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Coming Out Spiritually: The Next Step Paperback – May 24, 1999
"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Pre-order today
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Coming Out Spiritually is structured by author Christian de la Huerta's idea that gay people have traditionally assumed 10 spiritual roles or archetypes, and continue to assume them today. These include, among others, "creator of beauty," "mediator," "shaman," and "healer." This understanding of gay people's spirituality draws on a number of religious traditions, including Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, Sufism, and Taoism. After establishing his theoretical understanding of gay spirituality, de la Huerta suggests spiritual practices (ranging from meditation to healing to Sufi dancing) that can help readers achieve greater spiritual integrity. Perhaps the most interesting passages in the book consider how sex itself can express spiritual devotion. "When we learn to reunite sex and Spirit in our lives, we will experience change and healing beyond our wildest dreams," de la Huerta writes. Coming Out Spiritually describes a mode of spirituality that has previously been explored in the work of Andrew Harvey and Matthew Fox, among others. Christian de la Huerta is equally passionate, and his message--that the coming-out process, when understood in spiritual terms, never ends--is an important one. This book may be a bit confusing to gay people just beginning to come out. (Like Harvey and Fox, de la Huerta sometimes uses jargon that obscures his arguments.) For gay people who have a pretty good sense of who they are, however, Coming Out Spiritually can be an important resource for continuing the process of learning to live honestly with their desires. --Michael Joseph Gross
From Publishers Weekly
For many years, de la Huerta contends, gays and lesbians have been forced by organized religion to separate their sexual identities from their spiritual identities. The resulting spiritual fragmentation, according to the author, has been devastating to the gay community. De la Huerta, the founder and executive director of Q-Spirit, an international network of gays and lesbians focusing on spirituality, encourages "queers" (a term he uses to refer to gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people, in spite of its offensiveness to some people) to engage in "practical experimentation" of their spirituality. He states that his "desire is to inspire a sense of wonderment, purpose, service, and mission in the gay community. It is now time for us to consciously reclaim and reinvent the roles we have played." To that end, his first chapter names 10 roles that queers have historically played, arguing that the spiritual function and value of these roles need to be recognized. For example, de la Huerta notes that, throughout history, queers have played the role of shaman and priest. He lists several examples of ancient religious functionaries, such as the female agule ("like men") and the male okule ("like women") mediums of the Lugbara tribe of East Africa. In his second chapter, de la Huerta explores various methodsAyoga, meditation, psychotherapy, Qi Gong and the labyrinthAthat enable a person to encounter his or her own spiritual depths. Chapter three focuses on sexuality as an expression of spirituality. "When we learn to reunite sex and Spirit in our lives," he says, "we will experience change and healing beyond our wildest dreams." In the final chapter, de la Huerta contends that coming out spiritually is a culmination of the journey of self-discovery. He notes that coming out means healing old wounds and moving beyond old identities as spiritually fragmented victims to embrace oneself as one really is: "empowered, compassionate, loving, ready to make a difference in the world, and fully able to embrace the totality of life." Appendices offer an overview of the world's spiritual traditions, a resource guide of spiritual organizations and a list of books, audios and videos. De la Huerta's beautifully crafted prose and his passionate desire to help queers come out spiritually mark this book as an extraordinary achievement. (June)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Born in Cuba, de la Huerta is a passionate proponent of the special role he sees gays and lesbians playing in today's society. He believes that gays and lesbians are meant to be catalysts for the world's spiritual evolution, and that the time has come for them to embrace this joyous responsibility. Graduating with honors from Tulane University, the author has been a therapist and group facilitator for the past dozen years and is founder and president of "Q-Spirit", an international network of gays and lesbians in spirituality.
For many years, de la Huerta contends, gays and lesbians have been forced by organized religion to separate their sexual identities from their spiritual identities. The resulting spiritual fragmentation, according to the author, has been devastating to gay people and barely less costly to their larger community. This book discusses a number of ways of "coming out," focusing on a spiritual foundation for that process.
De la Huerta begins his book with a story from taken from a meeting of people from around the world intending to form an organization known as United Religions (a faith-based analogue of the United Nations), with a purpose of finding common ground among the world's religious traditions. At this conference the author spoke about the "Wild Faith," the queer spiritual tradition and about including gay people in the orgaization's efforts. From the positive reception de la Huerta received, he continued discussions and developed a methodology and resources for this book
According to de la Huerta, homosexual and other gender-variant people have always served a spiritual function in their communities, particularly in times of radical social transformation. Like physicians, they are (and always have been) there to preside over the death of the old, assuring a peaceful and pain-free passing; like midwives, they attend the birth of the new, assuring a safe delivery and a welcome into the world. The author elaborates ten specific ways in which gay people and other gender-variant folk have for millenia lent their spiritual gifts to the world, presenting evidence of these roles (copiously documented and substantiated with a wealth of footnotes) throughout history and in different cultures: these archetypes include the Transformer, the Outsider, the Risk-Taker, the Sacred Clown, the Preserver of Beauty, the Caregiver, the Mediator, the Priest/Shaman, the Divine Androgyne and the Gatekeeper.
"Coming Out spiritually" introduces readers to many of the world's religions, including Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, Sufism, and Taoism, and investigates the teachings of these traditions and their attitudes towards homosexuality. The large majority of books published on the subject of queer spirituality are written from an exclusively or predominantly Christian or Judaeo-Christian point of view.
Happily, in this book there is included an exploration of a wide variety of faiths and belief systems. This is one of the few books encountered that doesn't use the adjectives "religious" and "spiritual" as interchangeable synonyms, clarifying the fact that spirituality is a quality that comes from within rather than - as is the case with 'religion' - from without, a phenomenon tied to the trappings of dogma and creeds that institutionalized religions expound. Because of the great - often, lethal - injury that some organized religions have inflicted (and continue to inflict) upon sexual minorities, many in our community have closed themselves off to the very essential and very human spiritual sides of themselves. In essence, by associating spirituality only with religion, our kindred have metaphorically "throw the baby out with the bathwater."
This is one of the most important books I have read on the subject of queer spirituality, or spirituality generally, in a good many years. I heartily recommend it to students of queer history, particularly in its spiritual aspect, for individuals curious as to what they (we) bring to the world in terms of distinctive and important spiritual gifts, and - particularly - for queer folk who have been injured by protracted exposure to all-too-abundant toxic religion and have turned their attention away from their spiritual selves.
Christian de la Huerta has authored a masterful, indispensable, tool for gay self-empowerment.
Author of 'A Life of Unlearning – a preacher's struggle with his homosexuality, church and faith.
In chapter one he names ten ways gay people are spiritual gifts to the world. He presents evidence of these roles throughout history and in different cultures. He stresses that being gay includes these types of dispositions, such as the caregiver, the risk taker, etc. It is true that gay people experience these ten dispositions, but so do straight people. Yet in numerous cultures the one who plays two sexes or changes their way of being is viewed as a manifestation of the presence of God in their society and they are respected and their advice followed.
Huerta explores the background of many of the world's religions. Through them he discusses different spiritual disciplines people could practice to become aware of their own spirituality and connection to God. That chapter becomes somewhat tedious in that everything presented is not going to be for everyone reading the book. That chapter is best skimmed over and passages resonating with the reader can be explored.
The last chapter of the book stresses doing things. He presents a number of stories of people in traditional religions, non-traditional religions and in non-sectarian services. He tries to show how these gay people find their spiritual well-being by putting their spirituality to work. This sounds like a Protestant/Catholic faith/works dialogue. What Huerta is stressing is that there are needs in the world around us, our neighborhoods and cities. Gay people do have disposition for service and leadership. They can find spiritual health as well as personal well-being in taking part. Sometimes this can lead to understanding.
There are some interesting discussions of spirituality in this book by several people Huerta has interviewed. Other people's stories of coming out are touching and challenging. This is a good book to read for information. His index in the back offers lists of religions and services for gay people to consider.