Saturday, July 9, 2011

Thoughts on Loneliness and AIDS: "The onliest person in the world."

The title of this piece comes from the theatrical masterpiece by the great American author/playwright, Carson McCullers, "The Member of the Wedding", and is spoken by 12-year-old Frankie, an adolescent tomboy who is terribly jealous of her brother's wedding. In the horrible loneliness in which Frankie lives her awkward life she declares that she is "the onliest person in the world." (Frankie was played by Julie Harris, the extraordinary American actor) Can anyone be lonelier than that? Can anyone feel so alone as that? Being "the onliest person in the world" is the worst sort of loneliness, a loneliness I feel tonight and have felt in years past..

Indeed, that kind of darkness and despair of thick, viscous loneliness is not so difficult to get to. and in fact, growing old with AIDS is one of the very loneliest lives one can live, and I, like Frankie, feel like "the onliest person in the world" tonight. (McCullers, "The Member of the Wedding," Houghton, Miflin, 1950) Frankie has no friends, but desperately wants to be part of something larger than her small self. She wants desperately to be part of the group of girls who have passed puberty and have their own clubhouse and who will not allow Frankie to join, because Frankie is such an awkward tomboy and she belongs to the wrong class of people. Frankie is poor, unlike the middle-class girls of the clubhouse. . She has no friends except her housekeeper, an African American woman named Berenice (played by the incomparable Ethel Waters) and her younger cousin John Henry (played by Brandon DeWilde). The film, of course, is in black and white. Color would have removed the poverty, the desolation, the loneliness, the jealousy, and Frankie's out-of-control imagination regarding the wedding, going all the way to the point of thinking she is going on the honeymoon with her brother and his new wife. At the end of the play, they leave for the honeymoon and Frankie, completely devastated, cannot go with them. She is thoroughly confused by this turn of events because it goes against her very lively imagination. It is one of the most heart-rending pieces of American theater in the history of American theater. The drama is high, indeed.

Tonight, I feel like I cannot get any lonelier and the drama is also very high and cannot get any higher. Having HIV since the late 1970's and diagnosed with AIDS in 1995 has created tremendous drama in my life, The worst thing about having AIDS for such a long period of time is that the body ages quickly, far beyond its chronological years. I am 65 on the outside, but internally, my body is that of an 80-year-old. My arthritis in my knees is terribly advanced, my peripheral neuropathy is about as bad as it can possibly get, fracturing all the bones in my left foot because all the nerves in my bones have died along with all the nerves in both my feet. When the nerves in the bones die, the bones become very soft and fracture easily. All the bones in my left foot have fractured and I have to wear a CROW Walker on my left foot and left lower leg for the rest of my life. It is a huge, 7-lb, rigid, black plastic, knee length boot that is in two pieces and is held together with velcro. It is ugly as hell, but I have been wearing it now everyday for nearly 2 years, and it feels just like a part of my body now. The only time I am aware of it is when I want to have sex, and then I am aware of my entire AIDS body. Having COPD now with it's chronic bronchitis and penumonia, kidney disease, constant eye infections. severe general body aches and pains which are different each day so they cannot be anticipated nor prepared for, the headaches, the lack of libido (that's one of the worst parts of this disease), and the generally grotesque being I have become with my 30-lb. weight gain from medication, the depressions and manias controlled with bi-polar medications, the anxiety controlled with Lorazapam and Buspar, the general depression controlled by Abilify and Lexapro, my high cholesterol controlled by Lipitor, all the heavy duty narcotics for pain management (225 mcg. of Fentanyl changed every 72 hours plus hydrocodone for the break-through pain), gives me terrible constipation and bowel impaction which can only be alleviated by fist fucking myself and taking the impacted stool out of my ass with own my hand, and as my body was not made for that particular sex game as a bottom, this process is very painful. I am an extraordinary fisting top and am sought after as a teacher for both tops and bottoms , and one of my biggest dreams sexually is to get fisted, but my body has two bones that block easy access to the colon. I feel grotesque, ugly, thoroughly unattractive, and terriblhy, terribly old and invisible in the Queermale community.

Talking about this with my friends is an impossibility. None of them want to hear about it, because I frighten them. They are all HIV+ with no opportunistic infections yet and, because of the medications which purport to control the disease, they believe they will never get sick (utter delusion, that). I get sick on the average of every other month with one kind of infection or another somewhere in my body and I require hospitalizations every two months, sometimes for 3 weeks at a time. So, I get no support from my friends because I represent their own possibility to them and that terrifies them. They look at me and the CDC statistic of 18,000 Gaymale deaths from AIDS each year rears it's very real and very ugly head, and I am the symbol of that death knell. I make them face their own mortality, and the truth that the anti-retrovirals don't really stop the progress of the disease. They slow it down, but they don't stop it.

I am also afraid of growing old alone and getting sick alone with no one to take care of me, and I will not go into a state nursing care facility. No nursing homes for me. Fortunately, my homemaker Sully, who is a wonderful woman and who helps me three days a week, said she would take care of me and would never allow me to go into a nursing home, even if that means working for no remuneration. I must take comfort in that. State nursing homes are notoriously dangerous for elderly Gaymen, with rapes by orderlies being quite rampant, not to mention the physical abuse that is done very carefully so that no bruises show. This is not some morbid imagination of mine. The statistics are clear regarding nursing home abuse of elderly Gaymen. We are much hated and are at the mercy of the homophobic abuse by the orderlies.

I just want a person with whom to spend the rest of my life. Now that I know how to be in a healthy relationship, I am a pariah, a leper, damaged and used goods. I would like to find a man my own age. I am tired of youngfags who have the whole world in front of them and only want to be assimilated into the larger majority of boring straight people, who want to look just like everybody else so that straight people are not intimidated by us. I say, let them be intimidated. Let them be afraid; let them be very afraid. I am not like them, and I don't want to be like them. I have special gifts that come directly out of my Queerness, and I treasure those gifts. I don't want them shoved into the consumerist, materialistic, 6-figure salaries, condos on the Lake, the best gyms, only the best designer men's wear, summer houses in Michigan after living in their suburban homes with white picket fences and 4 bedrooms with lots of property for a back yard, two SUV's in the driveway, and 2.5 adopted Chinese baby girls. So, the question of the week is: Who is Queer and who is non-Queer? I certainly can't tell anymore, and that makes me feel even more lonely, more aching for community, which is what much of this book is about.

When one has AIDS, one might as well be living like an anchorite just like The Desert Fathers and Mothers in the 11th century outside Alexandria in Egypt. They went off to live by themselves because they were searching for God, and they knew they were not going to find a peaceful, serene, loving God in the midst of that consumerist, materialistic, and hedonistic society of Alexandria. So, they went out into the Desert to live as a community of anchorites and anchoresses. Dame Julian of Norwich was a 14th-century Anchoreess, mystic, who lived by her wits and the goodness and generosity of the village near which she had her Hermit's Hut. It is Julian's mantra that keeps me sane most of the time: In her writings (Showings: "All will be well, and all will be well, and every manner of thing will be well." In other words, no matter how much bad happens to a person, no matter how dark life becomes, in the end, "all will be well, and all will be well, and every manner of thing will be well." Dame Julian had a powerful faith in an all-knowling, unconditionally loving God. She, along with George Herbert, Hildegaard of Bingen, Theresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Meister Eckhart, Aelred of Rivaulx, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory Palamas, and Thérèse of Lisieux are some of my favorite mystics, and when I get terribly lonely in my walk with AIDS, I read their work and feel a connection to an ancient spiritual community of mystics, a connection to an ancient tradition of which I am a part. I remember when I told my Spiritual Director (with whom I worked monthly for 23 years) that I lived such a lonely life and that I had visions and was prone to revelation, rather than mocking me or making light of it, he took it very seriously and he said to me, "You were born in the wrong century, Roger. You should have been born in the 11th to 14th centuries, People would not have found you strange or off-putting. You are a classic mystic, and mystics lead very lonely lives, because you, like them, are the larger majority of people on this Earth. You must get used to it, because it will be with you for the rest of your life. For you, the only thing that is real is Spirit." So, I have my choice, very few friends, but lots of visions and revelation ("more will be revealed", The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous"), or lots and lots of friends but no visions, no revelation. Having AIDS doesn't help the situation at all. I am alone most of the time, and I am usually very open to my visions, but when I feel a real lack of community, my visions disappear. When the Fathers and Mothers went out into the Desert to live alone, they were not completely alone because they knew that another hermit was somewhere quite near. These people were the first Spiritual Directors. Lay and religious both would go out into the Desert looking for an anchorite or an anchoress in order to have a conversation around things spiritual, and discuss their own spiritual journeys. Much like what I do with my own clients, and because I see people so infrequently I feel like an anchorite and an ancient Spiritual Director whose community is spread far and wide, and there are not very many of us in that community, because this is not The Time Of The Mystic. Having AIDS has only sharpened my ability to receive visions and revelation. I guess when I have to rely on the only real thing their is, which is Spirit, my vocation (filmmaker, writer, author, Spiritual Director, musician, friend) can only become more pronounced. Only the spiritual is real. The material, consumerist world is not real!! This truth has really been brought home to me since I was diagnosed with my opportunistic infections. Living with KS (Kaposi's Sarcoms) for 2 years, HSV Encephalitis, which put me into a 10-day coma and in which I died but came back because I had work to do in the world, many varieties of Pneumonia and chronic Bronchitisl, eye infections, sore throats, fevers of unknown origin, night sweats, general aches and pains all help to increase my mystical experiences. ''

12-Step Spirituality, when approached with a fully open heart, indeed brings about visions and revelations. It is not a euphamism when the Big Book says, "more will be revealed". Igt is saying that we will receive revelation the closer and closer we get to God, because God speaks to us through revelation and visions. The trick is, though, that we need to know that there is no boundary between us and God. If there is some kind of boundary between us and God, then we are having an "object relationship" with God because we are always seeking to get closer and closer to the object, but as in all object relationships, the more we try to get closer, the farther away the object moves. The only way to have more revealed is to realize that there is no boundary, hence, we are the embodiment of God on Earth and often our revelations come through other people who are also the embodiment of God, and who also have no boundary between themselves and God. The less the boundary, the more the revelation and the more the visions because we are open to them. God is no longer some big, unknowable object in the sky, but an energy, a force of which we are very capable of tapping in.

I have to say that as I have been writing this piece, I have lost much of my loneliness. To write of community is as good as being in that community, as good as being present to that community, and thereby present to vision and revelation. Entering recovery from substance abuse piques our mystical selves and, indeed, "more will be revealed", but not in our time, not in Chronos (calendar time, clock time), but, rather, in Kairos (God's time, proper time). When God is ready to self-reveal, God will do just that, and not a minute before. And, the only way God can self-reveal to us is if we are completely open to possibility, completely open to what can be in God's good time. Therefore, being open to possibility means being open to the possibility that I represent, that is, one's mortality. If, in fact, there is no boundary between us and God, then we need not fear Death at all. Without any boundary, we go, upon the death of this unreal thing called the body, back to the source. We go home, because there is no boundary to try to stop us.. We cross the space that is no space, and become who we really are. We become God!!!

Writing this book has been a deep mystical experience for me. I have had revelation after revelation, epiphany after epiphany, and vision after vision. I would stay up until 4:00 AM writing in the soft quiet in the beauty of the night when there was no traffic noise and the city was asleep. Unlike New York City, which never goes to sleep, Chicago shuts down by 2:00 AM, especially further south from where I live in Rogers Park. Rogers Park late at night is like a sleepy little town. Writing this book has not only been a mystical experience for me, it has also been a prophetic experience for me. The life of the prophet is even lonelier that the life of the mystic. The mystic is not in contention with anybody. S/he lives out her/his solitary life as an anchorite or anchoress, or a nun or a monk, but there is no tension with the people. In fact, the mystics chose the solitary life for themselves. The prophets of the Hebrew Scripture, on the other hand, such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, or Micah, were always in contention with the people and so lead solitary lives not by their own choosing but by the circumstances in which they found themselves. The prophets always told the truth, trying to be "mouthpieces" for God, letting the people know what was displeasing to God and how they needed to change their ways. This put them in tension with the people. Because of that tension the prophets' lives were solitary and built on “argument”. The mystics led a much quieter life, a much more peaceful life, whereas the prophets lived with noisy, confrontational lives as they tried to show the people the error of their ways. My Spiritual Director of 23 years, of whom I spoke earlier, told me that not only was I a classic mystic, but that I was also a prophet, because prophets see the trajectory of history, past present and future, all at once and acting as “mouthpieces” for God they were always at odds with the people. This gave them a very solitary, very lonely life.

It seems that after the Stonewall Rebellion, when we achieved our political, spiritual, and sexual liberation, we all lived isolated and lonely lives. We spoke of our community, but the community was formed through drugs, sex, and disco dancing, and Donna Summer was the queen of that world. There was no real conversation or connected interaction between us. We simply danced together, took drugs together, and had disconnected and alienated sex together. Sometimes the sex lasted 2 to 3 hours and sometimes the sex lasted for 10 min., but we never knew the name of the person we were having sex with because we really didn't want to know their name. All we wanted were their bodies and the less we knew about the personal lives of our sex partners the better. Life was extremely lonely during the 1970s and early 1980s. It's out it only seemed like there was a community after the Stonewall Rebellion, but in fact we all live lives of quiet desperation searching for our next lover, or our next fuck buddy. I have a particular recollection of a sexual encounter I had had an annual “ Black Party” at the Fillmore East. Everyone dressed in black, mostly black leather, but also black underwear, black T-shirts, black jockstraps, black sneakers, etc. Pornography and the 1970s had real man in it, men with facial hair and hair on their chests especially hair on their asses. They were utterly beautiful men, not like this shaved, hairless, chiseled, blonde, children that are touted as porn stars today. My pornography hero in the 1970s was a beautiful man named Richard Locke. I was very beautiful back then having a gym routine of five days a week four hours a day until my body was ripped and rockhard and my face shone with an unearthly light coming out of my eyes and I could have any man I wanted whenever I wanted him. I had such high self-esteem that I walked up to Richard who was at the black party and sitting by himself in the bleachers resting from dancing. I sat down next to Richard and told him who I thought he was in my eyes and how much I loved watching him fuck on screen. He took the compliment very well and was most humble. I then asked if he would like to get high on cocaine back at my apartment, to which he said an absolute yes. We walked back to my apartment which was only four blocks from the Fillmore, did the cocaine (a lot of it), took off our clothes and had sex all night long until the sun rose in the morning. This was some of the best sex of my life because Richard understood Tantric Sex, as do I. We took ourselves into states of spiritual ecstasy and other bliss, connecting with each other on a different plane altogether, moving our brain waves into this Theta mode, the mode of deep trance and meditation that allows for sex to go on for hours. I felt like he and I were one body/spirit, one entity, and in that mystical space of ecstatic sex we felt the presence of God as we created Him to be in the room with us and bless our lovemaking. Richard just love my body, my mind, and my spirit, as I love those things in him and we connected on the deepest levels. That was a sexual encounter I will never forget because I wasn't lonely in the sex act, whereas throughout the 1970s most of my sex was incredibly lonely with little to no connection between myself and my sex partner. I remember crying with incredible joy as Richard and I made love and after hours of “edging” (bringing oneself to the brink of orgasm and stopping it over and over and over again until finally when we have the orgasm hits like great fireworks going off in the body mind and spirit simultaneously and we move onto another plane of existence. This is Tantric Sex, sex that is connected and never lonely, sex that opens each of the men up to the spiritual realm and to the possibility of ecstatic response to the sex act. The sex with Richard was extraordinary and I will never forget it for as long as I live. Richard Locke is dead now along with most of the other porn stars in the 1970s. They died slow horrible deaths that AIDS complications produce Period the sex with Richard was one of the few times in my life in New York City when I did not feel lonely or cut off from my community. Indeed, the community was built on superficiality, but I was able to cut through that and make some extraordinary connections during my time in New York City in the early 1980s.

Oddly enough, even with all the death around us, the 80s was not a time of loneliness but, rather, a time of intense, loving, compassionate, and empathic community. I discussed this earlier in the book and there is no need to rehash it here. I will close by just saying that my life has been one of terrible loneliness for 65 years, especially in the 12 1/2 year relationship I had with a former partner in which I was lonelier than I've ever been in my life. It was my diagnosis of HIV and then my 1995 diagnosis of AIDS that began the destruction of the relationship. From those times of diagnosis the relationship deteriorated more and more until it became impossible to live with. Now, even in the intense loneliness I feel tonight, I can honestly say that I am happier and more content with my life than I have ever been before. I am doing exactly what I want to be doing which is writing a book and making a film. Music is out of my life now, except as something to listen to with great joy and great passion. My primary passions, however, are my book and my film and I am thoroughly content.

Friday, June 4, 2010

"From The Ashes Risen"--A Study in Matanoia

Ostensibly, my documentary film "From The Ashes Risen" is about illness and death, about the terror of a holocaust of unspeakable proportions, about a genocide against Queermen in the 1980's and 1990's in America, but it is so much more than that. It is about metanoia--a Greek word which means "spiritual conversion through repentance". The film takes us on a journey into the darkest places of the spirit, places of sickness and fear, places of oppression and hatred, places of bigotry and war, places of deprivation and chaos. It then moves us through these things as we face them and feel them through the voices and imagery of the Queermen and nurses presented in the film to a place of repentance of the heart, into spaces of wellness and compassion, liberation and love, celebration of difference and peace, abundance and orderly non-violence. We listen to the men in the film as they struggle with their illnesses and the isolation and dislocation those illnesses produce. HIV/AIDS is a sinister disease. It rips the soul to shreds, and without the intervention of grace, breaks apart whatever semblance of community their may have been before the illness hit that community. Something happened during the AIDS War, during the Death Years, that was an intervention of grace that produced a new community of compassion in the midst of a nothingness, a depersonalization, a deathmarch.

Back in the 1980's and 1990's, AIDS produced daily life that was imbued with daily death. In one AIDS unit alone, three to four Queermen a day died horrible, ugly, painful and, with grace, sometime even peaceful deaths, but invariably death no matter what. HIV was a death sentence. Cytomegalovirus, Kaposi's Sarcoma, Toxoplasmosis, Pneumocystis Carinii Pneumonia, Dementia, Lymphoma, Hodgkins Disease, fungal infections of the rarest and most deadly kind, bacterial infections previously only seen in four-legged animals, viruses that could kill by themselves, wasting, unstoppable bloody diarrhea, blindness, all these and so many more illnesses killed like a plague, wiping out over 100,000 Queermen in America alone in fifteen years. Queermen were slaughtered by institutionalized homophobia being vomited forth from the minds, hearts, and mouths of a Presidential administration that hated Queermen with a rabid passion and wanted to see us all die. Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush saw to it that as many Queermen as possible died, clearing out their country of Christian Family Values of all that was abomination in their minds and spirits. For the first six years of their administration the word AIDS was not uttered by them. All mention of it was blacked out of the media, with only a few articles of great significance creeping into the major newspapers like the Freedman-Kein article on Kaposi's Sarcoma in the New York Times which I remember reading on the morning it came out and how utterly frightened I was by what the doctor said and predicted. But other than those occasional articles that seemed to sneak through the wall of silence, there was no mention of this disease that was wiping out an entire generation of beautiful young Queermen in their prime in the most horrific and terrifying ways. No funding at all was given for research into finding treatment for this blackest of diseases which produced a politics all its own.

I remember that during the years between 1984 and 1995, when I was diagnosed with AIDS myself, I facilitated funerals and memorial services as a chaplain everyday of the week, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year for that entire eleven year period. I remember the tears, the wailing of loved ones who were left behind. I remember the wrenching keening of the bereaved. I remember the blackness and darkness that pervaded the very core of our existence back then. I remember the bitterness and hatred of families of origin when they found out that not only did their sons have AIDS and were dying, but that their sons were also Gay. I remember families disowning sons, leaving them to die alone without family, but only surrounded by dear friends and lovers. No family of origin in so many cases ever set foot in the hospital rooms. I remember when landlords would evict tenants with AIDS leaving them to die on park benches and on the sidewalks throughout all seasons of the year. I remember when, in the beginning, there were Emergency Rooms that would not take us in for treatment. I remember when cab drivers would not drive us to our doctors appointments. I remember when straight doctors particularly would not take us a patients. I remember when dentists would not go anywhere near our mouths, even though so many of the infections were oral and needed the care of skilled dentists and oral surgeons. I remember when People WIth AIDS were the "unclean", the "untouchables", the "lepers" of society who were shunned and without food or shelter. I remember the fear that lurked behind the eyes of every Queerman that lived back then as we walked down the streets afraid to look at each other for fear of looking death in the eye, not just the sick ones but the well ones who were just waiting their turn to sicken and die.

I also remember an extraordinary thing that happened back then. I remember that out of this fire and ice a community of compassion grew up, a community of care for the other that grew up among ourselves, because it certainly was nowhere else to be seen for such a long time. We formed our own organizations for the care of PWA's (People With AIDS), organizations like Open Hand Chicago which brought hot meals to shut-in PWA's who had no food and could not cook for themselves, or the AIDS Alternative Health Project in Chicago which provided free of charge every conceivable kind of complimentary health treatment such as acupuncture, Thai massage, Bio-energetics, deep tissue massage, Swedish massage for relaxation and stress release, meditation classes, nutritional counseling, and there is still today Test Positive Aware Network also in Chicago, founded by a wonderful man named Chris who later died of AIDS-related complications, that provided a community of support socially, politically, and spiritually for PWA's.

As members of this community of compassion and love, we went into the homes of PWA's to clean and do their laundry, to cook their meals, to clean up their vomit, to change their linens that were soaked in urine and diarrhea, to read to them and talk with them, to hold their hands and laugh with them when they felt like laughing with that wonderful joy that is an inherent part of the human spirit even in the face of excruciating pain and death, to hold them and rock them to sleep wherein they could find some temporary respite from the torture, to comfort them in their loneliness and isolation with our own spirits of love and even the warmth of our bodies laying on the beds with them holding them as they shook from the horrifying side effects of the toxic medications that were used to heal the infections, medications like Amphoteracin B and Gancylovir, that caused shaking and chills with unearthly high fevers and pain. I remember the candlelight vigils and choirs of Queer angels and Allied angels singing songs of love and healing in churches and synagogues during the memorial services and funerals. I remember a community that lived simultaneously in fear and love. It is said that "perfect love casts out fear" (New Testament), but back then fear and love were lovers, living side by side, body to body, spirit to spirit and one did not cast out the other, but only softened it, quieted it for awhile.

I cannot forget that in the midst of my still very present bouts of grief over the loss of my Brothers and especially my Queer family of men who loved me unconditionally and who were my best friends and my lovers, there lived a community that was surrounded by the Light of the Divine, the Light of Grace that brought into the AIDS War a spirit of peace and took away the violence of the trench warfare. I cannot forget that in the midst of all that chaos, fear, and darkness, there was a community of Love and Light that was so blindingly beautiful that I still weep for that incredible beauty, but mostly I weep because that community is no more. I saw back then that as the Queer Body died Queer Spirit thrived. Now, today, as the Queer Body is living because of new medications that keep us alive, Queer Spirit is dead and my work in the world is to bring that spirit of love and compassion, of peace and non-violence back to life. I intend to do this with "From The Ashes Risen". My own battle in the AIDS War, living with HIV since the early 1980's or even late 1970's, and fighting for my very life from 1995 to 2002, has taught me well what my work in the world is. It is to enliven that spirit that lived in the midst of death now in the midst of life, and it is not just a spirit for the Queer community anymore, but a spirit for the world. My work is to drive the Dark Masculine that covers the Earth today away from the world, and help usher in the Light of the Divine Feminine. War, poverty, famine, oppression, disease, bigotry, hatred, deprivation, depersonalization and dislocation, everything that makes our world a place of darkness can be melted away when the community of compassion and love rises up again and we have peace, non-violence, abundance, liberation, wellness, celebration of difference, relocation and a world of Light wherein the Dark Masculine is driven out and the new Masculine as is danced in by Queermen who know these mysteries is invited in through a knowledge of the Divine Feminine.

My dream is to have a world of relationship again, relationship that is filled with justice and peace. No more power-over but power-with will reign. My dream is that "From The Ashes Risen" brings us truly to the reality of that darkness as it existed back then in its incarnation as the AIDS War and exists now generally in the world, and moves us powerfully into a new reality of Light and Grace. My dream is that "From The Ashes Risen" will produce metanoia, a spiritual conversion through repentance for the pain, suffering, and terrible isolation that we have brought upon each other, thus bringing about a world of Embodiment and Incarnation wherein Light and Life are embodied in our very beings. My dream is that "From The Ashes Risen" with give rise to a world of justice and peace, of love and harmony, of compassion and empathy wherein the Darkness is dispelled and the Light flashes forth with new Life and new Love. I want a "new Heaven and new Earth" to be birthed through the imagery and sound of "From The Ashes Risen", through the stories of the Queermen and nurses who fought and continue to fight with courage and resilience from a place of death and destruction to a place of life and re-birth. I want "From The Ashes Risen" to transform consciousness to a place of Higher Self, a place of respect and celebration of the other, a place of Light and Love that can only come from a journey through metanoia. I just want "From The Ashes Risen" to make the world a better place in which to raise children, both Queer and straight, and in which to live our lives and be in relationship in peace. This is the work I have been given to do as I have been given my life back from the jaws of death. I hope to do that work with devotion, grace, and humility, and also a whole lot of Queer Faerie Majick.

Soli Deo Gloria

Thursday, May 13, 2010

To All The Acid Bettys and Cyons and Epiphanies of the World Who Know

Ageism is an ugly truth in the world of Queermen, except the ageism was not coming from other men as much as it was coming from myself to myself tonight. I was in a Gaybar tonight called Hydrate to celebrate the launching of "50 Faggots", a video series on the web in which I play a prominent part. The film is a documentary about effeminate Gaymen (Oddly enough I am not one--I am just very Queer), and all the famous Transvestites and Drag Queens and Divas were there like Epiphany and Acid Betty and JoJo and Bizzy, not to mention the gorgeous Cyon Flare from Detroit. They were all there because they were all in the film, and they loved me. They treated me, this 65-year-old Queerman with a rich and fabulous story to tell, with respect and even love (I think!). But, I am disabled and have AIDS and I had to sit in a chair down on the floor, not on a bar stool, and I could not walk around because of the CROW Walker on my left foot. I tried and kept tripping over stools and stage platform legs, So, there I sat, feeling completely disconnected from everyone there because they were all in their 20's and 30's and I am going to be 65 in 9 days, and I was sitting at their feet practically, their tall, slim bodies swaying above me.

I saw my image on the screen conducting the DePaul University Baroque Ensemble with my silver mustache and bald head, and noticed the utter beauty of Epiphany and the outrageous glamour of Acid Betty, and I thought "I don't belong here. I am not of these people, but these are my people, so how do I fit???" I fought at the Stonewall Rebellion so that Acid Betty can be 7 feet tall with her 18 inch Frenchified mohawk and 4 inch platform heels, looking for all the world like something out of a very avant garde fashion magazine. There was the magnificent Epiphany, blond and beautiful in her face, young and radiant, talking to me about Fire Island, and I thought "you never knew the Fire Island I knew. You didn't lose all your FIre Island Men to the Plague the way I did, and you will never know my history. You will never know my pain."

I felt like a relic of a time gone by, when Gaymen were beautiful Men with hair on their bodies, dark chest hair, dark hair on their legs, dark hairy asses, Men who were Men in the hottest sense of that word, not shaved and chiseled and spray-tanned and blond with not a hair to be seen anywhere on the body except for a small, closely cropped mound of pubic hair that isn't really hair at all but some kind of absurd decoration that I find utterly unattractive. So, there I was among Gay youngmen, young Transvestites, young Drag Queens, the only person in the entire three rooms of the bar over the age of 40, and I am 65, and I HATED MYSELF!!!

I became physically unwell sitting in that throne for the aged Queerman on a cushion so that my no-butt from HIV would not get sore. There I sat, an ancient Elder of a Tribe that did not know the rituals or the symbols or the history, that lacked the Presence of the Queer Fe/Male God/dess. Queer Spirit as i knew it has changed into something foreign and even dangerous to me. I was not of that Tribe. I was from a time and a Tribe long forgotten and long gone, and I felt old and useless and very much a freak among what most people would call freaks. They were not the freaks, though. I was the freak. I was the different one, the one with a silver beard and black mustache, the one with the CROW Walker on my left foot, the one with AIDS in my body, the one who, because of a very toxic medication, is 30 pounds overweight.

A Tribal Elder is only a Tribal Elder when there is the esteem of the Initiates, the respect of the Initiates, and though I felt that respect and esteem last night at Roscoe's, it was not there tonight at Hydrate, and I just felt like an Old Fag, lost and forgotten in a world of head pounding, body slamming, nerve destroying mega noise coming from mega speakers, surrounding mega Drag Queens and mega Transvestites, in a mega Queer world of youth and beauty that is not my Queer world, and I think I have never felt so alone in all my life.

There I was in a Gaybar filled with Gaymen of all sorts (well......not my sort certainly) and felt like I was not part of the ocean. They were all the salt water and I was the fresh water, or maybe they were the fresh water and I was the salt water. Either way, I was a different kind of water than they were, although I felt my wateriness very much. I felt my Queerness. It was just not their Queerness. It was a Queerness that was not of a tribe but of isolation. My Tribe is dead. All dead. Every last one of them dead. And perhaps that's one of the strongest reasons I have to make my film "From The Ashes RIsen" so that I can bring my Tribe back to life somehow, if even for 90 minutes. Bring them back to life, like that heart-rending final scene in 'Long Time Companion" where all the dead Men come back to the beach on Fire Island to hug and dance and love and be the Tribe again. Indeed, perhaps that's why I must make my film. I must bring back the Tribe to do all those things that we did and that got so sadly lost, even among those that survived the holocaust and lived. They, too, lost it.

There are a few left who know who we are, but they are very few and very far between. There are a few left who ache in their Spirits for the Rituals and the Rites, for the Symbols and the Myth. There are a few left who metaphorically nod their head in deference and respect and with their eyes say, "Good evening, Father", and I know that in some the Tribe is remembered in the blood, that in some the Tribe is remembered in the collective unconscious. Those few are sometimes around me and help me know who I am, because tonight at Hydrate, I didn't have a clue. I just knew that my aged AIDS-ridden body was aching and that my left foot was throbbing in pain and that I could not sit there anymore in the midst of the über Queer world that was so macrosocmic when I felt my own microcosm in relation to that larger cosmic structure. I left, making my excuses to Acid Betty telling her that I was not feeling well and would she please relay that to our friend Randy whose night it was, but that I could not stay. My body pain was my Tribal pain, and I felt so alone that I had to go home and really be alone. At least in my aloneness I would not be lonely. In my real aloneness I can at least re-member the life of the Tribe, the joy of real liberation, the Dance that only the Elders can tell. I can re-member it all,and just be alone. Ageism is an ugly truth in the world of Queermen, especially when it is internalized and mine was internalized big time. I got out of there and went home. I cried myself to sleep, mourning the loss of the Myth, mourning the loss of my family of Queermen who were my true companions, friends, and lovers, all taken by the genocide, mourning the loss of the Tribe as I knew it. I think I have not felt so bereft of a community since the holocaust wiped out my entire generation of Queermen in Amerika in just. Where will I go now? Who will hear me now? Who will understand my loss now? Who can know the depth of pain that we all experienced when we were dying like flies on flypaper? I don't know what will become of me now. Now. Now it is time to make my film, to attempt to resurrect the Tribal Consciousness. Acid Betty, Cyon Flare, Randy, and Epiphany are all the face of the Tribe now, and beautiful faces they are, too, especially Cyon who knows the deeper meaning of community, how hard it is to re-make that which died a horrible death. Ageism is a nasty thing, an evil, horrific thing, and those three Drag Queens don't possess one iota of it. They love me, but it is a different kind of love than I have known before. It is my vocation to find more of that love, more of the new face of the Tribe and re-envision community where, for all practical purposes, there is none. I will do it. My film will do it. "From The Ashes Risen" will do it. I swear on the souls of my dead brothers that I will bring the Tribe back to the beach on Fire Island so that we can all dance the Dance together once again.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Mysticism of Queermale Sexmajick

This poem expresses the spirituality of Queermale Sexmajick, the mysticism of Man-on-Man sex. It is a vision I had during a particularly powerful sexual encounter with my then-Master, Jack, who was my lord and god, who, "in pitch black room, in pitch black womb" did appear to me as Shiva Lord elevated one foot off the floor with the Kundalini Serpent coiled at his crown chakra. Avalokitsvara, the Buddhist bodhisatva of mercy and compassion, sat in the room with us, keeping watch and blessing the Sacred Rite. The poem was written in September, 2003, but I wanted it to be in the blog revised with one clarifying line in 2010, because it speaks so much to who I am as a Sexmajician and Tantric Mystic perhaps even more now than it did then, although I am no longer a slave, but a Queerman of my own making. The time of the slave is ended. As I had to be a Master in years gone by, so I had to be a slave as well, so that now there is no need for either, but both as Yang and Yin, to be neither one and yet both and bigger than both, as one makes two makes One, and the Totality of Queer Spirit Dances in my veins, my semen, and my sex. I laugh with joy at such a blessing. I laugh the laugh of the great horned male god as He Dances with His Queermale children, laughing with the joy of Queer Spirit.

And Not A Candle Lit (A Hymn for Jack in Praise of the Mother)

Pitch black the room it was,
and yet a brilliant light to flood
the naked body there,
and not a candle lit.

Pitch black the room it was,
and every inch of Sir I saw
in naked splendor there,
and not a candle lit.

My god, my lord who lay supine
whose scent, whose taste was only mine
to praise, and sing, and magnify
I saw in naked glory there,
and not a candle lit.

Pitch black the room it was.
Pitch black the womb it was,
the womb of Kali Ma who births
with skulls of death around her neck,
and God lay on the bed,
and Light abundant showed Him me
as I saw Him, an ancient tree
of life, of love, of ecstasy,
and not a candle lit.

And yet each hair and each fine line,
each crevice by divine design
in God's great Work of Art
who lay supine upon the bed,
who shot into my heart a dart
of ancient make and Mystery,
and not a candle lit.

Incense burning in the air,
a soft yet keening cant
for Brothers dead who knew our Truth,
from AIDS and HIV,
who knew the hidden Mysteries
of Atum and The Mother She,
who sang and praised and glorified,
who danced and leapt and magnified
the Cosmic Dance of Shiva Lord,
and our two bodies' blended spirits,
two but One, and yet the same,
and each just like the other,
yet one is Master, one is slave,
but both bound to The Mother.

Avalokitsvara sits and watches
in the dungeon black
which floods with tears of mercy,
of great compassion for the boy
who's now a Man, a slave, a toy
and yet a Man and still a boy,
a boy with life and soul abounding,
loving, feeling more astounding
than he's ever felt before.

Pitch black the room it was,
Tibetan chant of Buddhist lore
did spin around and spin around
in still black air that hit the ear,
and hit the walls, and hit the ground,
in still black air that touched the nose
and taken into lungs as black
with darkness as the room of pitch,
and from the lungs a Light forth shown,
breaking out through muscles rich,
through sinew, organ, blood, and bone
to light the room as black as pitch,
and not a candle lit.

And then the light of Light
flared forth from Heart to heart,
from lord to slave and back again,
a golden bridge between two hearts,
creating majick, birthing life,
blue Shiva with the coiled snake,
the Kundalini sitting there atop his crown,
my lord thus sits in lotus full.
God's Light descends on slave bowed down.

A golden bridge between two hearts,
my Lord's and his disciple's.
Sweet lord is raised above sweet slave
by just a foot to show the Way,
but just a foot, for Lord and devotee
are but split by inches high
the one above the other.
Yet face to face,
and breath to breath,
all three eyes to all three eyes,
each looking deep in self for Self,
each searching god for God.

And then I knew that I, the slave,
my Lord I found, the one I've craved
who gives me life until my grave,
a life in Light, in pitch black room,
a Light which floods the naked One
who's lying there as if the sun, as if the Son
Transfigured was in pitch black room,
who births a slave in pitch black womb,
Ma Kali's womb, Lord Shiva's room,
God's Light so bright, it blinds my sight,
and not a candle lit.

soli Deo gloria

Thursday, November 19, 2009

One Door Closes and ...........

A number of months ago a door closed with a very loud bang, a bang that rang in my ears and shattered my nerves and I thought my life had come to an end. Notice that I did not say my life as i have known it had come to an end, but just my life. I was no longer the Director of the DePaul University Baroque Ensemble, my job being given to a young Queen fresh out of graduate school with little life or teaching experience, but certainly a new energy than what I had brought to the school for 21 years. Then my proposal for a new course called Baroque Performance Practice was rejected by the full-time faculty and I was left with nothing at all at DePaul. No more music. At first there was tremendous despair and a great deal of fear, but in my depression, my sweet 12-Step sponsor David G. took me to something to shift my attention away from the darkness that surrounded me. I went to a rally for children of incarcerated parents and I met two fabulous Queermen, Jim B. and RIcky S., and we became immediate friends. They have been an inter-racial couple for many years, both of them have AIDS. They invited me to lunch in their mobile office and we talked for more than two hours about my life and the needs of the Queermale community as the three of us understood those needs. They were hard Men to talk to because they had so much passion and fire of their own, and they had so much to say, that there was not much time for me to talk really, but talk I did. I talked of my passion and love for Queermen, and how I live in an ancient and mysterious myth, The Myth of the Queerman. They insisted that I had a great deal to say and encouraged me to do something with my journey as a veteran of the Stonewall Riots and a veteran of the AIDS Wars, surviving both with courage and brilliant flames. They told me to make a movie called "Project Elder Wisdom", because they said I had so much wisdom and I was clearly an Elder of the Tribe. They told me I had a responsibility as a Tribal Elder to carry the story, to tell the tale, to speak the Tribal Memory, to carry the rituals and symbols and dreams of a people to the people who had forgotten all those things. This is not the first time I had been told this, but each time I was left with nothing to do except hear those words ringing in my ears with no means of accomplishing my given work. I told them that I knew nothing about making films, but they insisted that the film would get made. A film......a film......I am not a cameraman, an editor, a soundman, an artistic director, a director, a composer. I am a harpsichordist and teacher, a spiritual director, and a Gayman with AIDS who was, at that moment in great pain over losing his vocation at DePaul.
Slowly, something began to grow in me. An energy. A light in that terrible darkness. A flash of insight., and I had a revelation of Biblical proportions. It says in "The Big Book" that "more will be revealed", and that which was revealed was so enormous, it knocked me to my knees as I wept with gratitude for all that my life has been, all its pain and all its joy, all the experiences which had thrown me into pits of despair and on to pinnacles of ecstasy. I would make a film about the AIDS War, told by those who fought it and are still fighting it, Queermen who were diagnosed with HIV in the 1980's and later in the 80's and 90's by AIDS, Queermen exactly like myself. Where would I get the Men? Where would I get the money? Where would I find the support? Where would I find the people I needed to help me get this "Project Elder Wisdom" started? I prayed. I meditated. I listened so hard to my inner voice and felt all the darkness of the rejection by DePaul slip away and a new light that was a primal energy at once both creep and slam into my life until I felt as if I were on a roller coaster, moving from the heights of excitement to the depths of fear, from the ecstatic connection of community to the alienation of loneliness and despair that goes with the creative process.

I knew, I just knew, that everything would come if I just opened myself up to the goodness of God and the Mother, to the Universal source of Love and Light, opened myself up to not just my own possibility but to all possibility. All the possibility of what had been for me just days before an impossible universe, to the most exquisite possibility of Love and God, and possibility of Possibility. Again, slowly, things began to happen, and I spoke to my dear friend Randy J. who is, himself, a documentarian videographer. He spoke with me as if this were not just some pipe dream, but a reality of what was to come. He gave me the name of Yoni G., a camera operator with a tremendous amount of documentary experience, and the triumvirate got formed. I became the Producer/Director and main Interviewer, Yoni the Director of Photography (he jumped at the chance to work on such a project), and Randy the Artistic Director and Production Assistant. Well. The foundation had been laid. Now what??? Money!!!!
We decided to approach Modesto "Tico" Valle, Executive Director of Center On Halsted, the LGBT Community Center in Chicago, our home, to try to elicit his help with the project in whatever way Tico thought that might be possible. I first went to Tico myself and presented him with my very unfocused but passionate vision of Possibility, and Tico's eyes danced with glee. He saw how important such a project could be not just to Chicago, but to the entire country, and I told him of my wonderful film crew and their experience, our individual and collective visions, our powerful commitment, and I wanted more than anything else for him to hear the need in my voice, the need for his support, his love, his guidance in fund raising, his help with networking. I left Tico's office with so much more than I had come in with. I came in with an idea and walked out with reality. I started corresponding with my dear friend Sheldon A. a brilliant Queer Chicago composer who I just knew intuitively could produce a magnificent score for the film, even though I knew he had never written for film before, and even though we had only renewed our friendship just a number of months before after many years of separation and no contact. I just knew that Sheldon would make the perfect partner artistically. After a great deal of correspondence, and a lovely dinner with Sheldon and his partner Terry, and after I told Sheldon what I envisioned in my ear to be the underlying sonic aesthetic of the film, Sheldon enthusiastically said yes.

So, now I had my film crew, my mentor and helper at Center On Halsted and a composer who would write a newly commissioned score for the film. Randy, Yoni, and I put together a line-by-line budget, a treatment plan for the film, a time-line for the making of the film, and I wrote a flyer to be copied by the hundreds that would be placed in medical practice waiting rooms asking for possible film subjects. I also called three nurses who were my nurses in Unit 371, the dedicated AIDS Unit at Illinois Masonic Medical Center during the holocaust of the 1980's and 1990's, and asked each of them if they perhaps had an interest in being part of the project. All three agreed wholeheartedly. Within 14 days of putting out the flyers, we now have eight Men and three nurses.

One of the Men who wants to be in the film, Joe E., said that he had some connections to a medical practice in the suburbs that might be interested in our work and that he would approach them with the workings of the project to see what kind of help they might be able to provide. They thought they could provid us with a great gift, which is the use of their 501C3 not-for-profit status so that those who wish to donate money to the making of the film, who share our vision, can do so and be able to take tax write-offs. This is vital if we are to receive any donations of any kind. This was a pearl beyond price. Today, I bought a website domain for my production company Tribal Elder Productions that will be the company that makes the new film "The Elder Wisdom Project" (working title)

For the past 30 years, Queer People have been the initiates for the world. In the 1980's, just like tribal youth among indigenous peoples, we were removed from the "village" (the larger structure) to go into the forest (the years of illness and genocide) with our Initiators (the medical practitioners and alternative medicine practitioners who helped us live) to learn what it was to enter into our Adulthood. The thing that made this ritual process different from Victor Turner's paradigm of the classic ritual process, was that we had to become our own Elders and teach ourselves Adulthood, because no one from the structure, from the larger community, would come near us to help us. We were the lepers. We were the unclean. In that liminal space of anti-structure we grew up, matured, went from the individualistic, consumerist, materialistic partying unproductive youth of the larger structure, to the compassionate and loving, kind and altruistic people that became a community of peace and non-violence, of care and helpfulness, and we brought our Adulthood back to the structure when protease inhibitors hit the world and we were not in such a powerful liminal space anymore. Death began to subside for the most part and slowly, over the ensuing years, the community of Adulthood began to disappear. We slowly unlearned what we had learned in our time in anti-structure, our time of initiation. We had become again the consumerist, materialistic, individualistic, disconnected people of the larger structure. We were and still are mirroring the old structure again. The film, "The Elder Wisdom Project" will re-member the initiation rites, the ritual process, by re-telling the story of the Death Years, by re-membering the genocide and making it a part of us again, by reminding us of where our Adulthood lies so that we can take it back to the larger structure and bring peace and non-violence to the world through Queer Spirit. This is the purpose of Queer People after all, isn't it?

We are the peace makers, the bringers of non-violence, the connected through compassion and love, through altruism and volunteerism. "The Elder Wisdom Project" will be a vehicle for the in-breaking of our Adulthood, our compassion and love, our kindness and generosity, our concern one for the other. For 90 minutes we will move back into our ritual process, from the structure we have prior to witnessing the film, into the anti-structure brought about through the lived witness of the participants in the film who will bring us back to that place of Great Initiation, that place of anti-struture, and back out after the film into the structure changed and able to change the world for the better, as Queer People are meant to do. God and the Mother have put us here for a purpose, and we cannot carry out that Great Purpose without having gone through the Great Initiation which we did in the 1980's. Only now it is time to re-create the Great Initiation in order that our Adulthood be achieved once again and Queer Spirit can flood the world with love and compassion, kindness and altruism, connectedness-in-community that only God and the Mother can give through Their Great Initiation. The filming has begun. The idea has become an entity. The story is getting re-told, and the Myth of the Queerman grows ever bigger.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Body With Spirit: A Queer Theology of Community

It is very sad, but it is also very true, that Queer Spirit is as dead as dead can possibly be. There is certainly no desire anymore in the Queer Community to have a sense of that Spirit, because Spirit implies that there is something called Creation, and Queers have long-ago distanced ourselves from Creation as something made by a Creator. Creation smacks of God. God smacks of the Church, the Synagogue, and the Mosque. God smacks of organized religion, and that smacks of heterosexist homophobia and unspeakable spiritual torture and pain, so Queers in general have disengaged themselves from anything religious, but wrongheadedly have also disavowed themselves from the only thing that can hold us together as a People--Spirit. Oddly, the one place I have found Queer Spirit is in the Queer recovery community of Crystal Meth Anonymous. One of my meetings consists of practically all Queermen with a few occasional women and some Transgender people. Although those wonderful people in recovery would not like to admit it, our Queerness has a great deal to do with the bond we feel toward each other. It is the bond of spirituality in Queer Recovery. It is a bond of Queer Spirit. There is no doubt in my mind about this.

It is a funny thing, but when the genocide was happening during the Death Years of the 1980's and 1990's, during the AIDS Crisis Holocaust, when an entire generation of young, beautiful Gaymen were being slaughtered in their prime, Queer Spirit was so alive and so well, so enormous, so all-encompassing, it boggled the mind. As the body died, the Spirit came to life. No one would touch us, us "lepers", the "unclean". Except for the few Gay medical practices, most physicians wanted nothing to do with us. Landlords threw us out on to the street to die on park benches and sidewalks. Cab drivers would not take us in their cabs. Restaurants refused to serve us. Store personnel refused to wait on us. Airlines refused to allow us to fly. Funeral Homes refused to bury us. Emergency Rooms denied us care. We were denied the use of public toilet facilities. EMT units refused to treat us. In such a world of no services, we had to make our own community of care, our own community of services.

Something happened back then to the so-called Queer Community that was not really a Community at all. Before AIDS, we were just individual Gaymen and Lesbians who were living out our oppressed lives, going to work and coming home at night, some to partners, some to empty apartments and houses, going to bars with friends, and going to parties where there were lots of drugs with letters for names and of course, cocaine and crystal meth, and there were the bath houses that were a great social/sexual attraction for Gaymen. But, there was no community. We were just individuals living out our everyday, individual lives, detached and disenfranchised. Then, when we began to disappear into the darkness of AIDS-related opportunistic infections to die, a Spirit began to grow in us because no one wanted to have anything to do with us. No one would take care of us. No one would feed us. No one would come to our homes with in-home care services, so we had to make all that happen for ourselves. We formed support groups for the dying and for the grieving. We founded hospices so that the dying could dye with dignity. We started soup kitchens, meals on wheels for the shut-in sick, and free food pantries for People with HIV/AIDS. We had fund raisers and benefit concerts to help financially those services which we had to make for ourselves, because no one was doing it for us. Queermen, Lesbians, and allied straight women became an army of care and comfort. Out of death came life abundant.

Suddenly, there was a Community of Compassion and the individual Gay and Lesbian people coalesced into a Queer and Queer Allied Community of Compassion. Queer Spirit built up among us, and there was Love, not just love, but a Divine Presence, Divine Love that came from our Queerness specifically. We became a People of God. It was the fact that we were Queer and we were dying that empowered us to find that spiritual wholeness. Even many atheists, upon their deathbeds, became believers in Something Greater Than Themselves because of the care they were receiving from their Brothers and Sisters who were perfect strangers, because of the outpouring of a love previously unknown. Queer Spirit was alive because we felt ourselves to be very much a part of a Creation that was dying, and in feeling part of that Creation, especially a dying Creation, we were able to feel part of a Spirit that was Life Giving. This was paradox indeed. It must be stated here that this was no Golden Age of Love, but, at its core, a world of horror and death, terror and pain. It was what came out of the horror, what came out of the the terror that made it at least bearable.

It was this Community of Love that helped dispel the messages of terror, those messages of eternal damnation from the Biblical texts of terror. The Community of Compassion helped my Brothers know that, as they were dying from the very thing that defined them as Queer, i.e. sex, they were not only beautiful and worthy of human love, even as they were being abandoned by their families and called pariahs by the media, but that they were Loved by this God whom they were told found them to be an abomination. They discovered the lie under which they had been living. They finally found that they were loved by this God who is Love, and that not only was their illness not a punishment for their sins, it was something from which to grow and learn of themselves in deep and profound ways if they allowed it to be that.

My sweet Brothers found the ineffable Love of God through the love of the Community of Compassion. They found what little good their was in the evil of AIDS. We all found that little good and made it a Very Big Good. We formed those cadres of helpers who cleaned the homes of the ill, who changed their diapers and cleaned up their vomit, who washed the piss- and shit-soiled sheets, who cooked them hot meals and carried them to the Emergency Rooms that would take them in, who sat with them in the dark, lonely hours of those long, long nights of pain breathing with them, holding their hands, and desperately trying to take some of their pain on to ourselves in order to ease their own. As they took their final breaths we held them in our arms and caressed their brows and kissed them on the lips and told them that "all will be well" as our own tears of sorrow and grief poured from our eyes. God was certainly working in us and as the bodies died, Queer Spirit sprang to life. Queer Spirit abounded. We had a love for one another and for ourselves such as we had never known before. Now, in the midst of death, there was Love; there was Life. There was a Community of Compassion where there had been none at all.

Now, today and for the past number of years, AIDS is not killing people anymore, at least not as noisily or in such numbers. It is quieter and less noticeable now, although it is still happening. Indeed, a friend just died from an opportunistic infection only a few weeks ago. Another friend was recently diagnosed with Kaposi's Sarcoma and AIDS-related Lymphoma. So, it still exists. Don't let anybody tell you it doesn't. People with HIV/AIDS are having terrible side effects (really just effects) from HAART--Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy--sudden heart attacks, strokes, osteonecrosis, peripheral neuropathy leading to Charcot Foot, renal failure, liver disease, etc. But, AIDS qua AIDS is a politically incorrect concept now. "There is no such thing as AIDS anymore", we hear. So it is said in the medical communities, anyway, and in the substance abuse recovery communities anyway. "AIDS is a thing of the past". Well, in fact, that's not true, and I am a living witness to that fact, being a Person With AIDS myself who suffers from AIDS-related conditions, but I am not dying anymore. That's for sure. I am not dying. I am very much alive, not always very well, but always very alive. There was a time, though, when the Death Crone was my closest companion and I had just 4 T-Cells. She came for me and She led me by the hand into the Light, but then She decided to let go and I came back. It was just not my time. I had more work to do.

What is certain now is that bodies are not dying from AIDS-related complications anymore, at least not in anywhere near the numbers that we were. And, along with that certainty of life now comes the same and tragic certainty of death of the Community of Compassion. AIDS has become so mainstreamed that only a very few AIDS service agencies still exist. Here in Chicago there is still BE-HIV, Test Positive Aware Network, Vital Bridges, and the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, the largest direct services provider in the Midwest for People with HIV/AIDS. There is the Trinity United Church of Christ AIDS Ministry on the Southside of Chicago which is very large and does major service work in the African American HIV/AIDS community. There are the great medical practices such as Northstar Medical Center that provides the largest HIV/AIDS practice in the city. But, in general, the respect for life and for each individual Queer person, both ill and well, no longer exists as it did during the Holocaust. The Community of Compassion that was so far-reaching no longer exists. As the body lives now, so the Spirit dies now.

Now we have everything we want---better HIV medications, Queer Marriage in a number of states, Queers being more public and even seen as politically correct friends to have in one's circle, better generalized medical care for Queer People with Queer and even not-so-Queer physicians, dentists, and psychotherapists, Queers on TV and in the Movies, Queer Studies courses in colleges and universities, condominiums on Lake Michigan now, 6-figure incomes now, Mercedes Benz's, Accuras, memberships to the best gyms now, pugs, dining in the finest restaurants, season theater and dance tickets now, season opera and symphony tickets, friends with whom to drink and party, everything that makes "life worth living" now. (Although to re-phrase Harvey Milk, he said that only hope makes life worth living, "because without hope, life is not worth living", but I say you can't have hope without Spirit and we don't really have Spirit, so do we really have hope?). We think we have it all now and people are not dying anymore. We have assimilated into the heterosexist corporate world of competition and one-upsmanship, of Madison Avenue and Wall Street, of the Fortune 500 and Who's Who. And so, the Community of Compassion has become a Community of Work and Play, and AIDS is "a thing of the past". Sprit has died as the body has come back to life. We have moved so easily from the spiritual to the material. But, our Queer Brother Jesus has something to say about that, doesn't he? "What does it profit a person to gain the whole world, if he lose his soul?" We have the whole world now (we think and fantasize it anyway), but we have lost our soul, our Queer Soul, our Queer Spirit.

Without Queer Spirit, there is no Queer History, and without Queer History we are not a People, for what makes a people a People is its History. We are simply back to being individual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender people leading our individual Queer lives in a corporate world of individuals competing for the best jobs, the best properties, the best friends, the best of the best, and let the Community of Compassion, let Queer Spirit which bound us into that Community be damned. But, if we as a People let Spirit die, we will as a People surely die and lose our voice in death, the voice that helped make the larger world what it is today, the voice that has sung songs of power and liberation from time out of mind..

It is a sure and certain fact that among the young intellectual elite of this country, in Queer communities on college and university campuses everywhere, there is a deep hunger for Queer Spirit, for Queer History, for the great Queer Myth. This hunger can only get fed with the food of the Story that is ours, the Story that comes out of the Community of Compassion during the Death Years, during the genocide, the Story that comes from the lives of our ancestors, the great artists, writers, composers, dancers and choreographers, architects, and designers, actors and even scientists, the story that is of the Ancients, the Sacred Band of Thebes, that army of Sparta with Lambdas on their shields that was 150 pairs of Warrior/Lovers who won the Trojan War against unthinkable odds, Gaymen all, Men who Loved Men, who fought by their lovers' sides to keep them alive, not just for the glory of the city-state but for the glory and sanctity of their love, Achilles and Patroclus among them, and it was just this sanctity of their love that won them the victory at Troy ("An army of Lovers cannot lose!" "Troy was won by Queers with spears"). It is the powerful Story of the Warriors of the Stonewall Riots in NYC in June, 1969, those enraged Drag Queens and Street Youth, and average ordinary run-of-the-mill Gayman and Lesbians who were in the streets in front of the Stonewall Inn tossing Molotov Cocktails at the police who we barricaded in the bar while we overturned police cars, starting fires, ripping up parking meters and using them to smash police car windshields, getting our heads cracked open and ribs broken by cops' billy clubs, with fire hoses turned on us and dogs and riot gear and it lasted for many nights. It is the spiritual Story that is of the great Lords Shiva and Vishnu who, as two male Hindu gods, had a deeply loving sexual relationship with each other, the Biblical Stories of the same sex love of David and Jonathan in the Hebrew Scripture, and the Gospel Story in Mark of the same sex love between Jesus and "his beloved," "the one Jesus loved best", his disciple John, the one to whom Jesus gave his Mother upon his death, much like one lover would give his parents to his partner upon his death from Pneumocystis Carinii Pneumonia during the Death Years. It is the Story that is of great love affairs, the passionate partnerships of the ages--Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Walt Whitman and his Civil War soldiers in his "city of comrades", Alexander the Great and his lifetime partner Hephaestion from childhood unto death, and all the other great same sex lifetime partnerships to which we can look for our history, for our Queer Spirit. Such love can only be Love, i.e. Divine Presence, which can only exist in Creation, in God's Creation. Once we recognize that there is something called Creation and that we are part of the Great Story of Humanity as Queer People in Creation, we must recognize that something that is called Spirit, for Creation is nothing if it is not Spiritual.

Such a metanoia requires transformation, transformation from the quotidian to the exotic, from the general to the particular, from the terrestrial to the other-wordly. It does not require a transformation from the body to the spirit, for such a dichotomy does not exist in reality, and one is not more exalted than the other. Body and Spirit are the same thing theologically, at least in my theology they are, my Queer Theology, my reality. Certainly, that is a paradox, but then God and spirituality are nothing if not Paradox. So, the great paradox is that as the body dies the Spirit lives, and as the body lives the Spirit dies. This is not how it needs to be now, however. It was so during the Death Years, during the Holocaust that was ours, because that was reality as we understood it at the time, that Augustinian reality of the body/spirit split, where body is bad and spirit is good. It was the common paradigm for body/spirit connectivity, i.e. separation, but now that the body is living, the Sprit, if seen as the same and not as other, can live as well. When that happens, we can live in a state of ecstatic bliss, in the great Community of Compassion that does not require death for it to survive. The Living Body is the fecund soil of the Living Spirit. Each requires the other in order to survive. We do not need to remain in our mundane, competitive, corporate, capitalist, individualistic, materialistic lives. We can live in the Community of Compassion again and be part of Creation again. We can feel the life of a God who does truly have only the very best intentions for us alive in our Community, and as we feel the Sprit moving, we can grab on to our History, because it is the story of Creation, but, more than that, it is the story of our Creation, and we can become a People again, dancing the Great Dance.

We don't need to die in body anymore in order to live in Spirit. We can live in body very well, and celebrate the body and our sexuality very well, and live in Spirit equally well simultaneously. And so, my Queer Theology is not one of body or spirit, or even body and spirit, but, rather, body with spirit, a unity not a dichotomy. We are body/spirits. As our bodies live now with these miraculous, although highly toxic, medications, so can our Queer Spirit live now in a symbiotic Community of Compassion, simple compassion for our Brothers and Sisters as we live our simple lives trying desperately to connect to one another while not yet having a clue as to how to do that. My dear Brothers and Sisters, have the courage to engage our magnificent Queer Myth. It is ours by birthright, ordained by God to be our core definition, to be that which gives us the Community of Compassion in a world of wellness now. To re-engage the Myth means to revive the Tribe from a Community of Compassion that came out of death, out of mourning, to the Community of Compassion that comes out of Life, out of celebration. And then perhaps, indeed, we can have our Golden Age.

Soli Deo Gloria

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What It Is

I continue to be a [spiritual] revolutionary who pursues ideals,
growing in the understanding and learning that what is desired is not always possible.
       Daniel Ortega, Nicaragua

This is just a blog of thoughts and, hopefully, some wisdom gathered through the course of my life, not just my life as an out Queerman since 1965, but my life since childhood.  It also consists of my life with hiv/AIDS, a close companion since the early 1980's, although not clinically discovered until 1991.  In 1995, I had my first opportunistic infection and was diagnosed with "full-blown" AIDS.  My entire brain , every millimeter, was covered with Herpes Simplex lesions, and I lay in a hard coma for ten days.  I woke up.  There were more infections during the ensuing years.  I know I have been infected with hiv since the early 1980's though, because of the profligate sexual life I led in Chicago in the 1970's and then in New York City in the early 80's and the safe sexual life I led after 1984 back in Chicago.  I am sure, actually, that I contracted it in New York where I had sex with seven to ten Men a day seven days a week, three hundred and sixty-five days a year for three years, a rather common way for Gaymen to have lived back then, and we were passing the virus around like the common cold, never knowing, never having any idea, that we were infecting each other with a deadly virus, a sexually transmitted virus that can kill and which did and which still does, only a lot more quietly now.

This blog consists of essays containing some politics, some spirituality, some music critique, some theology, some sexuality, some sex, some Queer culture and history from my own experience and perspective, some loss and pain and, since 1995, a great deal of illness, both psychiatric and physical, from AIDS and the horrifically toxic medications that purport to control the virus, and the relatively good state of my health for the past eight years.  I live in a world of archetypes, a Queer collective unconscious and my Queer myth, and it is from this world of wonder and delight that these essays take their form.  This is not like the usual blog wherein the posts are "300 words or less".  I suppose that I am not a blogger, but, rather, an essayist who writes with no constraints on length or content, and that I choose to publish these essays in blog format.  Be prepared.  These are not going to be sound-bytes in written form, no fast food on The Myth Of The Queerman in these writings.  Be prepared to take time, to be focused, to be interested, and, if you are not, then be interested in the fact that you are not interested.  Be prepared to be present when you are reading.  I require that of my readers.  I am certainly present when I am writing.  I require that of myself, so why should I not require that of you?  Read mindfully and write to me your comments at the end of each post.  I want to know your reactions to this Tribal Elder's thoughts.  We are all of one tribe, and I am an Elder of our Tribe.  I carry the story.  I am a keeper of the majick, of the pipe and the drum, and I speak our oral history and traditions, our culture and our Myth.  There are no written sound bytes in the way I tell or explore the great story.  There are only tales to be told, a Myth to be explored, a tradition to be honored, a culture to inculcate.  This takes words written with melody, rhythm, and harmony, and I offer this music so that we can all learn to sing the great Queer Song together, living in the lives of those Queers that have come before and from whom we are descended.     

I have lived an extraordinary life as a political revolutionary, street queen, Stonewall rioter, child prodigy, international concert harpsichordist, teacher, recording artist, midwife to the dying birthing them into death, pastor, spiritual director, counselor, and budding Episcopal priest.  The ordination never happened, though, because the final approval committee was terrified of my Queerness, of how I interpreted Scripture through my experience as an oppressed Queerman in a hostile society, particularly a hostile Church, and how I understood a loving and redemptive God through that oppression. They trembled at how I would talk about the intrinsic connection between spirituality and sexuality, the importance of the body as Body, and sex as a Way to union with God long before any Gayman was writing, talking, or even thinking about this from a Queer perspective.  I talked on Sunday mornings in full vestments about erotic spirituality, and made the powers tremble. Immediately after the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago slashed and bloodied my Queer soul and left it to die in the streets, the next openly Queer candidates were ordained with little question.  I was the first such to run that gauntlet.  I led my Brothers and Sisters to their promised land of ordination in the Chicago Diocese.  I, however, was not meant to cross the river, because my priestly vocation lay elsewhere, in other things, in the life of my Tribe. It is not so much that I, like Moses, was not permitted into the Promised Land, because I had done nothing against my fellow human beings to be denied such a joy.  It is that ultimately, the Episcopal priesthood was not my Promised Land, so there really was not anything from which I was being kept.  It just was not where I belonged, and, sadly, because of the workings of a rabidly homophobic and heterosexist church, I had to experience some awful pain in order to find that out, as well as many awe-filled moments of awakening around that pain.  Today I belong to no church and have no connection to organized religion at all.  It's better that way.

The quotes at the beginning of each essay are wise words for me and may, or probably, have nothing whatever to do with what is in the essay.  The words are an important part of who I am, and so I in include them simply because I like them.  They are windows into the Myth.  The whole blog is a window through which you can look and see who I am and see who you are, see the intimacies and intricacies of my soul.  I have no secrets.  Incest survivors who have worked on themselves to recover that which was lost usually don't, the wounds created by the secrecy having closed.  My life in the Myth Of The Queerman is ultimately that which helped my wounds to close, and which, ultimately, allows me to live a life with no secrets.

I do not speak for any Queer person but myself.  I can speak for no other Man, and certainly no woman.  I have ideas about how we can be a Queer people in this world, because I know who I can be, who my friends have been and can be still and are yet to be even more, and I have a vision. That vision is, I well know, utopian.  I know that there is no one Queer community but, rather, many Queer communities.  I do believe, however, that there is Queer Spirit that binds all our communities, and there are certain Queer characteristics that we need to recognize in order to make the world a better place, in order to be the majicians who change society for the good, majicians who need to work very hard on ourselves so that we can work very hard on straight society, majicians who need to look deeply into what Carl Jung called our shadow, that part of psyche that we would rather not acknowledge but in which acknowledgement and understanding we can grow in our wholeness, our fullness as Queer human beings.  I am well aware that Gayness, in all its beauty, has its shadow, it dark side.

Also, using the language and work of Carl Jung, I speak of male and female archetypes, those symbols and images that are buried in our instincts and which belong to all peoples no matter what the culture.  They simply take different shapes, different forms depending upon that culture. We find them in myth and story.  For Gaymen, the archehypes of majician, warrior, king, and lover are paramount, but so are the archetypes of the mother, the maiden, the whore, and the crone. We possess them all. There are archetypes of light and archetypes of shadow.  As Mark Thompson in his book "Gay Body: A Journey Through Shadow to Self" (St. Martin's Press, New York, 1997) writes on page 13 about archetypes he says:

"Archetypes are structure-forming elements within the psyche, a treasury of crystalline seeds which give rise to the fantasies and mythological motifs informing our lives.  When activated, they release a great amount of creative energy.  However, archetypes are not the actual contents of the symbols or myths themselves;  they are the imprinted forms or parameters in which psychological material is organized and channeled.  Thus, any given  archetype can find numerous expressions.  The mother archetype, for example, includes not only our real mother but all mother figures ranging from positive to negative--from the Virgin Mary to Medusa."

It is partly through my own inner work with these archetypes that I know in the depths of my soul that we are here exactly because we are Queer, and it is from that deep understanding from which I write.

Spirituality is a tricky business at best.  As a word, the depth of meaning has been so terribly lost because it is so overused and overworked, and even used in such completely wrong ways and contexts, that it oftentimes can have little meaning at all.  So many people say, "Well, I'm not religious but I'm deeply spiritual."  What does that mean, I wonder?  Certainly what it means to those who say it is not what it might mean to me.  We might be poles apart.  Spirituality is colored by one's own experiences, sufferings, joys, epiphanies, sorrows, celebrations, and upbringings in religions of origin.  Spiritual paths are myriad.  True spiritual paths lead us to lives of justice, lives of politics, that is, the interaction between people, and my own spirituality has informed my political life also since 1965 when I had the courage to come out of my dark and terrifying closet when there was no real support system in place, when very few LGBT people anywhere in the country were publicly out.

It was my coming out in 1965 and my work in the Civil Rights Movement, a movement in which I knew my own civil rights were being denied, that led me perhaps in my karma to be at Sheridan Square, in front of the Stonewall Inn, on the night of June 27, 1969, perhaps one of the most spirit-filled and glorious moments of my life, that night of riot, as were the days and nights of passionate rage and solidarity of spirit that followed.  My radical political action of coming out at age 18 in the face of rampant opposition from my Queer friends and peers in 1965, and the political acting out of 23 years of Queer rage at the Stonewall Riots in 1969 were not political for the sake of politics, but for the sake of spirit, for the sake of divine justice, not just for others, but, finally, for myself.

We cannot live in this world without being touched somewhere by teachings of at least a few of the world's great spiritual paths, including Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Taoism and, I must admit reluctantly, the fast food, quick fix spirituality of New Ageism, and even some of the more mystical esoteric ones the come out of those such as the spirituality of the Sufi or Wicca.  Even the alleged atheism of the Queer communities is a valid spiritual path.  It is spiritual because it is alive and lived by those who breathe, and, I believe, if we breathe, we are by definition spiritual.  One's spirituality can also be informed by the inner work of individual psychotherapy, group psychotherapy, spiritual direction, 12-step programs, and support groups of all kinds,  For myself, I have spent decades studying the great religions of the world, reading their holy books, talking to devotees who have practiced their spiritual inner work throughout their lives and were kind and gracious enough to share their wisdom with me.  I have sat, albeit at time in physical discomfort, at the feet of great teachers, listening and trying to take in their wisdom and lived experience.  I have been through the ritual process of initiation into Queermanhood, living in some eternal moments of timeless Time with some of my beloved Brothers, feeling enrobed and molecularly filled with the divine love and blessing of the Mother and the Father, surrounded by and filled with a thoroughly Queermale love and sexuality in tribal nakedness, a classic tribal process which I as a Western man never thought I possibly could experience but did by divine grace, and in which I forgave my father his sin, sitting for a while in a sweat lodge with my naked Brothers during my full forty-eight hours in liminal space wherein there was for me no sexual charge or trigger of my addiction in any way.  This was ecstasy.

Since my childhood in a nominally Jewish household, searching for a truth which was present neither there nor in the religious teaching I received at the synagogue once each week, I began reading about religions of the East in high school and found great wisdom and understanding of a Way in the "Tao Te Ching" by Lao Tzu, and buy using the "I Ching" to put some order into my emotionally and psychologically chaotic and painful life as an adolescent Queerboy, suffering the inner torment of internalized homophobia, of that fear and self-loathing, trembling in a world filled to the brim with hostility. Had it not been for my brother's inquiring mind, these books would not have been available to me as the gift they were.  I would sit on the floor very quietly in my bedroom , after hours of tedious practice at the piano, initially using coins for the work, but then using sticks, gathering them in one hand, counting them off with the other, dividing them, counting them off, dividing them, and counting again until I cast the Kua for the day.  I would read the associated text, and feel all the blame laid on me just for being alive lifted off my shoulders by the words "no blame".  Looking back on it now, I know that I understood very little about this ancient text, but between the two, the "Tao Te Ching" and the "I Ching" and living the life of seeming insanity in a house of monsters, I understood paradox very clearly as an adolescent, and that has served me well during the course of my spiritual journey into and through my Queer adulthood.  

As a consequence of this understanding of paradox, I have a firm faith in God/dess and if God/dess is anything, God/dess is the simplicity of the complexity of paradox.  Light in darkness, darkness in light, separate but indistinguishable, yet transcending both.  Masculine in feminine, feminine in masculine, separate but indistinguishable, yet transcending both.  Heat in cold, cold in heat, separate yet indistinguishable, yet transcending both.  Not one, not two, but One that is two that is neither.  This is the spirituality of the Mother, the One who is both Mother and Father, and yet thoroughly non-dualistic, non-polarized.  This is Queer consciousness which comes from before polarity began in the creation myths of so many cultures.  For me, not the either/or spirituality  and psyche of the incest victim, but the both/and spirituality and psyche of the incest survivor, and yet neither because both are One.  I speak of this when I write of mystical sex and erotic spirituality, and the complete and utter union that is possible, even attainable, between our Queer Body/Spirits and God/dess, not just a place centered in body, of peace and prayer, but of ecstatic, blissful bodily/spiritual oneness with the One wherein we become that which we seek and there is no boundary, no identifiable distinction between human and divine, sacred and profane, because there is nothing between which to distinguish. This kind of ineffable love can only come from the Mother, can only come from being in the Mother, can only come from becoming the Mother, and I would suggest that the purpose of Queer people here on Earth is to bring back to this dangerous, dark, war-torn, environmentally raped world of the shadow of the masculine, the light of the divine feminine, the light of the Mother, for it is only in being in harmony with Her who is all harmony with all things and contains all things that this world can be saved from destruction and annihilation.  I continue this observation and unpack this powerful conviction later in the body of the blog.

Though born a Jew, I was baptized a Christian on the third Sunday in Advent, September 12, 1976, by the Rev. James Edward Avery of the United Church of Christ, a holy Queerman of whom I speak later in this work.  The world lost a glorious light, a brilliant Queer light, when James died an untimely death from an asthma attack at a very young age ten years ago in Chicago.  A dear friend, confident, mentor, and teacher of Queerness and spirituality, a teacher of the esoteric words of the Great Lover, Jesus, I found, through Jim, the rich words of Jesus regarding justice and my own humanity, regarding right relationship and mutuality, regarding healing and peace, and finally regarding redemption through divine Love, which is, after all, Justice.  Certainly, these things are not uncommon in other spiritual teachings, but Jesus' words spoke to me in a very organic way that required little translation into my Western experience and consciousness.

My spirituality is also informed by both the processes of psychotherapy and spiritual direction, having been engaged in the latter with one spiritual director as his directee from 1983 to 2005 and the former on and off since 1964 with a number of brilliant, wise and loving psychotherapists, and then in my own private practice as a spiritual director with my own directess since 1989.  My nine years of focused recovery work from incest in the 1980's shaped me spiritually in profound ways, as did my grace-filled work with my dying Brothers in the AIDS community during the Death Years of the 1980's and 1990's, and ultimately my own experiences with the Death Crone in AIDS-related illnesses during the last five years of the 20th century and into the first two years of the 21st.  AIDS is both the worst thing that ever happened to me and the best. Through it I have come to know the truth of my own mortality, a truth only those who face terminal illness can come to, and we are, relatively, rare.  The lived knowledge of my mortality has changed me profoundly in ways that bring me into a place of greater compassion and understanding of my fellow human beings.  I bring that profound change into my work as a spiritual director and counselor. 

Like the expatriated Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh whose writings have taught me so much, I find that the connections between the teaching of Jesus and the teachings of the Buddha are not dissimilar on many levels.  Both the Gospels and the Buddhist Sutras speak of justice, understanding, compassion, loving-kindness, humility, awakening, and right relationship. It is thought by many scholars that the years of Jesus' disappearance , in fact, were spent in India and Tibet where he studied Buddhism.  If I have to label myself anything, which I don't like doing but do when I have to, when the world needs me to for its own need to clarify my belief system in their own minds, I would say the I am a Buddhist Christian Jew who takes great comfort in the Tao and who moves all of those teachings through my understanding of and life in Queer Spirit, which is to say in the Mother, which I hope is the justice-filled, humble, compassionate and now simpler life of a teacher, although I am told by those I trust that in my feelings and in my psyche, I am anything but simple.  But then being Queer in a world where the larger majority is not, is not a simple thing, so, I suppose, that hose I trust are correct in the assessment.

One weekend I was on a retreat called "Gay Spirit".  When it came time of me to tell my story, the room silenced and the Men, both younger and older, were, again I am told, "enraptured and adoring", and after I spoke, one of the older Queermen in the group said, "You are a tribal elder, Roger, carrying with you an oral tradition and history, a spirit which you feel and live, which cannot be found in any textbook, and you love who you are with a great love.  You teach us to love ourselves.  You teach us about life as Queermen as you live yours in Queer Spirit.  You need to be heard".  My friend Kerry had been telling me to write for a number of years now, because, he said, I have some very important things to say.  Perhaps I have.  Perhaps i have not. I think I have, but to know I have would be a spiritual arrogance that comes close to hubris, and the gods never like hubris.  Often, in my knowledge of my knowledge which is that I have none at all really, I ask God to keep me from hubris, from being arrogant.  Regarding these written thoughts, as is said in 12-step programs, "Take what you like and leave the rest".  After 62 years of Queer life, I am finally able to write.

The opinions and beliefs expressed here are perhaps often quirky and radical and even somewhat siliy or outlandish, but I hold them dear, and I am passionate about them.  I hold who we are as a people dear, and I am passionate about us.  I know in the depths of my soul that we are here exactly because we are Queer, that we are utterly loved by the divine exactly because we are Queer, not in spite of it, and it is from the deep understanding of and passionate conviction in Queerlife from which I write.  I am, hopefully, expressing much of who I truly am through these ideas and the experiences that informed them.  My job on this Earth has always been to gather community and create change, to teach inner awareness of feelings and the fullness of self, either through my musical performance since the age of twelve, or through my speech as a music teacher, public speaker, and former preacher.  In this way, I have always been a teacher/priest.  I hope that my writing now carries on that vocation of teaching through compassionate self-revelation, a vocation that was given to me by my Great Lover, and by her holiness the Mother, and one for which I am eternally grateful.