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Toby Johnson's books:
YOUR OWN TRUE MYTH: What I Learned
from Joseph Campbell: The
GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness
GAY PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe
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 the Navajo, a collaboration with Walter L. Williams
CHARMED LIVES: Spinning Straw into Gold: GaySpirit in Storytelling, a collaboration with Steve Berman and some 30 other writers
THE MYTH OF THE GREAT SECRET: An Appreciation of Joseph Campbell
IN SEARCH OF GOD IN THE SEXUAL UNDERWORLD: A Mystical Journey
Books on Gay Spirituality:
Articles and Excerpts:
Review of Samuel Avery's The Dimensional Structure of Consciousness
Funny Coincidence: "Aliens Settle in San Francisco"
EnlightenmentYou'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
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
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
A very queer religion
"Queer" has turned out to be a very queer word. It has a variety of meanings and inflections. And to some extent these are generationally stratified.
Queer was THE term of derision during the 1950s and 60s when the "first generation of sexually-liberated gay men and lesbians" were coming of age—these were those who came out at the end of 60s as part of the Youth Movement, anti-war movement, civil rights and sexual liberation movements. Queer was shameful and, if you dared, you shouted it back in anger. "Takes one to know one." Else you learned to push down your feelings, so you wouldn't let them see you cry.
Queer was reclaimed as a self-chosen epithet of anger during the height of the AIDS crisis when it appeared society just didn't care that homosexuals were dying. We weren't very gay, in the cheerful sense, in those times. Our proudly calling ourselves queer "rubbed their noses" in their silence and derision of us. See what suffering you are causing!
AIDS made homosexuality visible. Even children knew about it, and, as ever, it was a little embarrassing—though also necessarily titillating. Grade school children who really didn't understand sex yet heard about anal intercourse in the news and it sounded "gross"; styles of adult sex, especially gay sex, challenged still freshly-learned notions of toilet-training. (The TV comedy South Park echoed this as part of their on-going satire of foul-mouthed, precocious, but clueless pre-teens—not very different from how South Park also mocked redheads as "gingers" and celebrated "Kick a Ginger Day.")
An odd connotation then got attached to "gay" to mean lame, out-of-date, square, passť, dumb, "retarded," uncool. "That's so gay."
For a younger generation, queer, that angry term that didn't hold much anger anymore, was a truer term than "gay." And so a generation following AIDS picked queer as their preferential identity. Among younger homosexuals, queer was for a new generation that wouldn't be dogged by AIDS; it was old men who suffered through that. Each generation seems to take a new term. Urning, homosexual, homophile, gay, GLBT, LGBTQ, queer. Each generation has a new set of experiences; each stands on the shoulders of those before, but what they experience is that they are different, they're not like those before them. And it's true.
There'll be a next generation after queer who'll take a new term of reference. Perhaps "pride" in a generic way as both noun and adjective. "You're listening to Pride Radio." "I'm pride." "Do you think she's pride?" "Let's all go to Pride tonight." [meaning pride festival, pride week, a pride bar]. Maybe even "Let's go pride tonight." [meaning going out into the gay subculture].
Queer is an umbrella term to mean everybody who thinks of themselves in any way sexual or gender variant. As a term of political solidarity all queers need to stick together. The differences between us don't matter. In fact, the umbrella term use of queer recognizes that everybody, even the non-gay people, are fundamentally just people. We shouldn't make any differentiation between people at all. That's the essence of liberation—to have no specific identity separate from others. That, of course, is what the "Men" also means in "All men are created equal." And as soon as you have an umbrella term, somebody under the umbrella feels left out and wants to be recognized. That's how the string of terms and letters developed in LGBTQIA+.
The Queer Theology of Patrick Cheng says the "only sin" is making distinctions. We should focus on our similarities, not our differences. The differences are insignificant. All religions teach love, and the way to love is to overlook division.
That was the major tenet of the second period of the Mattachine Society (after Harry Hay). Being homosexual doesn't really matter. Gay liberation arose to say, yes it does, and that's why we have to organize and fight back against oppression.
Queer also means a branch of academic literary, philosophical and cultural criticism. Queer Theory is concerned with how historical, political, sociological and cultural factors "construct" sexual identities through time. What homosexual behavior was thought of at different times and places were all different. There's no "essential" homosexual nature. Within the academy Queer Theory has achieved many important insights in human behavior and consciousness. It's part of a general recognition in intellectual and educational circles that all of human experience is constructed of streams of personal and societal impressions and ideas. Reality itself is constructed in the mind. This is a very Buddhistic realization, but now in the French school of Structuralism and post-structuralism of Michel Foucault. As queer theory appears in pop culture, it seems to deny the reality of homosexuality (not unlike Fundamentalist Christianity which also denies there is anything inborn and constitutional as homosexuality). Gay writers and commentators have to identify themselves as essentialists or constructionists.
I think the "solution" is to see that they are both true. AND they can both be deconstructed away. You can always rise to a higher perspective from which to see that apparent excluding opposites are actually parts of the same thing. That's the use of "queer" as the umbrella term.
Queer is also one of the sectors within LGBTQIA+. Then it is not an umbrella term at all, but a signifier of either the young generation for which it is a hip term and/or an element of "misfits" and "noncompliers." While these terms have negative connotation, there is a long, honorable tradition of "gadflys," "jesters," "tricksters," "coyotes," "contrarians" who force change. Within the large spectrum of sex and gender variant people, some fit right into mainstream culture and mainstream gay culture, others feel unwelcome. They were nerds, not pretty boys, sissies, tomboys, losers They rightly identify as "queer." Most of the gay activists from the Mattachine on were "queer" in this sense. That they weren't satisfied with the status quo—and, in particular, the sexual objectification and looksism and flagrant materialism in mainstream gay culture—is why they were activists.
I suppose the reality is that "Queer" means all of these meanings. And also none. For every one of these can be deconstructed into meaninglessness. The only thing that matters is how you yourself feel about the word and what it means to you.
Queering religion cannot mean getting queers to be religious, i.e., getting us to go back to church/synagogue/temple/mosque/etc., to believe in the popular myths and to accept the authority of religious officials.
Queering religion has to mean recognizing the multiplicity of voices and perspectives around the world, rising above one's religion of origin to look at it as but one tradition among many.
For so many of us that tradition has been Christianity, and in that regard, such a higher, outsider, perspective—what is loosely called "spirituality"—allows for a simple response to the history of Church and bible-based oppression: It's all myth anyway, take what's meaningful to you and leave the rest behind.
That's queering religion: to understand it, not to "believe" in it. That frees you from religion while showing you what it was really about in the first place, and so "enlightening" you to the nature of consciousness and the nature of "God," as a clue to who you really are as a conscious entity asking questions about the nature of your existence.
The point of the mythological traditions is to raise people's vision above just everyday and selfish concerns and to inspire compassion. The proper goal of religion isn't to be right, but to be loving and kind. If the bible says homosexuals should be stoned, it's evidence the bible's outdated and inadequate for addressing issues of contemporary life.
You don't need to explain the "texts of terror," those verses in the Bible that get quoted out of context to justify condemnation of homosexuality as inevitable because it is "God's will." You can just tear those pages out of the book.
Actually you might find it would be simpler to just save the one page with Jesus's Golden Rule on it and throw away all the rest. That's probably what Jesus himself would have done.
The message to be learned from observing the anti-gay attitudes and behavior of the Christian churches is that it's time to move on. Let's throw the baby out with the bathwater because the reason the water is fouled is that the baby has died and the body's putrefying and deserves a respectful burial.
It's not enough to queer Christianity by seeking the original meanings or discovering that Jesus would have been pro-gay if he'd had the words to speak about such issues--though, of course, that IS true. Christianity is but one voice in the conversation about spiritual meaning—and it's got a very old-timey accent.
You've got to queer religion itself. All of us, gay and straight, need a new spiritual paradigm that makes sense in the modern world and speaks with a modern, enlightened voice.
This, I think, is what "gay spirituality" is about AND what the human race is evolving toward.
The "new myth" is the story of what religion and myth have been in the history of the evolution of consciousness. We can understand these things to have been metaphors about consciousness.
This realization is: 1) a higher order myth, 2) a real queering—in the sense of despoiling—of religion and traditional notions of religious authority, and 3) ironically, the salvation of religion as a high culture art form.
If religion and myth are in competition with science to describe the external material world, religion will necessarily lose. If the new understanding of religion and myth is the scientific tool to describe the structures of deep consciousness in the interior, "spiritual" world, then religion and science work side by side to further evolution and expansion of consciousness.
For all of this is fundamentally about the Universe waking up to itself.
In a very parallel and deeply meaningful way, I think, being queer is about waking up to yourself. Nobody identifies as gay or queer without having waked up in some way, that is, having understood the clues their lives are giving them about their own interior experience of consciousness.
Being queer, being gay gives us the proverbial leg up for understanding and moving into the new myth that is the cutting edge of evolving consciousness.
It's being One with the evolving universe; being One with the Big Bang; being One with "God."
The way to queer religion is to be God.
Read Toby Johnson's article on the Bifurcation of Gay Spirituality, i.e., the two separate thrusts of gay people's innate religiousness:
1) reforming the traditional churches to accept gay/queer members
AND 2) creating a whole new vision of spiritual meaning.
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.
SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of
Human Consciousness won a Lambda Literary Award in 2000.
PERSPECTIVE: Things Our [Homo]sexuality Tells Us about the Nature
of God and the Universe was nominated for a Lammy in 2003. They
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