations are beyond the scope of this Mini-eBook.
To this definition in the eBook I would add that the Gay Spirituality movement consists in a relatively defined body of writings/teachings and practices by gay/bi/queer men over the past few decades (one which can trace its lineage back to Harry Hay and the founders of the gay liberation movement). Within this body of teachings, there is some overlapping agreement and some areas on which folks disagree.