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social sciences

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Spirituality  
 
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Among some glbtq people, intimacy tends to diffuse, affecting more members of the human family than traditional monogamy permits. Such diffusion tends to create bonds between glbtq people across social and national boundaries. This bonding is often emotion-based rather than activity-based, demonstrating a spirituality more at home with friendships and conversation than with, for example, athletic activities. Thus, glbtq spirituality often results in deep, long-lasting friendships; in contrast, heterosexual men are often uncomfortable being intimate, even non-sexually, with anyone other than their own spouses. Moreover, the extra-familial relationships nurtured by gay spirituality are often stronger for being self-generated rather than the result of blood or legal ties.

Institutions

In 1968 a church designed for gay men and lesbians was begun in Los Angeles by Troy Perry, a minister who had been defrocked by the evangelical Church of God for being gay. His new Metropolitan Community Church became a safe haven for homosexuals seeking a spiritual experience more organized than they could find on their own. In the final decades of the twentieth century, this sacred space for glbtq people proliferated into a rapidly growing fellowship of new churches, with the denomination retaining a loose base in Protestant spirituality and theology.

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Other churches and synagogues, some mainstream and some outside the mainstream, have also reached out to glbtq people, adapting their liturgies and theology to the special needs of gay men and lesbians and others who feel abandoned by traditional religions. For example, some independent Catholic parishes reject the Roman Catholic Church's official anti-gay stance and welcome Catholics uncomfortable in the traditional church.

Other Christian denominations, such as the United Church of Christ and the Unitarian Universalists, have been in the forefront of the movement to achieve full equality for glbtq people within their communities and in the society at large. In addition, dozens of nondenominational evangelical churches, and individual congregations affiliated with denominations that are not themselves especially supportive, minister particularly to glbtq communities, as do several gay-specific synagogues.

Because they often do not feel welcome in the established religions, some glbtq people leave churches, synagogues, and mosques altogether or find solace in those religions that reach out to them. Others, however, opt to stay within established denominations as a means of exploring their spirituality. These individuals often seek solace from satellite organizations, such as Dignity, which appeals specifically to Roman Catholics, or Integrity, which serves Episcopalians, or Affirmation, which ministers to Methodists. Some satellite organizations are designed especially for women, such as the Conference for Catholic Lesbians founded in 1981 at a New Ways Ministry retreat.

New Ways Ministry was founded in 1977 by Sister Jeannine Gramick and Father Robert Nugent as a gay-positive ministry of advocacy and justice for lesbian and gay Catholics.

For homosexuals addicted to alcohol, a kind of spiritual peace has come from faithful adherence to the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous and its attendant soul-sharing weekly meetings, sometimes adapted for the particular needs of gay men and lesbians. A central tenet of the group is the acknowledgment of a higher power that may be interpreted according to a wide variety of spiritual and religious traditions.

Beyond Institutions

Some glbtq people develop their spirituality apart from mainstream religions, which they have found of little help in understanding themselves. But rather than seeing themselves as radical outsiders, these people frequently see themselves as spiritual pioneers, often joining with like-minded individuals on a quest much like their own.

Such spiritual camaraderie builds strong bonds of affirmation that lead to peace and sound mental health. Rather than adapting themselves to traditional methods of finding the spirit, these glbtq people nurture a courage to investigate a spirituality within that may or may not bear resemblance to an institutionalized spirituality.

Some find their spirituality by cultivating a relationship with nature. Beyond expressing a simple concern for the environment, these individuals meditate on their oneness with life around them in all its animal and mineral forms.

Others turn to yoga for guidance in meditation and understanding of the self. Some have found the teachings and practices of Eastern mystics of aid in discovering a universal spirit or consciousness dwelling within themselves. Still others have turned to the Western practice of psychotherapy and twelve-step programs to find self-understanding and serenity.

Meditation

Like many others, some glbtq individuals seek to discover spirituality by following a meditative pattern. They seek to find a quiet spot inside themselves, often connecting with nature or God or an indwelling spirit through repeated meditation, possibly with the use of a mantra. They may seek out a veteran spiritual guide, but often they explore spirituality with a friend or lover with whom they share a similar spiritual disposition.

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