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social sciences

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Spirituality  
 
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They reach out and practice, alone or together, whatever methods they have discovered that speak to themselves and others as a rewarding path to peace and understanding. At some point they may make a conscious withdrawal from work or home to attend a retreat, sometimes organized by an established group or sometimes arranged simply as a time to be alone in a natural setting conducive to meditation. Those who choose the former may opt to go to a Christian or Buddhist monastery for a retreat under the direction of an established master.

Buddhism especially has spoken effectively to Western homosexuals seeking to define their own spirituality apart from the Judaeo-Christian tradition. Its gentle regard for all living things seems particularly conducive to the quiet peace that many homosexuals appreciate. Contemporary Buddhists such as Joanna Macy of the United States and Thich Nhat Hahn of Vietnam have attempted to link Buddhist spiritual practices to social and political commitments.

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Other Paths

Journeying takes many forms. The emergence of "New Age" movements and practices in the last decades of the twentieth century expressed a hope that the old order of coercion and violence would give way to a New Age of harmony and well-being. New Age practices such as Tarot readings, channeling, and astrology have been popular among gay men and lesbians seeking a Post-Christian spirituality.

New Age retreats offer glbtq people practice in everything from personality research tools like the enneagram (a means of discovering one's personality type) to the ancient Chinese practice of feng shui, which investigates one's relationship with the cosmos.

Some gatherings are nationally organized. Body Electric, for example, an organization founded in Oakland, California in 1985, meets on weekends around the United States, under the direction of a licensed psychotherapist, offering workshops to heal the rift between one's sexuality and one's spirituality. Working from the belief that sexual expression offers the ultimate path to experiencing spirituality, directors of Body Electric help homosexuals overcome the guilt and tensions that can prevent the use of sex in attaining spiritual consciousness.

Much credit for interest in spirituality among lesbians can be attributed to the women's liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Although initially concerned with political matters, the movement helped to lead lesbians into an awareness of how women's spirituality had been distorted by patriarchy. Post-Christian lesbian spirituality owes much of its vitality to the work of Mary Daly, who began her woman-affirming writing in the early 1970s.

The Radical Faeries, a movement that emerged in the 1970s, identifies homosexuals with the gender variant outsider that recurs in human history. They host gatherings throughout the year, generally in wooded areas, and emphasize rustic and informal approaches to spirituality. Some Radical Faeries practice Wicca and find healing in rituals based on myth and folklore.

The Manifest Love movement, spearheaded by author David Nimmons, emphasizes the radical cultural transformations that glbtq people have made, often without receiving any credit either from the mainstream community or the glbtq community. The movement aspires to create a humane and loving gay community.

Manifest Love recognizes that in spite of the altruism and care-giving inherent in most gay men, there also exists a concomitant tendency toward selfishness and cynicism that must be countered within the self. In meetings that focus on ways to enhance virtue, members of Manifest Love utilize communal sharing to extend their commitments to each other through acts of generosity in local communities. Such episodes of affection (called Loving Disturbances) are designed to affirm the possibilities of human goodness and are the expression of a gay spirituality based on altruistic volunteerism.

Participants in the Radical Faeries and in the Manifest Love moment are predominantly gay men. Many lesbians, on the other hand, have been particularly attracted to goddess religions. These religions, based on non-patriarchal belief systems that emphasize feminine principles of inclusion and interconnectedness, have ancient roots, but witnessed a revival in the last decades of the twentieth century. These goddess religions include neo-paganism, Wicca, and animism, and often stress the relationship between femininity and nature.

Some movements today attempt to recreate the rituals of ancient cultures, employing some of the practices found in past centuries to be essential in bringing the gender-special spirit into mainstream society. For example, the weekend intensive workshops of a recently formed group known as Gay Soul Making, with headquarters at the Omega Institute of Rhinebeck, New York, use various psychotherapeutic techniques such as sand painting to foster entrance into an inner realm where healing and self-acceptance can occur.

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