I helped support the production of the first safer-sex pamphlet in San Francisco as part of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. I grew up in a nonreligious and nonspiritual home, but while in college began exploring personal spirituality. This led eventually to becoming a gay male nun and to meeting SPI sisters. When I moved to San Francisco, I joined the order and was involved until not too long before I moved away.
The early history of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (before my time) included protesting nuclear power in the wake of Three Mile Island and fundraising for gay refugees from the Mariel boatlift. While I was a member we raised money to produce Play Fair! as well as continuing to do benefit fundraising in the community. We were involved in antiwar protests against US involvement in Central America and rarely missed an opportunity to subvert archetypes with a goal of releasing people from shame and guilt and “promulgating universal joy.” Some of us were involved in gatherings of the radical faeries.
Today the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence around the world include members of all genders, but at that time in San Francisco it was all men. And today most members wear “white face,” a practice I disliked back then when only a few did it and dislike even more today. Some sisters, when they put on the habit (and makeup), became larger than life and bloomed into wonderfully strange flowers. A few of us became more focused and contained. The reasons for becoming nuns were individual to each, but I felt there were three major elements reflected in varying degrees by each of us: drag, politics, and spirituality.
My interest in drag has always been minimal (and it’s all drag: we’re born naked), but critical engagement with politics and spirituality continue to be important to me.
I’ve not often done an end/beginning of the year look at the state of my life, but as I was sitting at the laundromat this morning it seemed like a good way to use some of the time. I’ve continued to muse over the course of the day. So here are some reflections on the ups and downs of my life over the past year, a little context, and some hopes for 2011.
2010 was a difficult year
- It feels like it will be a laundry list of whining when I start off with “I’m dissatisfied with my job,” but, well, I am. I’ve been working on both attitude and actual job content for the last few months, but on balance it ends up in the negative column. Here’s hoping for a better 2011!
- In mid-March the roof blew off my side of the three-floor apartment building I live in (on the third floor), sending lots and lots and lots of water pouring down my walls and through my kitchen. It was months before it was fixed. I do have very nice new walls and floor in the kitchen now, but it was nothing short of hellish.
- One of my cats had a seizure during the whole kitchen chaos. I felt really helpless. The vet didn’t find anything, and she has seemed fine since.
- Speaking of not finding anything: I had my routine half-century colonoscopy, and it was clean (as was an upper GI endoscopy).
- I lost ten pounds (on purpose). Here’s to hoping I can continue the trend in 2011!
- I took Wednesdays off work during August. What a great decision!
- I spent less than in 2009. Never a bad thing.
- Three really excellent trips: I had lovely, lovely visits with old friends in Minneapolis before and after working at the UUA’s annual General Assembly; I went to my friends Margaret and Alice’s home in Vermont for a longish weekend; and I went to California to see my family.
Changes in Second Life
In the spring I sold my last remaining region in Second Life. I no longer wanted to be a landlord, and the full cost of a sim was way out of line with my current enjoyment of Second Life. On the other hand, the year ended in absolute delight and pleasure in a gift from Wynx Whiplash for the 12th day of Wootmas in Raglanshire: a tiny reindeer. (A gift to anyone, not a gift just to me. All the more wonderful and generous for that.)
My life is really pretty cushy when contrasted with those in Haiti and Chile dealing with earthquakes and those in Pakistan dealing with floods. Not to mention the horrific environmental devastation caused by British Petroleum (and our collective addiction to oil) in the Gulf of Mexico.
Along with most everyone else, I wept and wept when the epidemic of GLBT teen suicides came to our attention. And I weep a different kind of tears when I see the “It Gets Better” videos created by people from all walks of life, right from GLBT teens to the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. As one of my favorite bloggers, Andrew Sullivan, often ends his posts, “Know hope.”
It didn’t seem possible the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was actually going to be repealed. I could hardly believe when it was. I’ve never wanted to serve in the military, and I believe violence is evil even when it is the least bad option that we can see. But it’s hard to express the depth to which the repeal of DADT (and the eventual end of the policy) affects my sense of being an actual, equal citizen of the United States. It is a constant assault to have something as personal as one’s sexuality constantly paraded through the news as a political and cultural football. What a relief to have taken one more step to putting that discussion to bed.
I have a few things I’d like to do in 2011.
- Go outside every day. (The days I work at home, and sometimes on weekends, I may spend the whole day inside.)
- Sit still every day for ten minutes. Not just sitting and reading, or sitting at the computer, or sitting and listening to music. Just sitting. A long overdue response to my ongoing spiritual drought.
- Take lunch to work at least once a week. Yes, that will be a change, sad to say.
Happy New Year to everyone.
Wonderful reflections on a Yom Kippur retreat by Rachel Barenblat at Velveteen Rabbi: Yom Kippur 5770.
The gates of repentance are open to anyone who approaches them with an open heart. There is an infinite source of love available to us, and we are always already forgiven. We just have to come knocking.
Andrew J. Brown, an English liberal Christian Unitarian, blogs at CAUTE: Some more thoughts on Garden Academies
. . . if liberals are going to get real things done in these difficult times then we need to recall that our power has always been in the cultivation of small and ever-evolving gardens which, collectively, show something real about our liberalism which includes, of course, a commitment to the incredible diversity and vulnerability of all life upon our home planet. The moment we are tempted to scale up to bigger institutions we begin to resemble, not gardeners (i.e. people actively commingling with the world) but managers (i.e. people who act at a distance from the world).
And Martin Kelley, a Quaker (I won’t hyphenate him!) blogs at Quaker Ranter: Is it Convergent to talk about Convergence?
Just the last thing is that for me if our work isn’t ultimately rooted in sharing the good news then it’s self-indulgent. I don’t want to create a little oasis or hippy compound of happy people. Friends aren’t going to go to heaven in our politically-correct smugness while the rest of the world is dying off. It’s all of us or none of us. If we’re not actively evangelizing, then we are part of the problem. “Convergence” is Quaker lingo. When we say it we’re turning our back to the world to talk amongst ourselves: a useful exercise occassionally but not our main work.
Hmm. I’m not sure the two quotes I’ve chosen do the best job at showing why I think these two posts are related, but it’s the best I have time to do at the moment!
Andrew Brown is both a jazz musician and a Unitarian and radical Christian minister. He has written No Image — No Passion or how practising rock and roll moves in the mirror taught me the value of imitation:
. . . merely desiring the fruits of a liberal religion without at the same time seriously seeking to follow a religious exemplar means you will never get a real grip on what you need to be doing in the life of the spirit. Everything will remain terribly unfocussed and unfulfilling. There will be no attainment and progression.
From a minister-blogger I’m reading more of these days, CAUTE: On cottages, decay, barns, fire, Mt. Olympus and the moon – or the future of the liberal church . . .:
So we are left with what feels to many the inconvenient truth that to be truly free as an individual to pursue truth we must ensure the freedom to do the same of an ever larger community and, to do that properly, we have to limit our personal freedom through the continuous process of covenanting. (It’s like marriage of course.)
Doug Muder has posted a sermon at Free and Responsible Search: Some Assembly Required. As ever, he has an engaging intro:
[T]here used to be a little sign on Highway 24 – I don’t think it’s there any more – directing you to the Ripley Church of God.
One of my character flaws is that I lack a proper sense of reverence. And so, every time I passed that sign, the same irreverent phrase went through my mind: Believe it or not.
Something similar happens whenever I pass an Assembly of God church. You know what phrase pops into my mind then? Some assembly required. I picture a bunch of people with a God kit and an enormous set of directions, trying to figure out how to make the omnipotence fit together with the benevolence.
That’s probably not what they do in Assemblies of God. But it’s not a bad metaphor for what Unitarian Universalists do. Our religion doesn’t come to us as a finished product; some assembly is required. As George Marshall wrote: “Don’t come to a Unitarian Universalist church to be given a religion. Come to develop your own religion.”
The meat of Doug’s sermon explores this quandary:
[S]omeone who walks in the door with the wrong metaphor, someone who tries to stuff us into the wrong box . . . well, they ask the wrong questions. And after you’ve asked the wrong questions, even the best answers might not help you.
He proceeds to reframe some of the “wrong” questions in order to make “right” answers possible.