Category Archives: Gay, Lesbian Bi-sexual, Transgendered, Queer [GLBTQ]

You Are In Integrity

“You are in integrity when the life you live is an authentic expression of who you are.” — Alan Cohen

 

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I am a Unitarian Universalist

 

Spirit of Life

“Spirit of Life, come unto me.
Sing in my heart all the stirrings of compassion.
Blow in the wind, rise in the sea;
Move in the hand, giving life the shape of justice.
Roots hold me close; wings set me free;
Spirit of Life, come to me, come to me.”

Singing the Living Tradition Hymn #123

 

I consider myself to be a part of one of the Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregations here in Phoenix, Arizona and plan to become more involved on a regular basis after I get settled in Tucson, Arizona when I move there this March. When I make mention to people inquiring what “church” I attend, and tell them I am a UU, the response is most often, “Oh yeah, sure; I’ve been to a Unity church before.”  Unity and Unitarian Universalism are not the same at all.

I was raised as a Lutheran (Missouri Synod) and in 1979 when I came out to family, friends and my church community, it was made very clear that I was no longer welcome “In God’s house” by my minister.  Thus began a spiritual drought for me which lasted until 1984.  That is, until one of my employees and I became close; close enough to discuss religious affiliations and beliefs.  Upon sharing my experience with the Lutheran church, she said to me, “You need to check out one of the Unitarian Universalist churches.”  I did attend a UU congregation in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on Easter Sunday.  I was impressed by the sermon challenging the reality of the resurrection.  I have felt truly “at home” in any Unitarian Universalist Association congregation I have attended in the country.

The Unitarian Universalist Association


For many, it is helpful to understand that the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) is a religious organization that combines two traditions: the Universalists, who organized in 1793, and the Unitarians, who organized in 1825. They consolidated into the UUA in 1961.

The UUA roots in North America go back to the independent, self-governing churches of colonial New England that made a covenant to help one another in times of need. In Europe, the UU heritage reaches back to religious and social reformers in England, Poland and Transylvania.

Unitarian Universalism is a liberal religion with Jewish-Christian roots. It has no creed. It affirms the worth of human beings, advocates freedom of belief and the search for advancing truth, and tries to give a warm, open, supportive community for people who believe that ethical living is the supreme witness of religion. Use of “Universe” is seen as a non-judgmental, inclusive term; respecting the choice everyone makes as to his/her higher power.

UU Principles

There are seven principles which Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote:

  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in UU congregations;
  • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within UU congregations and in society at large;
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

These principles and sources of faith are the backbone of the UU religious community.

Unitarian Universalism (UU) draws from many sources:

  • Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
  • Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to face powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
  • Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires one’s ethical and spiritual life;
  • Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
  • Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit.
  • Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

Welcoming Congregation

As a gay man, one of the most important components of the UU congregation for me is the “Welcoming Congregation” program.  In 1987 the UUA established the Common Vision Planning Committee. This committee found many negative attitudes, deep prejudices, and profound ignorance about bisexual, gay, and lesbian people, which resulted in the exclusion of bisexual, gay, and lesbian people from their churches.  As a result, the Welcoming Congregation program was created to educate its members. Each congregation adapts the program to best meet its goals and each unique situation can bring positive changes to people and congregations.

The Welcoming Congregation Program is a completely volunteer program for congregations that see a need to become more inclusive towards bisexual, gay, lesbian, and/or transgender people. It consists of a series of workshops developed by the UUA. The goal of the workshops is to cut prejudice by increasing understanding and acceptance among people of different sexual orientations. Some of the workshop titles include: How Homophobia Hurts Heterosexuals; Connections to Other Forms of Oppression; Gender Socialization and Homophobia; and Biblical Perspectives on Homosexuality. Many congregations offer the workshop series several consecutive times as an adult religious education curriculum open to all members and friends. In some congregations the workshop series (and later the entire program) is sponsored by a Welcoming Congregation Task Force/Committee created for just this purpose, while other congregations sponsor the workshop series through their Interweave chapters.

What it means to be a Welcoming Congregation

Congregations who publicly and successfully welcome bisexual, gay, lesbian and transgender people have the following qualities:

Includes and address the needs of b/g/l/t persons at every level of congregational life—in worship, in programs, in social occasions, and in rites of passage—welcoming not only their presence, but the gifts and particularities of their lives as well.

Assumes the presence of b/g/l/t people and celebrates this diversity by having inclusive language and content in their worship.

Fully incorporates the experiences of b/g/l/t persons throughout all programs, including religious education.

Includes an affirmation and nondiscrimination clause in UU by-laws and other official documents affecting all dimensions of congregational life, including membership, hiring practices, and the calling of religious professionals.

Engages in outreach into the b/g/l/t community in its advertising and by actively supporting b/g/l/t affirmative groups.

Offers congregational and ministerial support for union and memorial services for b/g/l/t persons and for celebrations of…family definitions.

Celebrates the lives of all people and welcomes same-sex couples, recognizing their committed relationships, and equally affirms displays of caring and affections without regard to sexual orientation.

Seeks to nurture ongoing dialogue between bisexual, gay, lesbian, transgender, and heterosexual persons and to create deeper trust and sharing.

Encourages the presence of a chapter of Interweave.

Affirms and celebrates b/g/l/t issues and history during the church year.

Attends to legislative developments and works to promote justice, freedom, and equality in the larger society.

Speaks out when the rights of bisexual, gay, lesbian and transgender people are at stake.

Celebrates the lives of all people and their ways of expressing their love for each other.

Confronting prejudices in a non-judgmental, non-threatening group allows the exploration of their origins and offers an opportunity to replace those prejudices with knowledge. Understanding prejudices leads to personal spiritual growth and congregational unity.

The Flaming Chalice


A flame within a chalice (a wide-lipped stemmed cup), like that which you can see at the top of this blog, is a symbol of the Unitarian Universalist (UU) faith.  At the opening of Unitarian Universalist worship services, many congregations light a flame inside a chalice. This flaming chalice has become a well-known symbol of the denomination. It unites its members in worship and symbolizes the spirit of their work.

Hans Deutsch, an Austrian artist, first brought together the chalice and the flame as a Unitarian symbol during his work with the Unitarian Service Committee during World War II.   To Deutsch, the image had connotations of sacrifice and love.  Unitarian Universalists today have many different interpretations of the image. To many, the cup represents religious community, while the flame represents ideas including the sacrificial flame, the flame of the spirit, and more.

The flaming chalice image has changed many times over the past 65 years.  There is no single interpretation of today’s flaming chalice symbol.  Modern chalice designs often join two overlapping circles which, for many people, represent our Unitarian and Universalist heritages.  Other images include added elements, some of which are merely decorative and others which are very meaningful.

If you would like to learn more about the history of the chalice in UU congregations please visit http://www.uuworld.org/ideas/articles/2442.shtml

Spiritual Life

I began this blog with my favorite UU hymn, “Spirit of Life” by Carolyn McDade.  It is UU Doxology, or perhaps the UU “Amazing Grace.” Many congregations sing it every Sunday, or at least enough to know the words by heart. Sermons have been devoted to this one song.

In six short lines “Spirit of Life” touches so much that is central to our faith—compassion, justice, community, freedom, reverence for nature, and the mystery of life. It finds the common ground held by humanists and theists, pagans and Christians, Buddhists and Jews, gay and straight among us.

 

Integrate Healthy Sexuality Into Life

Sex is one of the nine reasons for reincarnation.  The other eight are unimportant.”  — Henry Miller

Henry Valentine Miller (December 26, 1891 –– June 7, 1980) was an American novelist and painter. He was known for breaking with existing literary forms, developing a new sort of novel made up of autobiography, social criticism, philosophical reflection, surrealist free association and mysticism, one that is distinct always about and expressive of the real-life Henry Miller, and yet is also fictional. His works of this kind are Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn and Black Spring. Henry Miller also was known to write travel memoirs and essays of literary criticism and analysis.

It is good and healthy to laugh about sex – as long as the laughter is on the side of life.  Sex, after all, is part of the life force, and if it is surrounded by caring and honesty, it leads to a joyous intensification of our relationship with others and with the world.  Then sex, like laughter, integrates.

Too often, laughing about sex betrays uneasiness, shame, disgust, and the want to hurt.  We talk about “dirty jokes” and consign sex to the bathroom.  We split off sex from other feelings and surround it with taboos and rituals and mockery.  Viewed in this way, sex isolates us.

We need to learn to talk about our sexuality in a proud and affirmative way. Talking and laughing in a group, or with a friend, or with a loved one, is one of the steps we take to bring sex into the open to take its place as part of the diversity of life.  Own your sexuality.  Talk about it without shame and claim it a vital part of life.

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Exploring Healthy Sexuality

 

“O Body swayed to music, O brightening glance how can we know the dancer from the dance?”   — W.B. Yeats

Sexuality is not something we do, but its part of whom we are.  We are physical, intellectual, emotional, sexual and spiritual people, and all parts are equally important.  To consider sexuality as energy, a state of being, and not a state of activity, helps us bring our sexuality and our sexual expression back within ourselves.

Part of my challenge with sexuality is to explore what healthy sexuality is and to decide what my values and behaviors are going to be.  I am responsible only for taking care of myself; it is not up to me to decide sexual issues for others or for society.  It is more than enough to know my own needs and how I will meet them.  I can give myself permission to put sexuality in its rightful place.  It is an important part of who I am, but only a part, not the entire sum of my personality and being.

 

Coupling

Coupling

I am 49 years old, and since coming out at the age of 18 in 1979, I have been in three significant relationships. The first ended after 16 ½ years, the second lasted 10 years and 5 years in my last. My first two previous relationships ended for the same basic reasons; my inability to be honest, my inability to be monogamous, and a pattern of dishonesty throughout the relationship. I am fortunate that I have been able to have some degree of ongoing, present day relationship with both of my former partners; however the hurts and the resultant emotional damage linger and prove to be a barrier to any deep or lasting friendship. In retrospect, there are many things I could have chosen to do differently in both relationships, though that is no guarantee that the outcome would have been different. In both prior relationships, my partner and I attended couples counseling which ultimately served as the platform for dissolution of the relationship.

Very few of us gays and lesbians have been fortunate enough to have had homosexual parents who could model for us the ideal gay or lesbian relationship – caring, growing, fun, mutually supportive – all within the context of a burgeoning gay culture. Most of us were stuck with parents of the heterosexual variety – good, bad, or indifferent as mates to each other and parents to us, but no help at all in fashioning our gay love life. Lacking marriage manuals, parental guidance and models of conjugal bliss on film and television, we’ve had to “wing it” when it came to putting together workable love and life partnerships. Intimate relationships are a tricky business at best. Without the sanctions and supports of society’s institutions (no positive messages at all), same-sex coupling presents a special challenge to the courage and ingenuity of lovers trying to build a life together.

At times, that challenge involves the same hassles that bewilder every couple trying to make a go of it. At other times, it involves bedevilment seemingly reserved only for gay lovers in an uptight and intransigent straight world. Same-sex couples?

“Unnatural”,

“Unsanctionable”,

Unconscionable”,

Immoral”,

“Sick”

“Immature”,

“Can’t work”,

“Won’t last”,

“Doesn’t count”.


These are the negative messages that I believe undermine, subvert and scare us into pale versions of our dream of love. Sometimes, I know from my life experience, I internalize these types of messages and once the tapes of these messages begin to play in my mind, they work against me from inside.

“I’m immoral”,

“I’m sick”,

“I’m immature”,

“My relationship can’t work, won’t last, and doesn’t count.”

I find myself undermining my own efforts by echoing society’s baseless pronouncements about us. Too often I allow these clichés to become self-fulfilling prophecies. The prophecy of doom comes true, in turn; reinforcing the clichés and making them seem as truth. I have swallowed these untruths and the cycle becomes complete. If I, along with my fellow gay and lesbian peers am ever going to bring order, reason and sense to our lives as gay people, we must learn to interrupt that cycle. We must learn to find our own homophobic messages. We must become alert to their presence in our thinking, to the ways in which we merge them into our view of ourselves and other gay people.

“It was so gay of him,” I heard someone say recently when describing the inconsiderate behavior of a peer. I believe we must catch each other at this, work together to break the vicious cycle. Only then will we be able to really honor our deeply felt need to love and affiliate with persons of the same-sex. Only then can we learn to believe in the rightness of gay love relationships because they are, for us, the morally correct, emotionally healthy and socially responsible ways to live our lives. Many nongay people would argue with this statement I have just made. Some gay people would probably even argue with it. Going against prevailing beliefs is always threatening, even when doing so is ultimately to our advantage.

Why Couple?

What is the motivation to be in a coupled relationship in the first place? Why do it? When my last relationship ended in August of 2009, I promised myself that I would wait two years before considering a committed relationship. But a little more than a year into the “single life” finds me bored with shallow contacts cultivated through online “hook up” sites.  Is it that subconsciously I believe variety to be the spice of life and satisfy that need through hookups? Courtship is exciting. But the freedom and independence of being single for the first time in my adult life felt good too. So why couple up? Am I just afraid of being alone?

The reasons I feel for coupling are very much the same in the gay and nongay communities and they produce the same problems. Being alone has never been a valued condition in American society, being paired is, and the pressure to do so is almost as great in the gay world as in the nongay. So, people seek coupling because:

It’s important to find a partner so others (and you) will know that you can do it

Searching is boring – all that small talk game playing, insincerity, superficiality.

Searching is risky. You can get set up, ripped off, done in by strangers who don’t know or care about you.

Searching is time-consuming. I could be building, earning, learning, planting, painting …doing.

Searching is nerve-wracking. You can be put down, found out, written off. Singles are socially out of it – unsafe to have around a carefully homogenized couple’s scene.

Loneliness feels bad.

When the partner search is motivated by such pressures, chances are the selection process will be short and probably short-sighted. That’s not a disaster, since the willingness to work on a relationship can overcome such a beginning. The real problem is that short-circuited partner selection too often results in the fallacy of “if only I had a partner, then . . .” turning into the follow of, “now that I have a partner, I will . . . “: be loved, involved, safe, using my time constructively, emotionally supported, socially sought after and lonely no more. And then you aren’t. At least not enough, not often enough.

Each time I have entered into a committed relationship, I have invested my partner with enormous, usually unwanted power over my life. Few of us hold up under such a burden. If it has to be because of my partner that I feel adequately loved, meaningfully engaged, safe from the cruelties and crudities of boors and evil-doers; if it because of him that I will be enabled to meet the intellectual and creative challenges of my potential, feel comfortable in your dealings with the world, invited to the most desirable parties and freed of the pain of aloneness, well, I don’t think anyone can handle all that responsibility. If all of this is happening in the underground of a relationship, we don’t have a chance to deal with it, to become aware of it, to understand it, to express how we feel about it, to divest ourselves of the awful responsibilities of it. So, we have to find a way to make these implicit expectations we may have of one another explicit.

What I have learned I must do is open awareness of my own and my partner’s expectations and learn to communicate about them. This is particularly important for gay and lesbian couples whose relationships have to be made strong from within, since the culture without contributes so little to our stability. So how do we get to our fantasies and illusions about each other? Here’s one approach that I have begun to consider:

Every human relationship is flawed. Each person brings to the relationship a plethora of accumulated behaviors, good and bad. Also brought into the relationship are tools and coping mechanisms that may be current or, outdated. In my present relationship each of us has brought major health challenges as well as mental illness. In all of my relationships, past and present, I found it frightening to fight. In my mind, discord might be signaling the end of the relationship. The tape in my head plays, “Can’t work. Won’t last. Doesn’t count. And we’re dancing to their tune again!” But turning away from conflict is turning away from reality.

Denying anger, until it explodes unexpectedly at a later date, is bewildering and potentially very damaging to a relationship. Dealing with it as directly as possible, when it is happening, is strengthening though it may be painful and frightening to do so. Fighting is a necessity in a thriving relationship. Fighting fairly and to the finish is essential to the continuing growth of any partnership.

Unfinished fights are usually aborted because of fear of losing or fear of exposing hurt feelings or concern over letting go of one’s emotions totally. Most of us have experienced these fears at one time or another. But unfinished fights leave the participants tense and anxious. If I may share with you what I have found to be true in my life, if you feel tense and anxious when you stop fighting, your fight is probably unfinished. You should continue trying to work through to the finish – that is, until the real, underlying issues are confronted.

When my earlier partners and I experienced a good fight, we as partners were aware that we were risking ourselves and we were willing to experience the discomfort that brings resolve to the conflict. In a good fight, we trusted each other enough to be honest about our feelings, about our grievances and what we want to be different in the future. The good fight ends in negotiation, with both of persons being clear about what is being asked for about change. There is accommodation on both sides. Nobody loses. Everybody wins.

We must be willing to fight with each other to discharge the tensions that relationship building inevitably brings. We must be willing to fight to work through the control issues that are part of every partnership. The more openly these issues are dealt with, the better chance my next partner and I have for a lively, satisfying, and enduring life together.

Much of what I have written about so far applies to both male and female couples, for that matter, to nongay as well as gay couples. There are some ways, however, in which liaisons between two women and between two men are unique. I believe these differences are, primarily, outcomes of the ways women and men are differently socialized in this society.

With only three primary love relationships in my history, all of which ended in very negative ways, I have been able to come away from those relationships with some new knowledge of myself, and the intricacies of being in relationship. In the minds of my former partners, I will never be able to get out from under the thoughts they may have of me, or their reactions triggered from their experience with me. However, I know that people can and will change. I have. And along with this change comes my perception of how to make a relationship work and that is what I am happy to share openly with you.

The Challenges of Accepting and Loving Life

“Love is not about finding the right person, but creating a right relationship. It’s not about how much love you have in the beginning but how much love you build till the end.”

I know I’m not alone in my lingering fear of pain and the way I try to flee its onset. In the past, I would do almost anything to avoid being hurt, and I was unwilling to take risks in my emotional life. I remained in a love-less relationship for 16 1/2 years and a in a second, controlling, compulsive and impulsive relationship for nearly 11 years, then endured a 5 year abusive relationship because I didn’t want to feel the pain associated with ending those relationships.

Deep down though, I knew I was playing a dangerous game with my sanity. But at least I wasn’t making myself vulnerable, or so I thought. Life without pain I have learned is an impossibility. The same is true of love. Our loved ones may grow away from us for a while, or they may become sick, leave us or die. We cannot control life. Accepting it and loving it as it is, with everything that is unpredictable and painful about it, is one of my greatest challenges along my path of personal growth.

I can accept pain as a part of life, even as a part of my growth and health. I can accept pain when I have attained a sense of serenity in my heart. I must give up the false sense of power that results from closing myself off from pain, and, at last, I will feel fully alive.

Hugging and Holding

 

“I’d never seen men hold each other.  I thought the only thing they were allowed to do was shake hands or fight.”  —Rita Mae Brown

Like many men, I grew up without knowing the warmth of lovingly touching one another.  Some of us had fathers who trapped themselves in a stereotypical male role, afraid to hold us and show their love for us.  We may have learned to be independent, competitive, and even separate.  We often fall into awkwardness and isolation.  As men especially, we become afraid to reach out, hug, and hold someone of our own sex. So many of us, whether male or female, have lost touch with ourselves and with others.  We have been alone far too long.

One result when pursuing personal growth is the awareness and beginning of healthy and proper holding of one another and giving hugs.  At first, we may find it embarrassing and keep our distance.  As we learn to loosen up and reach out, we look forward to the warmth and strength that comes from giving and receiving a friendly, caring hug.  It is good to learn to touch in a fearless and nonsexual way.  I am glad to be in touch with other people through hugging and holding.

Make You Feel My Love – Adele

 

Make You Feel My Love

When the rain
Is blowing in your face
And the whole world
Is on your case
I could offer you
A warm embrace
To make you feel my love

When the evening shadows
And the stars appear
And there is no one there
To dry your tears
I could hold you
For a million years
To make you feel my love

I know you
Haven’t made
Your mind up yet
But I would never
Do you wrong
I’ve known it
From the moment
That we met
No doubt in my mind
Where you belong

I’d go hungry
I’d go black and blue
I’d go crawling
Down the avenue
No, there’s nothing
That I wouldn’t do
To make you feel my love

The storms are raging
On the rolling sea
And on the highway of regret
Though winds of change
Are throwing wild and free
You ain’t seen nothing
Like me yet

I could make you happy
Make your dreams come true
Nothing that I wouldn’t do
Go to the ends
Of the Earth for you
To make you feel my love

Sung by Adele – 19

Occasionally I enjoy sharing lyrics from songs which mean a great deal to me; poignant expressions of where I’m at in life. Adele’s new album “21” will be available soon.

Digital Photography VI ~ Glory Hole

Through The Glory Hole-6

Image by groovydudesdude via Flickr

 

A few years ago, I found a new “hobby” of sorts in digital photography, and the photo editing I realized I could do through various editing programs.  Starting with the most simple of editing programs, I began to turn what seemed an ordinary photos in to something quite – extraordinary. This photo, called “Glory Hole” began as an edit of photo of a television screen.

This is a re-post of this blog/photo.  Interestingly, it is the second most viewed blog on any one of my three web blog sites!

The term “glory hole” originated as a mining expression.  Obviously, the meaning has evolved over the years to one of an adult connotation. Any adult reader who doesn’t know what a glory hole is, click the link.


 

 

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