Coming Out is the start of the journey. Self-discovery is a lifetime’s path. Gay liberation has led to massive advances for the lgbt community in terms of political rights and social acceptance, at least in some parts of the world. The sexual revolution of the 1960s produced an environment where we are free to explore our sexuality as never before. But are many of us as yet exploring how far sexuality can take us? The spiritual aspects of sex, its ability to align us with our souls, higher selves and the divine, are little discussed in a queer culture that owes its very existence to the liberal, secular spirit of the twentieth century. The role of transgendered beings as shamans in the indigenous tribes of the planet is an indicator of what we might bring to the human family. So is the fact that for centuries in the west sensitive men and women who did not wish to marry (or go to war/engage in commerce) found refuge in the Church, where we fulfilled a natural role of service to the community.
Modern queers in the west have been liberated from the closet into a largely godless world. The human spirit’s desire to break taboos and explore the limits of its capacity for pleasure has been set free in us. No God is judging us, says the secular world that enabled our political and social liberation, and that does not exactly rate spiritual self-realisation as a life goal. Gay men in particular are pursuing pleasure with an intensity and decadence perhaps not seen in Europe since ancient Rome, strewing casualties of desire and disease along the way. Gay men’s sexual culture is more known for its excess, its coldness and its casualties than for its love, safety and brotherhood. Released not only from the closet, but also from the churches and monasteries, there is little to anchor gay life, no spiritual vision of our purpose, no direction to our love making, beyond imitating the marriage and family habits of heterosexuals. We have been liberated from the closet and set free to throw ourselves into a gay pool of pleasure which can lead to a plughole of unconscious, selfish, hedonistic narcissistic devastation. Sex without Soul is not a healthy goal.
AIDS was the sign from the human soul that gay liberation was not complete. AIDS showed that we need responsibility in our play. The world has addressed the physical symptoms but not the spiritual causes of HIV. Thanks to medical science we managed to stem the tide of deaths, but not of infections – and that could be because HIV still has work to do. In a gay universe where god and spirit barely get a look in, HIV is bringing to us, one by one, certain spiritual lessons that we need in order to awaken in the soul. We may have drugs now that hold off disease, if we can handle taking them and the side effects they might cause, but we will sooner or later find ourselves confronted by some kind of health crisis, that will make us stop and think. HIV challenges us to look at ourselves, find our own truths and heal our hearts. It brings the understanding that our emotional well being is intimately connected to our physical. It can make us learn to take responsibility for our own feelings, and how we can create emotional well being through our thoughts, words and actions. In other words it takes us on a spiritual journey – the hard way, it might be said, forced on us through fear and suffering rather than consciously chosen. The fear of what might happen to us, even today when the drugs do work, coupled with a lack of understanding of (respect for or even belief in) the nature of our souls, is great enough to drive many of us to extreme escapist behaviours through uncontrolled chemical and sexual abuse. Pursuing pleasure and escaping pain go together. But by running away from fear and avoiding the pain we are in fact resisting and running away from the discovery of our own Selves.
The very act of coming out is a spiritual one. To come out, we listen deeply to the soul within us and be true to what we find there. Coming out is a hugely courageous step in a world that still to a large extent fears or denies us, though in the west gay life is certainly much easier now. But coming out is not the end, there is more to find inside! Gay people carry vibrations that the world needs. Amongst us are artists, healers, mediators whose skills could have positive impact on the world. Amongst us are shamans, ritual magicians, fools and faeries who have the power to connect the many planes of consciousness, to communicate love and wisdom from between the worlds, and to unlock the doors to deep awakening in our souls. In our outward focussed, technological age, the ecstatic truths of the inner life are largely ignored, but still nearby waiting for us. The soul’s awakening is a stage of human evolution that a rational education has not prepared us for. There is no greater catalyst for that awakening than facing our own mortality.
Beyond the stories of prevention and pills, for many of us HIV acts as a trigger to force us to turn inwards in order to find our own deep truths, heal our hurts and address the matter of who we really are, what we really want, and how we live our lives. Gay culture could become much more aware of these questions, not presenting answers to the upcoming generations about what it means to be gay, but creating a culture that encourages each of us to seek out the truth of the soul inside and manifest that truth and light in the world. The process starts with coming out sexually, moves through the kind of relationships and social scenes we choose to create, plus how we express ourselves creatively, and concludes with a spiritual coming out, which is a coming home to the soul in all its multidimensional, post-rational, marvel. This is a path of transcending the fear of death, of discovering that darkness and disease are also ways to light, and tuning in to the fact that there is more to our existence than we may have thought.
In a world crippled by hatred, greed, shame and fear gay people have a huge role to play in creating a new paradigm built on love, cooperation and peace. These qualities are natural in (most of) us. We have gifts to bring to the world. HIV might be one of the ways we discover what those gifts are – through undertaking the healing journey that HIV invites us on. To become positive is no longer the end of the world – but it’s not situation normal any more either. Something inside changes when we become positive, and though we might avoid the questions of life and death that the virus triggers in us through taking the medicines that keep our bodies going, plus perhaps taking plenty of the recreational medicines that make us feel good, sooner or later some kind of crisis is going to force our hand. We could, individually and collectively, address the spiritual questions of life, rather than running away from them via crystal meth pipe etc, and avoid the crisis stage. Healing Is Vital, and HIV is the Universe forcing us to address that.
i’ve written more about hiv’s lessons for the gay community and the whole world at http://gayspirituality.typepad.com/blog/2014/11/hiv-means-healing-is-vital-world-aids-day-2014.html