Table of Contents
Google listing of all pages on this website
Johnson's Facebook page
Johnson's YouTube channel
Toby Johnson on Wikipedia
Johnson Amazon Author Page
Secure site at
Also on this
As an Amazon Associate
I earn from qualifying purchases.
Toby's books are available as ebooks from
smashwords.com, the Apple iBookstore, etc.
YOUR OWN TRUE MYTH: What I Learned
from Joseph Campbell: The
The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness
Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the
SECRET MATTER, a sci-fi novel with
wonderful "aliens" with an
Afterword by Mark Jordan
LIFE IN PERSPECTIVE:
Fantastical Gay Romance set in two different time periods
THE FOURTH QUILL, a
novel about attitudinal healing and the problem of evil
TWO SPIRITS: A Story of Life with
Navajo, a collaboration with Walter L. Williams
LIVES: Spinning Straw into
Gold: GaySpirit in Storytelling, a collaboration with
Steve Berman and some 30 other writers
THE MYTH OF THE GREAT
Appreciation of Joseph Campbell
IN SEARCH OF GOD IN THE
SEXUAL UNDERWORLD: A Mystical Journey
Crane Gay Spirituality Series
Review of Samuel
Dimensional Structure of Consciousness
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
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
Shame on the American People
The "highest form of love"
Why homosexuality is a sin
The cause of homosexuality
origins of homophobia
about Jungian ideas in gay consciousness
is Gay Spirituality?
Jesus said about Gay
Experiences Unique to Gay
Is there a "uniquely gay
purpose of homosexuality
Interview on the Nature of
What the Bible Says about
Ideal for Straight Men
of Gay Spirituality
of Gay Liberation Activity
The Gay Succession
Wouldn’t You Like to Be Uranian?
The Reincarnation of
Why Gay Spirituality: Spirituality
as Artistic Medium
Easton Mountain Retreat Center
Andrew Harvey &
The Mysticism of
upsidedown book on MSNBC
Always About You"
The myth of the Bodhisattva
Campbell's description of
Not A Wave
Joseph Campbell Talks
What is Enlightenment?
What is reincarnation?
How many lifetimes in an
Emptiness & Religious Ideas
Experiencing experiencing experiencing
Going into the Light
Meditations for a Funeral
The way to get to heaven
Buddha's father was right
What Anatman means
Advice to Travelers to India
The Danda Nata
& goddess Kalika
Nate Berkus is a bodhisattva
John Boswell was Immanuel Kant
The Myth of the
Change: Source of
Suffering & of Bliss
What the Vows Really
from the Subtle Realms
& the Multiverse
est Training and Personal Intention
Dreaming in Ursula LeGuin's The Lathe of Heaven
Toby Johnson Believes
Joseph Campbell Connection
Mann Ranch (& Rich Gabrielson)
& The Pre/Trans Fallacy
Nature of Religion
What's true about
Gay is a Blessing
Drawing Long Straws
The subtle workings of the spirit
in gay men's lives.
The Sinfulness of
for a study of gay nondualism
Having a Church to
Harold Cole on Beauty
Immaculate Conception & Assumption
Not lashed to the
Monastic or Chaste
Is It Time to Grow
the Aging Process
Notes on Licking
Gay Consciousness changing
world by Shokti LoveStar
Evolution of Gay Identity"
"St. John of the
Cross & the Dark Night of
at the Baths
Tell You a Secret
Articulations of the
Step in Evolution
The Moulting of the Holy Ghost
is a Bodhisattva
Hero's Journey as archetype -- GSV 2016
The Gay Hero Journey
On Your Own
Prostitution and the Nature of Evil
Hu: "God is present here"
The Life is
in the Blood
Gay retirement and the "freelance
the Edge: AIDS as an occasion for spiritual wisdom
are you looking for in a gay science fiction novel?
mystical experience at the Servites' Castle in Riverside
A Most Remarkable
Great Dance according to C.S.Lewis
The Techniques Of The
Part 1: Brer Rabbit and the
Part 2: The
Part 3: Jesus
and the Resurrection
Part 4: A
Course in Miracles
Secret of the Clear Light
the Clear Light
How Gay Souls Get Reincarnated
Campbell, the Hero's Journey, and the modern Gay Hero-- a five part
presentation on YouTube
About Alien Abduction
honor of Sir Arthur C Clarke
Karellen was a homosexual
with the movie When We Rise
about Gay Mental Health
at the California Institute
Ideas for gay
Kip and Toby,
friend and nicknamesake Toby Marotta.
Hay, Founder of the gay movement
About Hay and The New Myth
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 Ask the Fire
About Mark Thompson
About Sterling Houston
About Michael Stevens
The Alamo Business
Our friend Tom Nash
Second March on
Spirituality Summit in May 2004 and the "Statement
Be Done on Earth by Howard
Pay Me What I'm Worth by
The Way Out by Christopher
The Gay Disciple by John Henson
Art That Dares by Kittredge Cherry
Coming Out, Coming Home by Kennth
the Light by B. Alan Bourgeois
Over Coffee: A conversation
Partnership & Conservative Faith by D.a. Thompson
Janet Planet by
Kairos by Paul E. Hartman
with Jesus by D.K.Maylor
Kali Rising by Rudolph
Missing Myth by Gilles Herrada
Secret of the Second Coming by Howard E. Cook
The Scar Letters: A
by Richard Alther
Future is Queer by Labonte & Schimel
by Charlene Spretnak
Spirituality 101 by Joe Perez
Cut Hand: A
Nineteeth Century Love Story on the American Frontier by Mark Wildyr
by Eleanor Lerman
Rizzoli by Felice Picano
to Unlocking the Closet Door by Chelsea Griffo
of the Heart by Diana Finfrock Farrar
Razor by David Duncan
Demion by Mel White
Gay Men and The New Way Forward by Raymond L.
Dimensional Stucture of Consciousness by Samuel Avery
Manly Pursuit of Desire and Love by Perry Brass
Together: Longtime Male Couples on Healthy Intimacy and Communication
by Tim Clausen
Between Materialism and Spiritual by Jean-Michel Bitar
Serpent's Gift: Gnostic Reflections on the Study of Religion by
Jeffrey J. Kripal
America and the Religion of No Religion by Jeffrey J. Kripal
Invitation to Love by
Consciousness, and God: A Lonerganian Integration by Daniel A
Walk with Four Spiritual Guides by Andrew Harvey
Can Christians Be Saved? by Stephenson & Rhodes
Lost Secrets of the Ancient Mystery Schools by Stephenson &
Being: Energy Meditation and Synchronization Exercises by Adrian
Trust by John Marsh
Tantric Song by Rollan McCleary
A Special Illumination by Rollan McCleary
by Lawrence Scott
by Payam Ghassemlou
Landscapes by John Ollom
& Pumpkins by David Hatfield Sparks
Yes by Brad
Blood of the Goddess by William Schindler
Roads of Excess,
Wisdom by Jeffrey Kripal
Dharma by Jay Michaelson
in Salome's Lot by Brett W. Gillette
The Man Who Loved Birds by Fenton Johnson
Vatican Murders by Lucien Gregoire
& About with Brewer & Berg
Episode One: Searching for a New Mythology
Soul Beneath the Skin by David Nimmons
Holy Ground by Donald Boisvert
Revotutionary Psychology of Gay-Centeredness by Mitch Walker
by Perry Brass
The Crucifixion of Hyacinth by Geoff Puterbaugh
Silence of Sodom by Mark D Jordan
Never About What It's About by Krandall Kraus and Paul Borja
edited by Catherine Lake
by WIlton Barnhard
Faith: A Skeptic’s Journey by Fenton Johnson
Dating the Greek Gods by Brad Gooch
Truths in Church by Mark D. Jordan
Substance of God by Perry Brass
Tomcat Chronicles by Jack Nichols
Things Gay Men Can Do to Improve Their Lives by Joe Kort
Jesus and the Shamanic Tradition of Same Sex Love
by Will Roscoe
Third Appearance by Walter Starcke
The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight by Thom Hartmann
and Thriving After a Life-Threatening Diagnosis by Bev Hall
Homosexuality, and the Gods by Ronald Long
with Ron Long
Queering Creole Spiritual Traditons by Randy
Conner & David Sparks
An Interview with
and Time by Gerald Heard
and the Sacred by Daniel Helminiak
Blessing Same-Sex Unions by Mark Jordan
by Joe Perez
Undeniable Longing by Mark Tedesco
for the Soul by Larry Chang
MM4M a DVD
by Bruce Grether
by David Ranan
Transcended Christian by Daniel Helminiak
in Love by Kittredge Cherry
the Eye of the Storm by Gene Robinson
Starry Dynamo by Sven Davisson
Paradox by Fr Paul Murray
Spirituality for Our Global Community by Daniel
Gay & Healthy in a Sick Society by Robert A.
Coming Out: Irish Gay Experiences by Glen O'Brien
by Robert Goss
Towards Gomorrah by Dan Savage
Flesh of the Word by Richard A Rosato
David Garrett Izzo
for Gay Men by Bruce Anderson
the Path of the Urban Mystic by Darren Main
by Malcolm Boyd
Times Seven by Salvatore Sapienza
Does "Queer" Mean Anyway? by Chris Bartlett
Critique of Patriarchal Reasoning by Arthur Evans
the Soul by Dale Colclasure & David Jensen
Legend of the Raibow Warriors by Steven McFadden
Prayer by Gregory Flood
are the Messengers by Daniel Plasman
The Human Core of Spirituality by Daniel Helminiak
The Final Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
Religion and the Human Sciences by Daniel Helminiak
Good Parts by Daniel Curzon
Reviews of Books with a Message
Interrupted by Michael Parise
Confessions of a Murdered Pope by Lucien Gregoire
Stargazer's Embassy by Eleanor Lerman
Living, Conscious Aging by Ron Pevny
Footprints Through the Desert by Joshua Kauffman
Religion by J.L. Weinberg
The Mediterranean Universe by John Newmeyer
is God by Jay Michaelson
by Dennis Merritt
Home by Fenton Johnson
Hard Lesson by James
by Jay Michaelson
of Tears: Sadness and the Spiritual Path by Jay Michaelson
Fred by Richard Alther
the Son He Expected by Tim Clausen
9 Realities of Stardust by Bruce P. Grether
Afterlife Revolution by Anne & Whitley Strieber
Queer Spirit Awakening by Shokti Lovestar
Facing the Truth of Your Life by Merle Yost
Super Natural by Whitley Strieber & Jeffrey J Kripal
Jeffrey J Kripal
House by Jonathan Lane
Walking on Glory by Edward Swift
of Porn by Don Shewey
Is Heaven for Real? by Lucien Gregoire
Enigma by Lloyd Meeker
Paper, Rock by Fenton Johnson
Books on Gay Men's Spiritualities:
Things Our [Homo]sexuality
Nature of God and
Perspective is available as an audiobook narrated
by Matthew Whitfield. Click
Gay Identity and
the Transformation of
Spirituality is now
available as an audiobook, beautifully narrated by John Sipple. Click here
Lives: Gay Spirit in Storytelling
& Steve Berman
Lammy Award Winner for Gay
Getting Life in
A Fantastical Romance
Life in Perspective is available as an
audiobook narrated by Alex Beckham. Click
The Fourth Quill
The Fourth Quill is
as an audiobook, narrated by Jimmie
Moreland. Click here
Two Spirits: A Story of
with the Navajo
with Walter L. Williams
Spirits is available as an
audiobook narrated by Arthur Raymond. Click
Your Own True Myth: What I Learned from Joseph
Great Secret III
In Search of God in the Sexual Underworld
The Myth of the Great
Secret: An Appreciation of Joseph Campbell.
was the second edition of this book.
available in other ebook formats from Smashwords.
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
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
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
a hero on a quest for our True Self.
The Hero's Journey
Gay Spirit Visions 2016 Presentation
by Toby Johnson
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."
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
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.
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
"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
hunt and warriors from the battle—and this has been going on a
the pattern of human sexual arousal. Seduction, overcoming obstacles,
beginning foreplay, going into the altered state of passion,
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.
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.
Some of you
may know that I
fancy myself “Joseph Campbell’s apostle to the gay community.” It isn’t
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
from a perspective over and above. I associate all this way of thinking
Campbell because he was my personal entry into it.
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, 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),
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
obstacle flight). At the return threshold the
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
The Plot Skeleton
from Scott Meredith's Writing to Sell
recognizable three-dimensional main
character (protagonist/hero), someone with whom the reader
and identify, finds himself confronted at the very beginning of the
story with a
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
web of conflict caused by the initial difficulty. The protagonist's
situation progressively increases in severity,
matters become darker
and more urgent, until finally the reader arrives at the
4. Climax, the point of absolute crisis. Now
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
that the efforts of the protagonist have led to the successful
resolution of the conflict.)
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
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,
on which you often do not know whether you are walking forward or
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
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
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
Gay novelist Lloyd A
Meeker has several articles on the Internet about the
Meeker has a
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
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
World and the Call to Adventure as arising within themselves.
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
But the gay hero starts with a restlessness
within AND the
restlessness is at the level of sex, love and romance. It is felt in
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
This is a double-edged sword, he says, and the gay
protagonist—that is, the gay person living the "right path"—must find
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
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
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,
practice kindness and friendship.
Our friend Daniel Helminiak offers a very similar formula:
"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
Essential differences in a gay Hero’s Journey — Part
Letter to a New Generation of Gate Keepers
"Reasons We're Here": Ten Functions of Gay People
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
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
to more accurately perceive itself. We reflect diversity and help
society determine its limits and boundaries.
3) Consciousness Scouts: One of the
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
to embody a spirit of humor and youthfulness, qualities that often
bring entertainment, sustenance, and a refreshing sense of joy to the
5) Keepers of Beauty: Throughout history,
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
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
mediators or “go-betweens,” particularly between the genders as well as
between the physical and spiritual realms.
8) Shamans and Priests: Throughout
across many cultures, queer people often have assumed roles of
spiritual leadership, and have been honored, respected, and revered for
9) The Divine Androgyne: The sacred
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
people have a “higher vibrational level” and are uniquely suited for
the role of “gatekeepers,” or “guardians of the gateways, with the
Christian de la Huerta, Coming
The Hero Journey as
Transformation of Self
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.
It's a very popular story and applies to lots
growing up and finding their body changing, but it has specific meaning
for queer people because it's about being "different" from your own
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
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
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
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
June 8, 1923 - February 27, 2015
August 19, 1952 - August 11, 2016
This is also what political signifiers are about. Choosing
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
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
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."
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
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.
Between men and women, there is
Vive la difference.
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.
"Free Your Mind and the Rest Will
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
Into an Alternate Reality
Heroes 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
that has been hidden. And a whole world of gay/lesbian/trans* reality.
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 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.
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.
The Road of Trials
Religion, 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
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.
"Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary
For the gay community as a whole, this road of trials
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.
It is telling that in the actual history of "Gay Lib," the major sign
of success has been Same-Sex
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.
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
could have more sex.
AIDS and the activism of caregiving it produced
made "homosexuals" into three-dimensional, real people.
Apotheosis in the Erotic God
The stage of "Apotheosis"
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.
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."
spiritual writer Jay Michaelson has a book titled God
in Your Body: Kabbalah, Mindfulness, and Embodied Spiritual Practice
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.
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.
awareness transcends the distinctions between right and wrong, good and
bad, desirable and repulsive, self and other, God and
"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
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
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."
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.
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
Icon of We Wha as a saint by Franciscan Bro Robert
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
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.
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.
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
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.
Not necessarily anti-religious
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.
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
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.
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.
Campbell’s wonderful retort to the accusation he must be an atheist
“Anyone who believes in as
many gods as I do can hardly be called
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
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.
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
This is a prime example of what Christian de la Huerta called Catalytic
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…
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
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
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.
In the book Shift Your Mood, pychotherapist
and Mindfulness teacher, Rik Isensee
writes of the Golden Shadow,
meaning that we can 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
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
"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
"You already are what you are seeking!"
Rik Isensee, Shift Your Mood
The goal of all
spiritualities is to experience
being in heaven now.
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.
world savior in Mahayana Buddhism—this
cute, lovable, androgynous young man who is loved by everybody who
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."
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
here's the kicker—the
Third Wonder is that the first two wonders are the same. Seeing beyond
gender roles is seeing heaven now.
Joseph Campbell said, "People ask
'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."