Faith and Spirit at PRIDE LONDON: in the Zone

There will be a FAITH AND SPIRITUALITY tent at Pride 2013, situated in the top north eastern corner of Trafalgar Square, near to St Martin in the Fields. A touch of queer sacred space in the middle of the celebrations. Prayers, chants, meditations from the world’s traditions will happen at certain times and there will be space to chat with spiritual queers from various backgrounds. A crew of healers will be around offering various activities or just mingling.

Pride 2012 was rich in emotion. Fierce determination and anger marched alongside pride and joy. We felt like a community making a statement, not simply showing off. (Hedonistic revelry was not much in evidence, there being no floats for dancing gogos to strut on). Trafalgar Square and the west end buzzed like a neon rainbow nation festival. All races, all ages, all sexualities swirling around together smiling and laughing in the sunshine. In our multi-coloured spectacular we turned the centre of the city into a zone of unconditional loving acceptance and highly charged celebration of life’s diversity.

Taking a few steps out of the queer zone towards the tube at tottenham court road the colour scheme changed. Grey and blue, black and white took over from the rainbow extravaganza, as I headed home there was a gradual shift to a less relaxed reality where faces were not smiling, glares were sometimes intense and guards were up.

Pride is a political and social action, vital over the years in the struggle to secure freedoms and equality for the non-heteronormative minority, but also celebrating life’s spectacular diversity as more supporters have become involved.  Pride is VITAL NOW because there are parts of the world where it seems we are still so feared and misunderstood that our celebrations are banned and our self expression repressed.

Pride is also a spiritual statement – we gather as a tribe to celebrate our lives, opening our hearts and letting our spirits shine. We pump joy into the world, spreading those ‘good vibes’ even conservative parts of society like us for now……. When we gather at Pride we celebrate the right of all people to love whom they choose, the right to be safe in expressing who they are, and of course we also celebrate the glories of the body and the pleasures it can give us. These are profoundly spiritual statements from a people that has no church, though maybe the glitter ball is our symbol for divinity, gracing the centre of the dance floors that have been our haven even when the outside world continues to hate.   The glory we take in sexuality and the body does not have to cut us off from spirituality – in fact it shakes the religious establishments to the core, as centuries of denial and repression of natural sexual energies are exposed, with all the secrecy and corruption that has gone with it.  Sexuality was once understood as profound spiritual expression by ancient cultures and that knowledge is still avaialbable to us today.  In an age when sex is largely commodified most of us yet know that it can open the doors to heaven.

Despite the adversities in our lives, we are a portion of humanity that always likes to party.  Could it be that we queers are here to teach the rest of the world how to lighten up and enjoy life!?! How to love, how to play, how to accept each other, how to face the taboos, how to remember that life is a precious sacred gift, and enjoy it. Edward Carpenter, Walt Whitman, Harry Hay are amongst those who thought so, and dared to say it.

The homophobia still acting out in the world is usually justified with religious references. Although much of the religious world has moved to accept queers, with flocks often way ahead of shepherds, and although the monotheistic religions have dumped almost all the arcane rules from the book of leviticus, an angry and violent minority insist on the righteousness of their hatred for us, and demand the right to discriminate against us. In the West, the socio-cultural fear and dislike of us has reduced vastly over a few decades – though not gone by any means – but in african and middle eastern cultures there is still deep ingrained conditioned hate against us. Also in eastern Europe and Russia. Typical homophobes, these cultures need to look at their own homosexual history, of which there is plenty.

But faith, spiritual love and transcendence are not the preserve of the uptight and fearful. Far from it. Religion is actually about re-connecting to the divine source, and celebrating it. Religious rites are various kinds of celebration intended us to connect us to love, light and joy. Queers do appear to be particularly drawn to explore joy and love, we put a lot of energy into seeking blissful connection, and, whatever paths we choose to walk along, we usually find it. From the disco to the sauna to the yoga mat, faerie circle, tantra workshop, or religious service we are all finding the delight of connection to something greater than our individuality. One of our greatest heroes is called Divine, because that’s the gay secret – life is DIVINE, designed to be enjoyed compassionately, guilt free and erotically!

The rainbow celebration of pride brings the whole world together, at least those who are ready to get over their fear based bigotry and prejudice. Queers really don’t care so much about the differences, we celebrate them. We see so much more in common between people – like the love they seek and share and bring to the world. The creativity, the healing, the laughter, the art, the joy. These things count more to us than the stock markets. Life’s quality is measured from the heart. It is my belief that religions serve a purpose in human evolution but our understanding of god and spirit evolves over time, just as our understanding of everything else. Once we saw god as the mother, or as the sun, or we believed in many gods all around us, then we came to see god as a demanding father figure in the sky and became alienated from him. We noticed that religion does more to control us than liberate us. The way to break free if religion has left a bitter taste is to follow its original message. Love. Closing our hearts closes down our lives. We were born to be gay, ie happy –  for which we need an open heart. Love opens us and can lead us to profound discoveries about life, if we let it.  Spiritual teachers across the world have taught that love is god.

As all the world’s philosophies and faiths mingle and interact certain profound truths shine forth. From looking for god in the sky, or in sub atomic particles, there is increasing understanding among the spiritually sincere that God is found within. There is not one religion that doesn’t say it, but they hide it.  Jesus advised the Kingdom can be found within ourselves. Medieval Christians who said this got into trouble, but it is what every person who turns inwards in meditation finds.  It is through we humans that divine qualities enter into the world, or diabolical ones – we are the channels, created as Genesis tells us ‘male and female in His image’ ie transgendered from the start, everyone of us. It is a queer universe.

But it’s time to focus less on religion and more on the divinity of who we each are, every one of us a creative, joy-seeking love-tastic embodiment of LIFE, of the divine LOVE SUPREME itself. Thousands of pride goers will be participating in a gay day of love and joy, shining as they bring out the best of themselves – whatever they believe about the philosophy of life, they are spreading the love. That is what changes the world.

At the heart of gay pride queer sacred space will honour the power of this moment. I wish to pray for the fear of our kind to cease, and the whole world, us included, to see ourselves for the whole and holy, loving and compassionate, playful and ecstatic beings we really are, deserving of every joy, every deep feeling and wonder available to human nature. Please come join us in the Zone.

And in case the anti-gay christian brigade turn up better have the nail varnish, LIPPY and hairspray ready. Let’s remind them the whole of life is really GOD IN DRAG.

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