The Hero's Journey & the Gay Hero

Toby gave a shortened form of this talk in Houston TX, Oct 23, 2016
It was recorded and has been made into a five part YoutTube series.
Click here for the links

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Toby Johnson's books:

Toby's books are available as ebooks from, the Apple iBookstore, etc.

Finding Your Own True Myth - The Myth of the Great Secret III

FINDING YOUR OWN TRUE MYTH: What I Learned from Joseph Campbell: The Myth of the Great Secret III

Gay Spirituality

GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness

Gay Perspective

GAY PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe

Secret Matter

SECRET MATTER, a sci-fi novel with wonderful "aliens" with an Afterword by Mark Jordan

Getting Life

GETTING LIFE IN PERSPECTIVE:  A Fantastical Gay Romance set in two different time periods

The Fourth Quill

THE FOURTH QUILL, a novel about attitudinal healing and the problem of evil

Two Spirits
TWO SPIRITS: A Story of Life with the Navajo, a collaboration with Walter L. Williams

charmed lives
CHARMED LIVES: Spinning Straw into Gold: GaySpirit in Storytelling, a collaboration with Steve Berman and some 30 other writers

Myth of the Great Secret

THE MYTH OF THE GREAT SECRET: An Appreciation of Joseph Campbell

In Search of God


Unpublished manuscripts

About ordering

Books on Gay Spirituality:

White Crane Gay Spirituality Series

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  Toby has done five podcasts with Harry Faddis for The Quest of Life

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  Articles and Excerpts:

Review of Samuel Avery's The Dimensional Structure of Consciousness

Funny Coincidence: "Aliens Settle in San Francisco"

About Liberty Books, the Lesbian/Gay Bookstore for Austin, 1986-1996

The Simple Answer to the Gay Marriage Debate

A Bifurcation of Gay Spirituality

Why gay people should NOT Marry

The Scriptural Basis for Same Sex Marriage

Toby and Kip Get Married

Wedding Cake Liberation

Gay Marriage in Texas

What's ironic

Shame on the American People

The "highest form of love"

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Gay Consciousness

Why homosexuality is a sin

The cause of homosexuality

The origins of homophobia

Q&A about Jungian ideas in gay consciousness

What is homosexuality?

What is Gay Spirituality?

My three messages

What Jesus said about Gay Rights

Queering religion

Common Experiences Unique to Gay Men

Is there a "uniquely gay perspective"?

The purpose of homosexuality

Interview on the Nature of Homosexuality

What the Bible Says about Homosexuality

Mesosexual Ideal for Straight Men

Varieties of Gay Spirituality

Waves of Gay Liberation Activity

The Gay Succession

Wouldn’t You Like to Be Uranian?

The Reincarnation of Edward Carpenter

Why Gay Spirituality: Spirituality as Artistic Medium

Easton Mountain Retreat Center

Andrew Harvey & Spiritual Activism

The Mysticism of Andrew Harvey

The upsidedown book on MSNBC

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"It's Always About You"

The myth of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara

Joseph Campbell's description of Avalokiteshvara

You're Not A Wave

Joseph Campbell Talks about Aging

What is Enlightenment?

What is reincarnation?

How many lifetimes in an ego?

Emptiness & Religious Ideas

Experiencing experiencing experiencing

Going into the Light

Meditations for a Funeral

Meditation Practice

The way to get to heaven

Buddha's father was right

What Anatman means

Advice to Travelers to India & Nepal

The Danda Nata & goddess Kalika

Nate Berkus is a bodhisattva

John Boswell was Immanuel Kant

Cutting edge realization

The Myth of the Wanderer

Change: Source of Suffering & of Bliss

World Navel

What the Vows Really Mean

Manifesting from the Subtle Realms

The Three-layer Cake & the Multiverse

The est Training and Personal Intention

Effective Dreaming in Ursula LeGuin's The Lathe of Heaven

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Gay Spirituality

Curious Bodies

What Toby Johnson Believes

The Joseph Campbell Connection

The Mann Ranch (& Rich Gabrielson)

Campbell & The Pre/Trans Fallacy

The Two Loves

The Nature of Religion

What's true about Religion

Being Gay is a Blessing

Drawing Long Straws

Freedom of Religion

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The Gay Agenda

Gay Saintliness

Gay Spiritual Functions

The subtle workings of the spirit in gay men's lives.

The Sinfulness of Homosexuality

Proposal for a study of gay nondualism

Priestly Sexuality

Having a Church to Leave

Harold Cole on Beauty

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Marian Doctrines: Immaculate Conception & Assumption

Not lashed to the prayer-post

Monastic or Chaste Homosexuality

Is It Time to Grow Up? Confronting the Aging Process

Notes on Licking  (July, 1984)

Redeem Orlando

Gay Consciousness changing the world by Shokti LoveStar

Alexander Renault interviews Toby Johnson

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Mystical Vision

"The Evolution of Gay Identity"

"St. John of the Cross & the Dark Night of the Soul."

Avalokiteshvara at the Baths

 Eckhart's Eye

Let Me Tell You a Secret

Religious Articulations of the Secret

The Collective Unconscious

Driving as Spiritual Practice


Historicity as Myth


No Stealing

Next Step in Evolution

The New Myth

The Moulting of the Holy Ghost

Gaia is a Bodhisattva

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The Hero's Journey

The Hero's Journey as archetype -- GSV 2016

The  Gay Hero Journey (shortened)

You're On Your Own


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Seeing Differently

Teenage Prostitution and the Nature of Evil

Allah Hu: "God is present here"

Adam and Steve

The Life is in the Blood

Gay retirement and the "freelance monastery"

Seeing with Different Eyes

Facing the Edge: AIDS as an occasion for spiritual wisdom

What are you looking for in a gay science fiction novel?

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The Vision

The mystical experience at the Servites'  Castle in Riverside

A  Most Remarkable Synchronicity in Riverside

The Great Dance according to C.S.Lewis

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The Techniques Of The World Saviors

Part 1: Brer Rabbit and the Tar-Baby

Part 2: The Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara

Part 3: Jesus and the Resurrection

Part 4: A Course in Miracles

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The Secret of the Clear Light

Understanding the Clear Light

Mobius Strip

Finding Your Tiger Face

How Gay Souls Get Reincarnated

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Joseph Campbell, the Hero's Journey, and the modern Gay Hero-- a five part presentation on YouTube

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About Alien Abduction

In honor of Sir Arthur C Clarke

Karellen was a homosexual

The D.A.F.O.D.I.L. Alliance

Intersections with the movie When We Rise

More about Gay Mental Health

Psych Tech Training

Toby at the California Institute

The Rainbow Flag

Ideas for gay mythic stories

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Kip and Toby, Activists

Toby's friend and nicknamesake Toby Marotta.

Harry Hay, Founder of the gay movement

About Hay and The New Myth

About Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, the first man to really "come out"

About Michael Talbot, gay mystic

About Fr. Bernard Lynch

About Richard Baltzell

About Guy Mannheimer

About David Weyrauch

About Dennis Paddie

About Ask the Fire

About Arthur Evans

About Christopher Larkin

About Mark Thompson

About Sterling Houston

About Michael Stevens

The Alamo Business Council

Our friend Tom Nash

Second March on Washington

The Gay Spirituality Summit in May 2004 and the "Statement of Spirituality"

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Book Reviews

Be Done on Earth by Howard E. Cook

Pay Me What I'm Worth by Souldancer

The Way Out by Christopher L  Nutter

The Gay Disciple by John Henson

Art That Dares by Kittredge Cherry

Coming Out, Coming Home by Kennth A. Burr

Extinguishing the Light by B. Alan Bourgeois

Over Coffee: A conversation For Gay Partnership & Conservative Faith by D.a. Thompson

Dark Knowledge by Kenneth Low

Janet Planet by Eleanor Lerman

The Kairos by Paul E. Hartman

Wrestling with Jesus by D.K.Maylor

Kali Rising by Rudolph Ballentine

The Missing Myth by Gilles Herrada

The Secret of the Second Coming by Howard E. Cook

The Scar Letters: A Novel by Richard Alther

The Future is Queer by Labonte & Schimel

Missing Mary by Charlene Spretnak

Gay Spirituality 101 by Joe Perez

Cut Hand: A Nineteeth Century Love Story on the American Frontier by Mark Wildyr

Radiomen by Eleanor Lerman

Nights at Rizzoli by Felice Picano

The Key to Unlocking the Closet Door by Chelsea Griffo

The Door of the Heart by Diana Finfrock Farrar

Occam’s Razor by David Duncan

Grace and Demion by Mel White

Gay Men and The New Way Forward by Raymond L. Rigoglioso

The Dimensional Stucture of Consciousness by Samuel Avery

The Manly Pursuit of Desire and Love by Perry Brass

Love Together: Longtime Male Couples on Healthy Intimacy and Communication by Tim Clausen

War Between Materialism and Spiritual by Jean-Michel Bitar

The Serpent's Gift: Gnostic Reflections on the Study of Religion by Jeffrey J. Kripal

Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion by Jeffrey J. Kripal

The Invitation to Love by Darren Pierre

Brain, Consciousness, and God: A Lonerganian Integration by Daniel A Helminiak

A Walk with Four Spiritual Guides by Andrew Harvey

Can Christians Be Saved? by Stephenson & Rhodes

The Lost Secrets of the Ancient Mystery Schools by Stephenson & Rhodes

Keys to Spiritual Being: Energy Meditation and Synchronization Exercises by Adrian Ravarour

In Walt We Trust by John Marsh

Solomon's Tantric Song by Rollan McCleary

A Special Illumination by Rollan McCleary

Aelred's Sin by Lawrence Scott

Fruit Basket by Payam Ghassemlou

Internal Landscapes by John Ollom

Princes & Pumpkins by David Hatfield Sparks

Yes by Brad Boney

Blood of the Goddess by William Schindler

Roads of Excess, Palaces of Wisdom by Jeffrey Kripal

Evolving Dharma by Jay Michaelson

Jesus in Salome's Lot by Brett W. Gillette

The Man Who Loved Birds by Fenton Johnson

The Vatican Murders by Lucien Gregoire

"Sex Camp" by Brian McNaught

Out & About with Brewer & Berg
Episode One: Searching for a New Mythology

The Soul Beneath the Skin by David Nimmons

Out on Holy Ground by Donald Boisvert

The Revotutionary Psychology of Gay-Centeredness by Mitch Walker

Out There by Perry Brass

The Crucifixion of Hyacinth by Geoff Puterbaugh

The Silence of Sodom by Mark D Jordan

It's Never About What It's About by Krandall Kraus and Paul Borja

ReCreations, edited by Catherine Lake

Gospel: A Novel by WIlton Barnhard

Keeping Faith: A Skeptic’s Journey by Fenton Johnson

Dating the Greek Gods
by Brad Gooch

Telling Truths in Church by Mark D. Jordan

The Substance of God by Perry Brass

The Tomcat Chronicles by Jack Nichols

10 Smart Things Gay Men Can Do to Improve Their Lives by Joe Kort

Jesus and the Shamanic Tradition of Same Sex Love by Will Roscoe

The Third Appearance by Walter Starcke

The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight by Thom Hartmann

Surviving and Thriving After a Life-Threatening Diagnosis by Bev Hall

Men, Homosexuality, and the Gods by Ronald Long

An Interview with Ron Long

Queering Creole Spiritual Traditons by Randy Conner & David Sparks

An Interview with Randy Conner

Pain, Sex and Time by Gerald Heard

Sex and the Sacred by Daniel Helminiak

Blessing Same-Sex Unions by Mark Jordan

Rising Up by Joe Perez

Soulfully Gay by Joe Perez

That Undeniable Longing by Mark Tedesco

Vintage: A Ghost Story by Steve Berman

Wisdom for the Soul by Larry Chang

MM4M a DVD by Bruce Grether

Double Cross by David Ranan

The Transcended Christian by Daniel Helminiak

Jesus in Love by Kittredge Cherry

In the Eye of the Storm by Gene Robinson

The Starry Dynamo by Sven Davisson

Life in Paradox by Fr Paul Murray

Spirituality for Our Global Community by Daniel Helminiak

Gay & Healthy in a Sick Society by Robert A. Minor

Coming Out: Irish Gay Experiences by Glen O'Brien

Queering Christ by Robert Goss

Skipping Towards Gomorrah by Dan Savage

The Flesh of the Word by Richard A Rosato

Catland by David Garrett Izzo

Tantra for Gay Men by Bruce Anderson

Yoga & the Path of the Urban Mystic by Darren Main

Simple Grace by Malcolm Boyd

Seventy Times Seven by Salvatore Sapienza

What Does "Queer" Mean Anyway? by Chris Bartlett

Critique of Patriarchal Reasoning by Arthur Evans

Gift of the Soul by Dale Colclasure & David Jensen

Legend of the Raibow Warriors by Steven McFadden

The Liar's Prayer by Gregory Flood

Lovely are the Messengers by Daniel Plasman

The Human Core of Spirituality by Daniel Helminiak

3001: The Final Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke

Religion and the Human Sciences by Daniel Helminiak

Only the Good Parts by Daniel Curzon

Four Short Reviews of Books with a Message

Life Interrupted by Michael Parise

Confessions of a Murdered Pope by Lucien Gregoire

The Stargazer's Embassy by Eleanor Lerman

Conscious Living, Conscious Aging by Ron Pevny

Footprints Through the Desert by Joshua Kauffman

True Religion by J.L. Weinberg

The Mediterranean Universe by John Newmeyer

Everything is God by Jay Michaelson

Reflection by Dennis Merritt

Everywhere Home by Fenton Johnson

Hard Lesson by James Gaston

God vs Gay? by Jay Michaelson

The Gate of Tears: Sadness and the Spiritual Path by Jay Michaelson

Roxie & Fred by Richard Alther

Not the Son He Expected by Tim Clausen

The 9 Realities of Stardust by Bruce P. Grether

The Afterlife Revolution by Anne & Whitley Strieber

AIDS Shaman: Queer Spirit Awakening by Shokti Lovestar

Facing the Truth of Your Life by Merle Yost

The Super Natural by Whitley Strieber & Jeffrey J Kripal

Secret Body by Jeffrey J Kripal

In Hitler's House by Jonathan Lane

Walking on Glory by Edward Swift

The Paradox of Porn by Don Shewey

Is Heaven for Real? by Lucien Gregoire

Enigma by Lloyd Meeker

Scissors, Paper, Rock by Fenton Johnson

Toby Johnson's Books on Gay Men's Spiritualities:

Perspective cover
Gay Perspective

Things Our [Homo]sexuality
Tells Us about the
Nature of God and
the Universe

Gay Perspective audiobook
Gay Perspective is available as an audiobook narrated by Matthew Whitfield. Click here

Spirituality cover
Gay Spirituality

Gay Identity and 
the Transformation of
Human Consciousness

Gay Spirituality   is now available as an audiobook, beautifully narrated by John Sipple. Click here

charmed lives
Charmed Lives: Gay Spirit in Storytelling

edited by
Toby Johnson
& Steve Berman

secret matter
Secret Matter

Lammy Award Winner for Gay Science Fiction


Getting Life
Getting Life in Perspective

A Fantastical Romance

Life in Perspective audiobook
Getting Life in Perspective is available as an audiobook narrated by Alex Beckham. Click here 

The Fourth Quill

The Fourth Quill

originally published as PLAGUE

The Fourth Quill is available as an audiobook, narrated by Jimmie Moreland. Click here

Two Spirits: A Story of Life with the Navajo

with Walter L. Williams

Two Spirits
audiobookTwo Spirits  is available as an audiobook  narrated by Arthur Raymond. Click here

Finding Your Own True Myth - The Myth of the Great Secret III
Finding Your Own True Myth:
What I Learned from Joseph Campbell

The Myth of the Great Secret III

Search of God in the Sexual Underworld
In Search of God  in the Sexual Underworld

The Myth of the Great Secret II

The Myth of the Great Secret: An Appreciation of Joseph Campbell.

This was the second edition of this book.

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Toby Johnson's titles are available in other ebook formats from Smashwords.

Gay Perspective cover imageN.b. Throughout this page and elsewhere, I use the term "spirituality" to mean a set of themes, ideas, and practices that appeal to particular types of people and show direction and give solace, meaning and joy. "Spiritualities," in this sense, are like leitmotifs, they provide the content for what we say to ourselves in our minds as we explain our lives to ourselves.

For example, one can speak of a Jesuit spirituality, based on a model of military life; a Franciscan spirituality, based on love of nature and simplicity; a husbandry or hunter's spirituality, based on killing animals to provide necessary food; a vegan spirituality, based on respect for all sentient lives. Women's spiritualities, for instance, include lunar references to draw in the female experience of menstruation and the monthly passage of blood. Men's spiritualities include doing and working and sexual imagery to draw in the male experience of needing to jettison reproductive fluid daily. Heterosexual/married spiritualities include notions of complementarity and completion and balance of binary forces as well as valorization of reproduction, parenting, and domesticity and stability. So similarly, gay/queer spiritualities include valorization of being outsiders, explanations of sex and pleasure beyond reproductive imperatives, the beauty and symmetry of sames, the balancing of polarities within self, the call to adventure and risk, free of parental responsibilities, following the life of the wanderer and vagabond. Bisexual spiritualities, the freedom to choose and to change and to live beyond excluding alternatives; and trans* spiritualities, the quest for authentic experience of self and the power of will to change the status quo. These are not exclusive of one another, nor in competition with one another. Such spiritualities differ from person to person the same way as favorite songs or meaningful lines of poetry or sacred scripture. Some people like John 3:15, some the 23rd Psalm, others Walt Whitman's Song of Myself. All spiritualities aim at giving meaning to life and expanding consciousness beyond self for the sake of happiness and the continued evolution of human consciousness itself. Human life is about exploring consciousness. The great religious, mythical and spiritual traditions provide language and potent symbols, metaphors and imagery for that exploration. Everyone of us is a hero on a quest for our True Self.

The Hero's Journey

Gay Spirit Visions 2016 Presentation

by Toby Johnson


Everyone of us is a hero on a quest for our True Self.

Heroes need to be sung, so I'll name some of my heroes.
It's important we recognize each other's contributions.

The Hero’s Journey is a pattern in the collective consciousness. In fact, maybe it’s the main pattern, what Joseph Campbell called the "monomyth."

The point of understanding this is to feel alive in the great web of life. "Spirituality" is about the larger context, the Big Picture.

I am going to talk about the concept of the Hero's Journey, about a specific "Gay Hero Journey" that shows up in individual lives AND also in the history of the movement, and I'm going to suggest how to understand all this as a "spiritual quest" for a kind of Enlightenment that arises from the consciousness created by being gay, queer, LGBTQIA+.

Gay Spirit Visions 2016
Here's the description of GSV from the 1990 application brochure.

GSV 1990

There are lots of new words and new connotations in the umbrella LGBTQIA+. They exist today because of the exploring and creating that was going on in 1990. They don't have to be competitive or confrontational.

"To explore and create their spiritual destiny on an awakening planet" IS the Hero Journey.

The pattern is: start, rise a little, fall a little, run into obstacles, overcome them,
rise a little more, fall more, be brave, overcome fear and resistance, have a great adventure and success, discover a secret or find a treasure, then relax, and come home bringing boons.

That’s the story of Dorothy in the Wonderful Land of Oz.

It's the story hunters have told around the fire when they come in from the hunt and warriors from the battle—and this has been going on a hundred-and-fifty-thousand years.

It’s the pattern of human sexual arousal. Seduction, overcoming obstacles, beginning foreplay, going into the altered state of passion, intromission, rising, holding back, rising, holding back, rising, rising, release, gradual decline, withdrawal, afterglow.

During any specific episode in life, it describes how we face events and resolve problems.

It's Elizabeth Kübler-Ross's Five Stages of Grief: Denial, Bargaining, Anger, Depression, Acceptance.
Just like with the stages of grief, it helps to understand that you're going through a process.

And over a lifetime, it appears as the stages of psychological and personality development and maturation in each person’s life.

The Hero with a Thousand Faces

And, of course, it is the basic pattern for all stories—from fairy tales to great literary novels, folk stories to TV and movie dramas. Every episode of every TV show—from comedy to cop thriller—is structured by a plot that follows what Scott Meredith called “the plot skeleton” and Joseph Campbell "the hero’s journey."

And, as Joseph Campbell specifically observed in his masterwork The Hero with a Thousand Faces, it is the basis of all religion and myth—all saviors, gods and cosmogonies.

Joseph Campbell

Joseph Campbell

Some of you may know that I only partly tongue-in-cheek fancy myself “Joseph Campbell’s apostle to the gay community.” It isn’t so much Joe Campbell in particular that I want to champion, though he was, in fact, a wonderful fellow, but the stance of understanding religion and ultimate truth from a perspective over and above. I associate all this way of thinking with Campbell because he was my personal entry into it.

Joseph Campbell

By happy chance, I got Joseph Campbell himself as the Wise Old Man of my own personal hero journey. I was part of the team that worked at many of his appearances in Northern California throughout the 1970s, and I carried on a correspondence with him in thoughtful, mostly handwritten, letters for some ten years.

Hero Journey from The Hero with a Thousand Faces

The mythological hero, setting forth from his common day hut or castle, is lured, carried away, or else voluntarily proceeds, to the threshold of adventure. There he encounters a shadow presence that guards the passage. The hero may defeat or conciliate this power and go alive into the kingdom of the dark (brother-battle, dragon-battle; offering, charm), or be slain by the opponent and descend in death (dismemberment, crucifixion). Beyond the threshold, then, the hero journeys through a world of unfamiliar yet strangely intimate forces, some of which severely threaten him (tests), some of which give magical aid (helpers). When he arrives at the nadir of the mythological round, he undergoes a supreme ordeal and gains his reward. The triumph may be represented as the hero's sexual union with the goddess mother of the world (sacred marriage), his recognition by the father-creator (father atonement), his own divinization (apotheosis), or again—if the powers have remained unfriendly to him his theft of the boon he came to gain (bride-theft, fire-theft); intrinsically it is an expansion of consciousness and therewith of being (illumination, transfiguration, freedom). The final work is that of the return. If the powers have blessed the hero, he now sets forth under their protection (emissary); if not, he flees and is pursued (transformation flight, obstacle flight). At the return threshold the transcendental powers must remain behind; the hero re-emerges from the kingdom of dread (return, resurrection). The boon that he brings restores the world (elixir).
Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Part I, Chapter IV, The Keys

This is crucial for novelists

The Plot Skeleton from Scott Meredith's Writing to Sell

1. A recognizable three-dimensional main character (protagonist/hero), someone with whom the reader can sympathize and identify, finds himself confronted at the very beginning of the story with a
Writing to Sell
2. Problem, which must be seen, both by the protagonist and by the reader, as something serious, specific, not necessarily complex, but certainly urgent. As the protagonist attempts to find the answer to his problem, he becomes embroiled in a series of

3. Complications, which take the reader deeper into the web of conflict caused by the initial difficulty. The protagonist's situation progressively increases in severit
y, matters become darker and more urgent, until finally the reader arrives at the

4. Climax, the point of absolute crisis. Now all seems lost, and the reader is under the impression that the protagonist will be defeated by his problem. At the last moment, however, he rallies to arrive at the

5. Solution, in which the original problem is overcome. The protagonist must accomplish his task single-handedly (or as near to that as circumstances will allow), and the story, in providing a satisfactory solution, must avoid any major coincidence or the saving presence of a deus ex machina. (In other words, the reader must see that the efforts of the protagonist have led to the successful resolution of the conflict.)

The Writer's Journey

The Writer's Journey

The Hero's Journey—as a "Mythic Structure for Writers"—according to Christopher Vogler, in The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, 3rd Editionby screenwriter and creative writing instructor Christopher Vogler.

I like the cover of Vogler's book because it shows a maze-like labyrinth for the Hero Journey.

The labyrinth is a potent symbol of the journey inward, and back outward again. You move along a tortuous, winding path on which you often do not know whether you are walking forward or backward toward or from your goal. In the midst of it, you can feel lost and alone and helpless.

The Hero Journey, however, is not a maze. The path is known.
Says Campbell:

We have not even to risk the adventure alone for the heroes of all time have gone before us. The labyrinth is thoroughly known ... we have only to follow the thread of the hero path.

And where we had thought to find an abomination we shall find a God. And where we had thought to slay another we shall slay ourselves. Where we had thought to travel outwards we shall come to the center of our own existence. And where we had thought to be alone we shall be with all the world.
The Power of Myth, Intro Credits


I wonder what Campbell meant by "abomination." The word, of course, means simply a taboo violation, something in today's teen slang we'd call "gross" (like picking your nose in public). But it is so often specifically applied to sexual variance. And its old-time biblical sound has made it seem especially egregious and offensive, even though it's just the opposite. Did Joseph Campbell understand that within homosexual experience, "we shall find a God"? Whatever he meant, we can certainly affirm that meaning for ourselves.

Gay Hero Journey

Lloyd Meeker
ay novelist Lloyd A Meeker has several articles on the Internet about the Hero's Journey.

Meeker has a wonderful account of a "Gay Hero's Journey" in which he elucidates each of the stages of the Hero Cycle in the life of a young gay man he names Harold.

It's Harold discovering his homosexual feelings
, struggling with then understanding them, falling in love, losing love, finding a counselor, coming out, being rejected, being bullied and humiliated, leaving home, learning about gay life and gay culture, experimenting with sex, drinking too much and getting into trouble, being rescued by a drag queen who shows him the way through the gay world, rejecting temptations to use sex for drugs and money, taking responsibility for his own life, buckling down and building a life, volunteering in a gay community organization, finding true love, reconciling with his parents and receiving their blessings on his relationship, and becoming a psychologist and guide himself.

It's a delightful presentation of the stages, with witty twists on the age-old mythological themes—like "the Goddess" being the worldly-wise drag queen with a heart of gold.

And it is also a very familiar and believable story, because Meeker's account of the gay hero "coming out" journey is so close to what almost all gay men—and with some variations, lesbians, bisexuals, trans* people and queers—go through, even when they've grown up with total gay acceptance. There's always a realization and understanding of being different, being queer (even in all its glory).

One night [Harold] is reading something by Joseph Conrad: “Facing it, always facing it, that’s the way to get through. Face it.”

Every human being, of course, goes through the Hero Cycle of their whole life and the many mini-cycles that go on in each and virtually every phase of life. Every adventure, every episode in our lives follows this pattern.

Here's a link to Lloyd Meeker's Gay Hero's Journey

The Restlessness within and the Absence of Guides

In two accompanying articles on the website, Meeker presents what he calls "Essential differences in a gay Hero's Journey." In Part One, Meeker notes that the real gay person (and the gay protagonist of a novel) experiences the Separation from the World and the Call to Adventure as arising within themselves.
mail carrier

Traditionally, the hero gets "called" by something outside him or herself: a letter arrives in the mail, or he or she is drafted, or an inheritance is bestowed, or a mysterious event happens that must be investigated.

gay body, sketch by Bernard Perlin from The AdvocateBut the gay hero starts with a restlessness within
AND the restlessness is at the level of sex, love and romance. It is felt in the body, as the self. The restlessness may be with his or her own body—"There is something wrong with me."

He discovers he is
living in a world in which he does not quite fit even, especially, in his own family. He or she may feel self-conscious, worried what other people think.

Meeker says the gay man's Great Wound is "not belonging." And in order to belong to something, he must go out to find it.

His role-models and heroes are not provided by society, culture, religion and family. The great accomplishments of homosexuals are mostly hidden. The guides and wayshowers won't come to him; he must find them.

This is why homosexuals, rightly!, relish discovering the real histories of people like Alexander the Great, Michaelangelo, Isaac Newton, Abraham Lincoln, or Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich and Cary Grant and Randolph Scott, etc.

gay history month collage

The Missing Myth

Wonderful book by Gilles Herrada that examines the questions about genetics and brain development as "causes" of homosexuality. Herrada also discusses the "absence of myths" about homosexuality in Western culture.

Shape-shifters and Performers

In Part Two, Meeker notes that the gay hero "understands the familiar world from a perspective that is ideally equipped to bring outside-the-box thinking for change, insight, compassion and creativity. But it takes courage to do it." Such a gay hero most likely goes through an experience of being a shape-shifter.

This is generally not a quality of the traditional hero (though it might be a special power); indeed, part of being a male hero was boldly being who you are, the young straight man come to accomplish his mission, the warrior, the dragon-slayer.

The gay hero, on the other hand,—that is, most of us gay men as we have figured out how to live this life—learns to pretend and to be something he is not; he learns to pass. He can keep secrets.

This skill gives perspective. You learn how to perform—and to know you are doing it and to be able to control it.

When Lloyd Meeker, the writing instructor, writes that the gay hero needs to have shape-shifter skills, he is giving advice to novelists about how to write the kind of books that Meeker himself writes. For novels like these—gay genre fiction—is one of the major ways gay men can find those guides and wayshowers that aren't acknowledged in the mainstream culture.

So when Meeker says your gay character can have shape-shifting skills, he is also presenting the wisdom about your real life—living through the life course of a gay man has taught you to understand performance and pretense, yours and other peoples'.


This is a double-edged sword, he says, and the gay protagonist—that is, the gay person living the "right path"—must find an internally congruent, authentic way to belong when he or she returns.

The Long and Winding Road brings you back home.

Gate Keepers, Spiritual Connectors and Exemplars

In a separate article, titled
Letter to a New Generation of Gate Keepers, Meeker writes to a young generation that has perhaps had an eaiser time of coming out as gay/queer, but still have a "hero task" of learning to make being gay a positive and contributing talent. 

This is, of course, what so-called "Gay Spirituality" is about: recognizing how the natural traits and talents that go with being an outsider, at least in the sense of being a member of a minority, and with being freer about sex and gender roles can be recognized as spiritual gifts and spiritual practices.

Malidoma Some

Meeker recounts a little of his own life and hero journey to be the modern gay man that he now is; in that process he reports of the African Dagara peoples' notion that homosexuals and gender variant people were Gate Keepers who had an essential function in the life of the tribe—of maintaining the living connection between the earth and the spirit world.

Meeker proposes a series of virtues gay people ought to learn. In that sense, this third article completes the Hero Cycle by elucidating the boons the hero returns with.

Lloyd Meeker's advice:

Learn to listen to other people,
cultivate a sense of wonder,
be delighted,
be open,
practice kindness and friendship.

Our friend Daniel Helminiak offers a very similar formula:

Be responsible,
Be reasonable,
Be intelligent,
Be attentive.

"You are gay for a reason—the Universe has entrusted you with stewardship of a certain kind of spiritual consciousness and power," says Meeker.

Here are the links again:

Essential differences in a gay Hero’s Journey – Part One

Essential differences in a gay Hero’s Journey — Part Two

Letter to a New Generation of Gate Keepers

"Reasons We're Here": Ten Functions of Gay People de la Huerta

Writer, breath coach and retreat master Christian de la Huerta identified ten "spiritual functions" of gay people in his groundbreaking 1999 book Coming Out Spiritually.

1) Catalytic Transformers: Queer people often function as catalysts, acting as agents of change, helping to bring about reform, inciting social movements, and supporting the advancement of humanity.

2) Outsiders: As outsiders, queer people help society to more accurately perceive itself. We reflect diversity and help society determine its limits and boundaries.

3) Consciousness Scouts: One of the traditional roles we have played throughout history has been discovering new paths, searching out new answers, being “consciousness scouts”—those who go first to see what lies ahead.

4) Sacred Clowns and Eternal Youth: Queer people seem to embody a spirit of humor and youthfulness, qualities that often bring entertainment, sustenance, and a refreshing sense of joy to the world.

5) Keepers of Beauty: Throughout history, queer people have been responsible for creating, promoting, and supporting much of the world’s art and beauty, and have done so disproportionately to our numbers.

6) Caregivers: Gay people have fulfilled the function of healers, teachers, and caregivers of all types—from physicians to massage therapists, from counselors to flight attendants, and in all forms of the service industry.

7) Mediators: Gay people have often served as mediators or “go-betweens,” particularly between the genders as well as between the physical and spiritual realms.

8) Shamans and Priests: Throughout history, and across many cultures, queer people often have assumed roles of spiritual leadership, and have been honored, respected, and revered for doing so.

9) The Divine Androgyne: The sacred writings of several spiritual traditions include references to the concept of “holy androgyny”—the marriage within each person of both female and male aspects of the psyche, which could have evolutionary significance.

10) Gatekeepers: According to some traditions, gay people have a “higher vibrational level” and are uniquely suited for the role of “gatekeepers,” or “guardians of the gateways, with the spiritual world.”
Christian de la Huerta, Coming Out Spiritually

The Hero Journey as
Spiritual Quest

Transformation of Self

Ugly duckling in nest
Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale of the Ugly Duckling is an allegory about growing up gay. Maybe Andersen himself even knew and intended that.

ugly duckling scorned

It's a very popular story and applies to lots of children's growing up and finding their body changing, but it has specific meaning for queer people because it's about being "different" from your own family.

The cygnet raised among ducks, ashamed and outcast, has to discover his true identity, and when he does, he is transformed into a swan. The Gay Hero Journey is always about transformation and finding the True Self.

We have to learn to see our worlds differently from how we were taught. We have to understand sexuality differently. We have to perceive and value our body parts—our "private parts"—differently. We have to transform what we think homosexuality is. We have to "create something from nothing."

We have to change how we see ourselves. The transformation is about self and self-concept.

So changing how you see things and showing other people how to see things differently is a creative power and task of the gay hero.

Taking or Receiving your True Name

faeries with harry

Transformation is signified by changing one's name. That's why monks and nuns take religious names, and Radical Faeries take Faerie names and, indeed, why traditionally women took their husbands' name—to signify change.

Radical Faerie co-founder Harry Hay,
a popular Marxist teacher in the 1940s,
"queers" the Communist hammer and sickle
 at a 1987 gathering in Wolf Creek, Oregon.
Photo by Mark Thompson

Mark & Malcolm

Malcolm Boyd
June 8, 1923 - February 27, 2015


Mark Thompson
August 19, 1952 - August 11, 2016

Through what he published in The Advocate as Culture Editor and which was then published as Gay Spirit: Myth & Meaning, Mark can rightly be thought of as the "Founder" of Gay Spirituality.

his is also what political signifiers are about. Choosing to identify as homosexual or homophile or gay or LGBT or as queer or trans* or bi, as a rainbow child or proud but unlabelled—all are ways of expressing self-discovery and change.

Each of these terms, you can see, represent generational and cultural changes in how sexual and gender variance is understood.

Knowledge at each stage makes possible and expands knowledge at the next stage. Knowledge of homosexuality made
possible "gay identity." "Gay" consciousness made possible the awareness of trans* consciousness. Layers of identity multiply. Transformation itself results in a self-fulfilling prophecy of more transformation.
In a way parallel to what Lloyd Meeker called "shape-shifting" in the individual sex and gender variant person, the reality and the terminology of LGBTQIA+ shape-shifts through time. This  parallels the Foucaultian, Queer Theory idea that sexual identities are constructed rather than essential.

Heroes change their names or get new names as part of the stage of Initiation. And their world changes.

Discovering a New World

subject-SUBJECT Consciousness

Harry Hay (there in the photo of the Radical Faeries above in pink pants with the hammer), founder of the original Mattachine Society and then much later the Radical Faeries and an important voice in "gay consciousness," said that a major strength of homosexual experience is relating to other same-sexed people as "subjects" like yourself. We can understand each other in a way most straight people just don't. We share a secret understanding. We certainly understand each other at the level of sexuality and desire. Hay used the terms subject-SUBJECT and subject-object. He said most heterosexuals treat each other as "objects."

I and Thou

These parallel the terms created by the Jewish Existentialist philosopher Martin Buber: I-Thou and I-It. These were popular terms at the time for describing authentic, compassionate, understanding, respecting relationships, equal-to-equal, I-Thou.

Hay was intentionally contrasting homosexual and heterosexual relationships, wanting to give special dignity and respect to the homosexual at a time when homosexuals were not believed
to be able to have interpersonal relationships at all.

Another way of saying that is that gay/queer people are attracted to sames, not opposites. There is an understanding and resonance between men and men and women and women.
yin yang
Between men and women, there is difference.
Vive la difference.
        Friction, frisson.
The "battle of the sexes" makes the world go round.

Those to whom difference is fundamental to reality naturally see the duality and polarity everywhere—The Knowledge of Good and Evil—, and opposite poles are perceived to be mutually exclusive and repulsive. Most of the "adversarial," "competitive" quality of human life arises from the heterosexual POV.

fairy"Free Your Mind and the Rest Will Follow."

This transformation and name-changing/identity-changing can also be a transformation of the world—from one of duality, conflict and competition to one of oneness, harmony and cooperation.

These are "new-age," 21st century values that everybody is coming to honor. And they transcend the hetero-homo dichotomy that Hay was emphasizing back in the 50s.

What Hay might really have been referring to is the difference in relationship style between men and women. It's women who relate subject-to-subject, sister-to-sister. It's men who relate to others as sex-objects, competitors or objects of derision. Because homosexual men likely or potentially have more "womanliness," they are able to also relate sister-to-sister and lover-to-lover.

The implication of Hay's valorization of subject-SUBJECT relating is that all gay, queer and gender variant people have to make an effort to understand each other and not treat each other as objects. Men especially must be vigilant about not treating other men as "sex-objects."

Into an Alternate Reality

eroes bravely go where no one has gone before. Being brave and doing what must be done, when it must be done, is what the hero has come for.

The hero enters a new reality with a new name. He or she or ze discovers a new history. It turns out there has been a whole gay history that has been hidden. And a whole world of gay/lesbian/trans* reality. Gay/queer culture.

And a whole world of gay literature and mythology.
Sex and gender variant people have created new worlds in fiction and fantasy, sci-fi especially.

Andrew RamerTwo Flutes Playing
 Andrew Ramer, in particular, has devised a whole "pre-history" that is part fiction, part traditional storytelling and part mystical revelation in such books as Two Flutes Playing and Queering the Text.

The Task: Telling the Truth about Sex

The Sexual Revolution, of course, was much bigger than just Gay Lib. And it was as much about achieving psychological health and personal wholeness as it was about having sex. GLBT people were generally perceived as warriors at the barricades. And telling the truth was one of the ways we fought.

Don't dictate morality


Authenticity was the key value. Being honest about sex and being able to use words about sex is a hallmark of liberation. And it transforms how sex is experienced.

Compton's Riot drag queens
                    Drag Queens under arrest

It took courage.

compton riot                    Stonewall plaque


The Road of Trials

cross labyrinth
eligion, mythology, spirituality—all deal with suffering and misfortune. Scott Meredith's protagonist finds the situation
progressively increases in severity, matters become darker and more urgent, until finally he or she resolves the crisis through the heroic act. Resolving the crisis may mean enduring ordeal, being tested, even allowing oneself to be a victim, but now with transformed vision.

For the individual, the road of trials may be persecution or humiliation, losing a job, losing a lover, having to face personal misfortune and bad luck, maybe accident or disease.

crown of thorns
"Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny."
     —C.S. Lewis

For the gay community as a whole, this road of trials has certainly meant AIDS with all its layers, and grieving over lost friends and lovers. By participating and demanding and working for change, the terror of the early days is being resolved.

The Road of Trials—in an awful pun—might also be the Road of Hearings and Court Cases and political zaps and Candidates' Forums, and community organizing that was required for change to happen.

Reconciliation, Apotheosis and Sacred Marriage

Successful passage through the road of trials brings reward. In myths the hero often gets the damsel he has been sent to save or is rewarded by the King with the hand of his daughter in marriage. But the hero may also die in the process and be taken into heaven and made a god. Or, less dramatically, he may simply come home and find himself welcomed by the parents who'd rejected him.
marriage equality

It is telling that in the actual history of "Gay Lib," the major sign of success has been Same-Sex Marriage.

There are so many factors that have entered into the amazing changes in the last ten years. There's no one thing—though perhaps everybody coming out and making themselves visible is what changed public perception of homosexuality.

Keith Haring posterAIDS forced that visiblity—with movie hero Rock Hudson as the archetypal example.

And AIDS elicited compassion and respect. For many of the public who didn't really understand what homosexuality was at all, the fact that people stayed gay even in the face of AIDS was evidence that it wasn't just a choice those people made just so they could have more sex.

AIDS and the activism of caregiving it produced made "homosexuals" into three-dimensional, real people.

Apotheosis in the Erotic God

Touching the Divine
The stage of "Apotheosis" —becoming God— is the hero's discovery that he or she IS God or, in reverse, that God is he or she. Certainly, one of the boons that gay culture has granted us is the discovery of the Erotic God.

Hunter Flournoy

Spiritual teacher, retreat master, and now adventure guide, our friend Hunter Flournoy speaks of finding the divine in our own bodies. Using the words of mystical Christianity, he says "The erotic body of Christ… is a visceral experience of God through our bodies, individually and collectively, modeled by Jesus, lived by the erotic Christian mystics throughout the ages, and felt directly in our own experience."

Jay Michaelson

Jewish gay spiritual writer Jay Michaelson has a book titled
God in Your Body: Kabbalah, Mindfulness, and Embodied Spiritual Practice
The Body Electric

The Body Electric and the various spin-offs in modern day gay culture teach how to transform the experience of sexual arousal into something much more mystical. The boon is the revelation that: Sexuality and Spirituality are not opposed. Indeed, they belong together, each enhancing the other.

"Gay consciousness," attraction to sames, is a clue to oneness and harmony. "Non-duality," "non-binary thinking," seeing beyond polarities, seeing shades of gray instead of black and white, being compassionate, not law-enforcing—these can be hallmarks of the consciousness created by same-sex attraction. This is, I propose, the so-called "gay sensibility" in literature and art.
gray scale


Such nondual awareness transcends the distinctions between right and wrong, good and bad, desirable and repulsive, self and other, God and the world.

"Non-dual" means not eating the apple, so not being thrown out of the Garden of Eden.

This is a popular idea in new religious consciousness. Maybe it's the future of religion. Gay/queer people can find it in our own experience of love.

God and the world, as separate and distinct, relate as complementary opposites. Beautiful together, like male and female, but different. God is an other. God is out there.

God and the world, as non-dual, relate as sames to sames. "God" experiences the world as us experiencing the world. God is in our bodies.

purple mobius

As you are reaching the point of ejaculatory inevitability, think "Here comes God." And as you're coming, think "May all beings be happy. May all beings be free."

Two Spirits

The androgyne in alchemy            androgyne
Above is an alchemical image of the union of male and female in one physical body. It's a heterosexual image in Alchemy as the sacred union between man and woman in coitus, but it also captures one of the ideas in modern LGBTQ spiritual thinking, that of the Two-Spirit.

Will Roscoe

This is a notion in shamanic religions worldwide and, of particular interest to us in modern America, in Native American cultures on this continent long before the Europeans came. Shamans discover they possess the spirit of Man and the spirit of Woman. And are blessed with powers of healing and of vision.

Will Roscoe is one of the champions of Native cultures and shamanistic religions—and one of Harry Hay & John Burnside's caretakers at the end of their lives. His book The Zuni Man-Woman was about We-Wha, who visited Washington DC, met Presdient Grover Cleveland and became known in America in the 1880s. The Zuni term was Lhamana.

We Wha

Icon of We Wha as a saint by Franciscan
Bro Robert Lentz.

Two Spirits a novel by Walter L Williams & Toby Johnson

A novel about a fictional Navajo Two-Spirit Person by Walter L. Williams & Toby Johnson

The story invokes Navajo spiritual wisdom to speak of "ripples in the spirit field"
which are the consequences of our lives that expand out beyond individuals into the collective world.

This is a mythic theme that particularly resonates with the very current awareness of Transgender issues and trans* identities.

Two-Spirit Persons have "spiritual powers."

It is not without meaning that Harris Glenn Milstead became Divine.
Herein is a pun and a clue.


The Return, Bearing Boons

The hero is transformed by his or her experience and returns to the place where he started changed. He brings gifts, perhaps a treasure or a healing elixir or new wisdom. He has powers.


Jeffrey J. Kripal,
a professor of comparative religion at Rice University, is a non-gay man but with great awareness and interest in how homosexuality and gender variance seems to interface with spiritual and mystical experience.
Mutants and Mystics: Science Fiction, Superhero Comics, and the Paranormal
Kripal writes about comic book heroes and movie Superheroes as modern day myths about the "powers" of consciousness in Mutants and Mystics: Science Fiction, Superhero Comics, and the Paranormal. Read more about Jeffrey Kripal and Superheroes

In sci-fi, cosmology and metaphysics can be mythologized into stories—and into movies with special effects.

he superhero powers in myth are really reminders of our "power" to create and recreate the world of our experience. The trick is to recognize your "power," intend the world to be the way it should be, but resist nothing, embrace everything, joyfully participate in the sorrows of the world,
play the game, contribute to the process and live in such a loving way that your own life works and people love you and you love them and events unfold smoothly around you. Put out good vibes.

The Boon: Modern Hero Discovers the Nature of Truth

Spiritual, not necessarily religious

Not necessarily anti-religious

Campbell says the modern hero—that is, the one who faces the great mysteries and conundrums of life and seeks to help humanity AND who knows he is doing it because he understands what being a hero is—brings back the wisdom of seeing through the myths and beliefs and prejudices that hold the old world together.

He or she has left the village compound and gone up into a higher reality and seen how much bigger life is. He returns with the news that there are wonders up ahead, that the road is safe, that there's a passage.

What is evolving in consciousness and culture today is the awareness of that these legends and myths—and religious doctrines—are really about the human mind and how the mind generates the world of experience. The modern hero has to discover his own "oneness" with the creative power that had been mythologized as "God." This isn't necessarily to deny God but to say that we can relate to God from within rather that through an anthropomorphization projected outward. It's mystical, not objective.

And because we can see all the cultures and societies and religions and mythological traditions around the world, we see what they are.

We can become aware of the nature of religion from outside. In fact, we have to. What we see is that for any one religion to be true, all must be true, and that means religious truth is different from scientific, historical and factual truth. That is an incredibly liberating discovery. We can "create our own religions." And we do.

The truth in the religions is metaphorical, more than historical. The truth of a religious doctrine is measured in the positive, transformational power it holds for believers, not facts about events in the past or metaphysical structures or what's written in Scriptures and ancient texts.


All descriptions are true, but none of them is right. None is complete. All myths are true, but for that reason you have to rise to a higher perspective from which that can be so.

Buddha by Bill Biggers

Campbell’s wonderful retort to the accusation he must be an atheist was:

“Anyone who believes in as many gods as I do can hardly be called an atheist.”

But that’s an entirely different kind of not being an atheist. Indeed, such an overview includes being atheist too—or nontheist to use the Buddhistic term for transcending literal belief in the myths.

Modern Gay Hero Discovers This for the World

happy sex
And this insight is one that saves sexual and gender variant people from the past. Because we've had to gain a perspective on ourselves to understand our variance, we are naturals for this perspective on religion and popular belief.

We are free from literal belief, "the Old Law." We can find our sexuality is good and is part of how we experience "God" and the meaning of our lives.

lesbians kissing

This is the boon the individual gay hero brings home to him or herself.

A kind of enlightenment.  A Spirit Vision

And because sexual and gender issues raise the consciousness of the whole society, our issues force religion to grow and evolve. Everybody in America now gets exposed to the contradiction between enforcing one ancient biblical taboo against homosexual sex while ignoring all the myriad of other outdated taboos in the same text.


Everybody has to notice how crazy it sounds to blame hurricanes on homosexuals and how contradictory "God Hates Fags" is to Jesus's teaching about loving your neighbor, treating others as you would have others treat you AND to the American founding tenet that all… are created equal and endowed with the right to pursue happiness.

Gay rights, trans* rights, women's rights—these all challenge religion's legitimacy. And the religions have to adapt and evolve and become more inclusive. That's good for them. 

This is a prime example of what Christian de la Huerta called Catalytic Transformers.

In fact, by our presence as sex and gender role nonconformists, we've opened the possibility for everybody to be more free and authentic. "Straight men" don't have to fear appearing gay. It's amazing how accepting modern society is.

Gay activism has been particularly successful within churches. Most church-going people really are well-motivated and churches do a lot of good. Dealing with being "affirming congregations" has opened people's eyes and made them better Christians, Jews, Buddhists, etc., etc…

Chris GlaserJohn J McNeill

Atlantan Chris Glaser is an example. And he is one of so, so many religious activists who've made their personal hero journey, a boon for the whole community. John J McNeill another.

Our gay/queer/gender variant task is to reframe how we understand our sexuality. Our "spiritual destiny" is the set of ideas and beliefs that induce that transformation—"straw into gold."

Transforming the Meaning of Gay/Queer


Ray_RigogliosoRaymond Rigoglioso is a social worker, coach, mentor, "spiritual teacher" now based in Provincetown. His book Gay Men and the New Way Forward is about the "14 Distinctive Gay Male Gifts," i.e., personality traits and virtues, that gay men self-report in his Gay Men of Wisdom groups. The book is about how gay men can change our self-concepts and attitudes about life and about homosexuality to be more true and more life-positive and affirmative. (I have a Foreword about how self-fulfilling prophecy transforms the world—"Revolution through Consciousness-change.")

This list is descriptive—in the sense that it's based in self-reporting. And it is prescriptive—in the sense that's it describes how gay men "ought" to be.



This same effort at transforming how we understand ourselves appears in David Nimmons' The Soul Beneath the Skin. Nimmons based his reports on police reports and sociological data.

Slaying the Dragon

The demon the gay hero must conquer is homophobia. Internalized homophobia causes us to hate ourselves as homosexuals and to discount our powers.

Externalized homophobia—though you don't hear that expression—is what the Jungians call The Shadow; it's homosexuals disapproving and "hating" other homosexuals and gender variant people. What we "hate" and are ashamed of in ourselves, we project onto others and hate it in them and blame them, not ourselves, for it.

Golden World
In the book Shift Your Mood, pychotherapist and Mindfulness teacher, Rik Isensee writes of the Golden Shadow, meaning that we can
shift your mood reverse the Shadow. We can recognize the good qualities in others as qualities of ourselves because we can see them and recognize our own goodness (and reason not to hate ourselves) AND we can project our own goodness onto others, intentionally giving others the "benefit of the doubt" that we would hope others would accord to us, not making other people wrong, and seeing in them the good qualities we want in the world. We can see the "God" in other people.


Rik Isensee"As your stories of who you think you are drop away [through mindfulness practice], you discover that you are awareness itself, you are Christ consciousness, you are a realized buddha, you are Brahman, Atman, Quan Yin, Mary, the Tao, nature, or the Great Spirit—Tat Tvam Asi, Thou art That—and so is everyone else.

"All the various "names of God" can be understood as metaphors or expressions of consciousness, wholeness, and being. They come from many different traditions, and serve as an approximation of that ineffable quality, "a finger pointing toward the moon," humanity's various attempts at expressing the essence of what you actually are.

"Ah yes, this is who I am, in this moment. I am that wholeness, stillness, or even a fireball of energy. This is home, the unconditioned, the inner sanctuary, the freedom to be as I am. And at the same time, to see clearly that separation is an illusion: we are all connected in a vast web of life and buzzing energetic motion. I can learn to trust in my own responsiveness, through a compassionate acknowledgment of others.

"You are the source of Love. You are the source of Wisdom.
"You already are what you are seeking!"
Rik Isensee, Shift Your Mood

The goal of all spiritualities is to experience
being in heaven now.

gay bodhisattva
Here's the cover art from Gay Perspective created by Peter Grahame, showing a gay man in the classic pose of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara/Quan Yin.

Avalokiteshvara—the world savior in Mahayana Buddhism—this cute, lovable, androgynous young man who is loved by everybody who knows him and who sits out in the garden barechested in a relaxed half-lotus posture, wearing women's jewelry—has "saved the world" by taking on everybody's incarnation for them so they could go on into nirvana. So ALL of us are incarnations of the bodhisattva, so there isn't even a dualism of "I" and "other." The spirituality of the Bodhisattva is called "The Way of Joyful Participation in the Sorrows of the World."

The three wonders of the Bodhisattva

1) Ze is both male and female demonstrating the best qualities of each sex and gender;

2) to the Bodhisattva, there is no distinction between time and eternity, between samsara and nirvana: this, our present life, IS heaven; and

3) here's the kicker—the Third Wonder is that the first two wonders are the same. Seeing beyond gender roles is seeing heaven now.

Bodhisattva from Sri Lanka

Joseph Campbell said, "People ask me: 'Do you have optimism about the world, about how terrible it is?'  And I say, 'It's great just the way it is.'"

“If you follow your bliss,” he said, "you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living… Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid and doors will open where you didn't know there were going to be doors.”

“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”

"The goal of the hero trip down to the jewel point is to find those levels in the psyche that open, open, open, and finally open to the mystery of your Self being Buddha consciousness or the Christ.  That's the journey."

Toby Johnson, PhD is author of nine books: three non-fiction books that apply the wisdom of his teacher and "wise old man," Joseph Campbell to modern-day social and religious problems, four gay genre novels that dramatize spiritual issues at the heart of gay identity, and two books on gay men's spiritualities and the mystical experience of homosexuality and editor of a collection of "myths" of gay men's consciousness. 

Johnson's book GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness won a Lambda Literary Award in 2000.

His  GAY PERSPECTIVE: Things Our [Homo]sexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe was nominated for a Lammy in 2003. They remain in print.

FINDING YOUR OWN TRUE MYTH: What I Learned from Joseph Campbell: The Myth of the Great Secret III tells the story of Johnson's learning the real nature of religion and myth and discovering the spiritual qualities of gay male consciousness.

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