When I came out in 1986 the few books that had been written about the spirituality of gay-lesbian-bi-trans, ‘queer”, people were far from my radar. Nor was I looking for, or open to, any spiritual meaning in my sexuality, I just wanted to have fun, to free my repressed nature, which of course was a completely spiritual goal, I simply didn’t know it.
In the three and a half decades since I found the courage to be true to myself in a world that I knew would judge, even hate, me, many books have been published on the theme of our queer spirit that seek to expand the understanding of what being attracted to people of the same gender is all about. The first I came across was Gay Soul, Mark Thompson’s 1994 compilation of interviews with gay pioneers, bringing names such as Harry Hay, Will Roscoe, Ram Dass and Joseph Kramer into my awareness. This opened up the doors for me to start exploring the possibility that, far from being unnatural and abominable, my gay sexuality might be a holy gift. I soon discovered Mark’s other works Gay Spirit and Gay Body and the mystical writings of Andrew Harvey, whose work Gay Mystics draws out the hidden heritage of queer spiritual voices throughout time and in every corner of the world.
In fact these were not the first texts of queer spirit. The earliest voices channelling the liberated, humanitarian Aquarian spirit were those of gay poets and philosophers in the late 19th century. Walt Whitman, John Addington Symonds, Oscar Wilde all wrote poetry inspired by their gay love affairs. Edward Carpenter pondered the role of gay people – Uranians – in the evolution of human intelligence, especially of the emotional and spiritual kinds.
In the 1970s a few works appeared that are now worthy to be considered classics of this genre:
Arthur Evans: WITCHCRAFT AND THE GAY COUNTER-CULTURE
Larry Mitchell: THE FAGGOTS AND THEIR FRIENDS BETWEEN REVOLUTIONS
Mitch Walker: MEN LOVING MEN, A Gay Sex and Consciousness Guide
In the early 1980s Judy Grahn: ANOTHER MOTHER TONGUE came out, but I guess after that all the energy the LGBTQ community could muster was directed into AIDS, both in terms of care-giving and activism. Many books came out in the 1970s-80s on the theme of women’s spirituality, which were embraced by many lesbians, but few women writers wrote about lesbian or general gay/queer spirit as such. Judy is the prominent example.
A sudden surge in publishing texts of queer aquarian spirit came in the mid 90s, at the same time as I experienced my own personal surge of that very spirit in my own life. The books by Mark Thompson and Andrew Harvey listed above were soon in my hands, along with:
Will Roscoe: QUEER SPIRITS, A Gay Men’s Myth Book
Winston Leyland: QUEER DHARMA, Voices of Queer Buddhists
and later I found the incredible historical and mythological writings of Randy P. Connor, who in the 1990s published BLOSSOM OF BONE and QUEER MYTH, SYMBOL AND SPIRIT, books which detail the evolution of queer spirit by tracing the history of association of homo-eroticism and gender fluidity with the sacred throughout the millennia of human history and pre-history.
The turn of the millennium brought forth many new works on gay spirit, largely unnoticed by the commercially driven mainstream gay world. It’s clear to me that this flowering from mainly gay male writers was part of our response to the devastating challenge of the AIDS years. These books were truly ground breaking and covered all bases – such as offerings from
Andrew Ramer: TWO FLUTES PLAYING
Toby Johnson: GAY SPIRITUALITY, GAY PERSPECTIVE
Christian de la Huerta: COMING OUT SPIRITUALLY
David Nimmons: SOUL BENEATH THE SKIN
John Stowe: GAY SPIRIT WARRIOR
Will Roscoe: JESUS AND THE SHAMANIC TRADITION OF SAME SEX LOVE
Christopher Penczak: GAY WITCHCRAFT
Michael Thomas Ford: THE PATH OF THE GREEN MAN
Kerri Pickett: FAERIES: VISIONS, VOICES AND PRETTY DRESSES
These works, all published 1997-2005, although largely written by and about gay men, were early signs of the gradual opening up of the story around the spirituality of all LGBTQ+ people the world over that needs to happen. This energy was also developing in increasing numbers of gay spiritual retreats in Europe and the USA, including the blossoming queer pagan and radical faerie gatherings happening at this time. This development is a turning away from the tame and humble words of those gay people defending us within religious institutions, whose books I haven’t included here – instead of ‘fitting in’, these queer spirit books are proclaiming the innate and ancient power in our sexuality in its own right, as well as being a manifestation of the longing for deeper meaning felt in particular by some gay men as a hedonistic period hit the male community following the deep soul searching so many of us went through during the AIDS epidemic.
Since 2005 new books have appeared as more authors share their own liberating insights, such as Salvatore Sapienza: GAY IS A GIFT (2009), Giles Herrada: THE MISSING MYTH (2013) and Caffyn Jesse: ORIENTATION (2015). Some focus on de-colonising the notion of sexuality from the binary, western, psychological model developed in the late 19th century – when we look at diverse cultures around the globe it certainly becomes very apparent that homo and trans sexualities have a deep association with spirituality, long ago denied in the monotheistic religions. Thomas Prower takes a world tour on this theme in QUEER MAGIC (2018). Raven Kaldera highlights the sacred history and power of gender-variance in HERMAPHRODEITIES, while books such as ARCANE PERFECTION (2017), a second QUEER MAGIC, Power Beyond Boundaries (2018), and most recently THE BOOK OF QUEER PROPHETS (2020) are compilations of writings by queer individuals each telling something of their personal tale and sharing their unique eye on the world.