Urnings, Homosexuals, and Isophyls, Oh My!

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Toby Johnson's books:

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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Unpublished manuscripts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.

Down through history the nomenclature for what we call LGBTQ+ -- which used to be simply "homosexuality" -- has changed. Each term was chosen at its time to represent how sexual orientation and gender identity were understood. Each term reveals certain facets of gay experience.

In this article, which was prepared for a presentation and discussion at a Radical Faerie Gatherette in Austin TX, Feb 10, 2018, writer Toby Johnson uncrates some of the terms and highlights the specific messages. Johnson is quick to insist that these terms are NOT in competition with one another and perhaps it takes ALL of these terms -- and more -- to elucidate the complex nature of alternative sexualities.

Wouldn’t You Like to Be Uranian?

Uranian  -- 19th Century term used by Karl Heinrich Ulrichs in 1864.
Karl Heinrich Ulrichs (1825-1895) was probably “the first man in the world to come out.”

Before this, “homosexuality” was known only as a behavior—sodomy— not a constitutional quality of personality.

Ulrichs developed a more complex threefold axis for understanding sexual and gender variance: sexual orientation (male-attracted, bisexual, or female-attracted), preferred sexual behavior (passive, no preference, or active), and gender characteristics (feminine, intermediate, or masculine). The three axes were usually, but not necessarily, linked — Ulrichs himself, for example, was a Weibling (feminine homosexual) who preferred the active sexual role.

Ulrichs called homosexuals: Urnings (German) or Uranians.

Uranus was the most recently discovered planet  in 1781. Like Mars to males and Venus to females, Uranus was to homosexuals. Reference to Uranus the planet is that this is something newly discovered even though it has always been there.

Uranian came originally from Greek myth and Plato’s Symposium. Uranus was the god of the heavens and was said to be the father of Aphrodite in “a birth in which the female had no part,” i.e, the distinction between male and female is unimportant.
In those early days, the German Sexologists, including Magnus Hirschfeld (1868-1935), (see his Wikipedia page) thought homosexuals were female souls trapped/reincarnated in male bodies.

Homosexual was coined by Karl-Maria Kertbeny (1824-1882) in 1869 in an anonymous pamphlet about Prussian sodomy laws. Kertbeny was a travel writer and journalist who wrote about human rights. When he was a young man, a gay friend killed himself because of extortion. That experience gave Kertbeny an “instinctive drive to take issue with every injustice.” He was apparently homosexual himself, but officially denied it. Richard von Krafft-Ebing, in his Psychopathia Sexualis (1886), adopted Kertbeny’s terms and from there they became standard. (see KertbenyKertbeny's Wikipedia page)

Homosexual has a problem in its etymology. “Homo” means “same” in Greek, so “same sex.” But “sexual” is Latin, not Greek. In Latin “homo” means “Man” as in the generic all mankind.

CarpenterEdward Carpenter (1844-1929) (in Wikipedia) and John Addington Symonds (1840-1893) used Uranian to refer to “the dear love of comrades” in the words of Walt Whitman (1819-1892). Symonds is probably the first to use homosexual in the English language. He corresponded with Whitman. (The photo of the bearded redhead below was one Symonds sent to Whitman.) In 1890, he asked Whitman directly about the homosexual content in the Calamus poems—to which Whitman denied being homosexual and claimed to have fathered 6 children.Symonds

In 1890, Whitman and John Addington SymondsWikipedia page) were the only two “homosexuals” in the world, and they didn’t like each other. Whitman said “No, I am not like you.”

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) also used Uranian in the 1890s.

WildeOscar Wilde  (Wikipedia page) coined the icon Green Carnation – which men wore as an identifier – and there was a fanciful Green Carnation Society in London among the class of men called Dandies—which referred to fancy dress and elegance, only indirectly gay. The idea was that the green carnation had to be made by a florist—an artistic creation, something new. The most famous "dandy," of course, was Yankee Doodle.

Edward Carpenter used the term “Intermediate Types” and “Intermediate Sex” and Homogenic Love – homogenic is from two greek roots homos, same, genos sex. While homosexual was half Greek, half-Latin.

Carpenter’s emphasis was on love of same, not “inversion” of sexual desire, as psychiatry characterized it. Whitman used the somewhat vague, but clearly meaningful, term: The Dear Love of Comrades.

Walt Whitman (his Wikipedia page)
Gay Succession: Walt Whitman, Edward Carpenter, Gavin Arthur, Neal Cassady, Allen Ginsberg, Mike O. (Toby's first psychotherapy client), Toby J.   (See The Gay Succession)


Gerald Heard
(1889-1971) (Wikipedia page) coined the term isophyl, meaning love of same in the 1950s. Heard was a British radio announcer, writer and cultural commentator. He moved to California and was part of the Christopher Isherwood, British ex-patriate crowd (WH Auden, Aldous Huxley, Vendanta Society).

Heard created a gay, idealistic utopian commune called Trabuco. In 1954 he published an article in ONE Magazine using isophyl. He believed isophyls were a force in the evolution of consciousness. Heard believed that strict gender roles interfered with flexible and innovative thought, and that the isophyl could move beyond the rigidity of traditional masculinity and femininity.

Harry Hay (1912-2002) (Wikipedia page) and Will Geer (who played Grampa Walton) (Wikipedia page) – both idealistic Leftists and Communists – in 1948 were passing out flyers for the Progressive Party candidate Henry Wallace at Venice Beach and saw all the gay men sunning and realized they were an organizable group because they shared homosexuality. Hay came up with the idea of a group for gay men. Originally Bachelors for Wallace, then Bachelors Anonymous, then Society of Fools, it became the Mattachine Society.

Suggested by James Gruber (1928-2011) (Wikipedia page), Mattachine referred back to a semi-mythical/ semi-historical societe joyeux in Provence and Languedoc in Medieval France. These were troupes of masked players and troubadours who performed plays and rituals and passed information and news, imagined to be homosexuals. There was a counterculture in Provence at this time which gave rise to the idea of romantic love as the basis for sexual connection – and put a positive spin on homosexual pleasure because it did not trap a soul in matter as heterosexual intercourse did.

Hay believed that there have always been men who were sexually attracted to other men, rather than to women and women to women rather than to men. It’s an “essential” quality in their personality, and this has always been so. Though it has appeared differently at different times in history, but mostly hasn’t been acknowledged at all in history.

The Mattachine Society (Wikipedia page) used the term Homophile, preferring the word for “love” rather than just “sex.” This term was coined by the German astrologist, author and psychoanalyst Karl-Günther Heimsoth in his 1924 dissertation.

Harry Hay and the Mattachine were caught up in the McCarthy anti-communist fanaticism of the early 1950s. The anti-communists were also anti-gay. They used the term HOMINTERN, based on the Communist International abbreviation COMINTERM.

HOMINTERN (Wikipedia page) is a wonderful term – it implied the understanding and support that homosexuals offered one another across cultures and nationalities.

To wit, E.M. Forster’s quote (slightly altered, maybe by Harry Hay)

An aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate, and the plucky are to be found in all nations and classes, and through all the ages. And there is a secret understanding between them when they meet. They represent the true human tradition, the one queer victory of our race over cruelty and chaos.

In 1961 in Washinton DC, Frank Kameny (1925-2011) (Wikipedia page) and his protégé Jack Nichols (1938-2005), (Wikipedia page) got the Mattachine out marching for gay rights—and his right not to be fired from his job as a federal astronomer just because he was homosexual. He coined the phrase “Gay is Good.” Kameny insisted the marchers wear suit and tie and not show any public display.
By 1969, the National Mattachine/ Homophile Movement was considered old-fashioned by the youth movement. After expelling Hay in 1953, they adopted a less militant atttitude – homosexuality is a sad condition which happens to people against their will and they shouldn’t be punished anymore by prejudice and laws against sex. They got psychiatrists to come speak about compassion for these sad men.

WickerRandy Wicker (Wikipedia page) was a UT student who’d joined the NY Mattachine one summer during college. In 1958 he’d run for UT student body president but was disqualified when he was outed to the dean. After graduating he went back to NY and in the early 60s helped radicalize the Mattachine along with Craig Rodwell (1940-1993) (Wikipedia page).

Rodwell had been boyfriends with Harvey Milk and had politicized him about his sexuality.

Craig Rodwell opened the first gay bookstore – the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookstore—in 1967 on Christopher Street, a block down from the Stonewall Inn.
During the Stonewall Riots, it is said, Craig Rodwell called out "Gay Power" and shifted the “police riot” into a political demonstration. (NY Times reminiscence) Because of Rodwell and other radicalized Mattachine members’ passing out flyers, the demonstrations continued over three nights, and the Gay Liberation Front was formed, mostly by the gay hippies in the Village. Including Jim Fouratt—who is a regular at Austin’s SxSW Festival and OutFest.

Rodwell’s partner Fred Sergeant was the model for Dick in the Dick & Jane Reader. (It is a marvelous twist of history that the founding of Gay Liberation came within one degree of separation of Dick, the model for the essential American boy.) Craig Rodwell was one of the founders of the annual parade to memorialize Stonewall. In some ways it was the Christopher Street Liberation Day March the next year commemorating Stonewall that was actually the event that created Gay Pride Marchs.

Christopher Street March 1970
GLF was based on NLF, National Liberation Front, the people’s movement in Vietnam to overthrow the government  of South Vietnam. So Gay Liberation Front placed itself right in the anti-war movement/youth movement. AND they chose the term gay people called themselves. Like the Blacks, and unlike the Jews, the GLFers did not try to reverse an anti-gay epithet, but to use the term gay people used themselves.

“Gay” as it was used in the Gay Liberation Movement came to mean not only being homosexual, but knowing that you are, and understanding that that means you are part of a conscious community, and have political loyalties to your people and to the future.

There is a generational aspect to the change in terms. “Gay Lib” came out of the Youth Movement and anti-war/peace & civil rights movements of the 60s and 70s. We didn’t identify with the older “homophile” generation. And so we changed the term. This same thing happened later with Gen X dropping gay in favor of queer. This is probably inevitable. Each new younger generation experiences themselves as different from the previous older generations—and not sexually attracted to the elders.

Even then there was a feeling among many of the young gay activists that we resented being labelled. That “Unlabelled” quality is still part of the gay identifiers. I think the objection is less to self-awareness and understanding of one’s sexuality, than to other people assigning you a label and thinking that is what describes you.

As this gay “consciousness” developed, it revealed more distinctions within this conscious community.

In a way, the whole sexual liberation movement arose out of or at least in parallel with feminism and women’s consciousness.

Women in GLF felt they were invisible because the term gay—and even homosexual—were understood by the public to mean mainly men. So the L was added to gay to recognize both male and female homosexuals: Gay Men and Lesbians.

SO “gay” is used both as a generic jargon term for all things sexually deviant AND as a specific term for politically conscious gay men.

In the generic use, there have always been heterosexually married homosexuals who performed heterosexually and homosexually. AND bisexuals who are attracted to both men and women. The latter “true bisexuals” experience a different consciousness from gay men, and felt they were made invisible in the G/L term, so B got added.

In that same generic use, gay had always included both masculine and feminine homosexuals, some of whom cross dressed for costume, for stage, and for political satire of heterosexual styles—and for purposes of prostitution. And among the feminine homosexuals, some cross dressed because they felt themselves more womanly than manly. As consciousness evolved, a distinction became apparent between sexual orientation and gender identity. And people who were trans* in some way recognized they had a different consciousness from the gay men and lesbians. So T got added to make LGBT.

Transvestite is yet something different, referring to heterosexuals who wear opposite sex clothing as a sexual fetish, not as a gender identifier.

By the end of the 1970s, gay was becoming normalized and less radical. Gay was coming to refer to gay capitalism and glizty business—gay bars, gay baths. The political term also had this generic quality for some of the oppressive elements of the culture. In the early days Gay Liberation had sought to provide alternatives to the bars, and to liberate gay men from promiscuity and “the gay lifestyle.” The early gay rights movement was greatly concerned with giving gay people options outside the bars; the movement seriously critiqued the so-called gay lifestyle, and called for opportunities for more authentic meeting and friendship development.

With the acceptance of homosexuality as real, what was called assimilation was seen to be threatening, that is, the idea that gay people are just like straight people in every way, except for what they do in bed and that didn’t matter. We just want to be like everybody else.


Harry Hay reappeared at this time, invited by Don Kilhefner (Wikipedia page) and Mitch Walker (Wikipedia page), two Jungian therapists who had a gay-affirmative healing center called Treeroots, to be the convenor for a gathering to celebrate the outsider/radical/hippie qualities of gay consciousness. This was the first Radical Faerie Gathering in Benson AZ in 1979. And gave a new identifier—Radical Faerie—for a particular kind of pro-sex, pro-homosexual, liberated gay consciousness. Hay’s comment was that what we do in bed is the only thing we have in common with straight people. Faerie recognized a “spiritual” quality to gay consciousness. Hay, Kilhefner and Walker et al argued that homosexuality is essential to the personality of gay men and lesbians.

AIDS in the 1980s changed how these terms were valued. I note two specific phenomena: 1) “gay” became almost synonymous with having AIDS. Indeed AIDS was originally called GRID. So the positive self-identifier took on seriously negative connotations. One way to distance yourself from AIDS was to say you weren’t gay. The health-oriented organizations then had to coin expressions like MSM, men who have sex with men, but aren’t “gay.” And 2) because AIDS brought public attention to homosexuality and gay culture AND because the Internet was developing at the same time, children got exposed to the term “gay” and exposed to the concept of homosexuality before they were sexually mature enough to understand sexual desire and attraction. So “gay” just seemed creepy. “Gay” took on the connotation of being out-dated or un-hip and out of style. “That’s so gay!”

Within the gay world, “gay” had also developed a connotation of being only white men with expensive tastes. The left-wing, Marxist identity was lost among a  generation after the youth movement of the 60/70s.

AND within the gay men’s world dominated by AIDS, anger was increasing because of the failure of medicine to find real cures and of government to deal with the problems of people with AIDS. In response to a wave of anti-LGBT violence in New York City in spring 1990, Queer Nation was started.

Queer was used in the way “Jew” had been – a formerly negative derisive term reclaimed proudly and out of anger to “throw in the faces” of the oppressor.

Queer also then became an umbrella term. And one which championed the commonality of all sexually-oppressed minorities. Queer also included anger at that stereotype of gay men as white, rich, narcissistic, and affluent. “Gay” as generic, as in “gay bar” or “gay baths,” implied a kind of sexual liberation, but also sexual excess.

AND political conservative pundits began using the term “identity-politics” as a negative term to dismiss and demean the real political alliances that people in minorities who have real common identities (and identifications with each other) should naturally feel. “Identity” became a negative term.

The development of consciousness of the various identities and gender variations has been a good thing and one of the great contributions of the sexual rights movement.

As it has happened, it’s been by separating away from “gay” as the generic term, but also as the specific. So that gay male identity is also made invisible by the generic/umbrella use.

The rise of LBTQIA+ has all happened by separating away from the G.

While I like the term gay because it referencing way back to the societes joyeux of the Provencal counterculture of the middle ages, and because it’s a “happy” word, it will probably have to be replaced. Though it remains the common, umbrella, word used by all people—and still usually about gay men.

I think gay men’s consciousness is naturally different from lesbians’, bisexuals’, transsexuals’ and even queers’ – though the queer term is more generational than identificational. But queer as an umbrella term runs into the same problem gay had in the 1970s: it is too inclusive and makes the various segments within it invisible.

To the extent that the LBTQIA+ is all subtracted from the G in order to acknowledge the specific traits and identifies and characteristics of the now identified sub-groups, the G as umbrella is being emptied.

G as “Gay Men” refers to a specific subgroup, with specific traits, identities and characteristics.  The letters in the umbrella acronym are not in competition with or opposition to each other.

I titled this essay "Wouldn't You Like to be a Uranian?" because I liked the original meaning. I think modern gay people as we now understand homosexuality and the range of sexual and gender diversity are indeed something new. We are self-aware in a way that our predecessors just didn't have the opportunity to be. And I think we SHOULD think of ourselves that way. The term is dated, of course, but the idea is as current as ever. Let's all be Uranians together!

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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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