[On September 24, POFEV: People of Faith for Equality in Virginia sponsored “Celebrating the Many Voices of LGBT Pride,” an interfaith service focused on the spiritual foundations of LGBT liberation, at Congregation Beth Ahabah in Richmond. A small group heard some amazing color-themed meditations by various speakers. I continue my own blog posts with some thoughts about green, and will continue to share more entries–still to come are yellow, orange and red. Prior entries include violet, indigo, turquoise, and hot pink, colors from the original 1978 rainbow flag designed by Gilbert Baker, as well as brown, added by Alexandria Hawkins and myself, to round out a fuller rainbow.]
“Green.” That’s the one-word answer I blurted out when Rev. Pat Bumgardner of MCC New York asked me to fantasize about my future pastorate. I had just told her that I felt called by God to abandon my plan to stay in New York and serve the Metropolitan Community Church she led there–working part-time in ministry and continuing to draw my six-figure salary at The Association of the Bar of the City of New York–and instead follow God’s lead to become a spiritual leader in a community somewhere else.
That was mid-November of 2002, not long after I heard God’s booming voice–as I walked down 4th Avenue in Brooklyn (picture,left) through a crowd of Latino/a worshipers on Sunday afternoon, a street about as green as the Mojave Desert–saying, “”Why are you holding out on me?” In that moment, I blurted out, “I’m sorry, God. I have been angry with you, and I realize it was not you that stopped my ministry, it was the church. I will serve you. Tell me what to do.”
Six months later, almost to the day, I was in a plane, circling Richmond International Airport. Wondering why we are being delayed, I looked out the window to see . . . the most glorious green–trees everywhere, all in vibrant hues of green. I realized that God called me to green, just as I fantasized. I grew up on a tree farm in Michigan–acre upon acre of evergreens and deciduous trees, for sale to people who want to beautify their homes and businesses and communities.
I love trees. And I had surely missed them during my years living in New York. The parks are wonderful, but for me they were not enough. Sadly, however, I stayed in New York long enough to have almost forgotten my need for green. However, God rescued me, just in time.
Now I live in a green paradise–not just the east end where the airport is surrounded by forest, but our home on the south side that faces a woods cut through by a small stream and the forests not far west. Indeed, one of the most important reasons I call Virginia home is that the entire Commonwealth of Virginia is a carpet of green from east to west and south to north (with cities here and there, less green, but still not without trees). What is it about green? I’m not Irish, and I don’t even wear much green (unless you count teal).
The psychology people say that the personality marked by green is practical, down-to-earth, with a love of nature, stable and well balanced or are striving for balance, although in seeking this balance, you can at times become unsettled and anxious; kind, generous and compassionate; good to have around during a crisis as you remain calm and take control of the situation until it is resolved; caring and nurturing to others (watch out for your own needs, though); and intelligent and a lover of learning
And “greens” need to love and to be loved, open books who don’t hide our feelings; belong – greens are the joiners of social groups; good citizens who like to be involved in community groups; live by high moral standards; be accepted, appreciated and admired for the good we do in the community as well as in our family life. And be a loyal friend and a faithful partner, gentle but not passionate
Speaking of being a loyal friend and faithful partner (and passionate!), I met Jonathan in New York, but not in the city. We met at a Radical Faerie gathering near Ellenville in upstate New York, on some rolling acres around a simple retreat center amid, yes, a lot of trees. Radical Faeries? Talk about green! Of course, Irish fairies are often pictured as green. But Radical Faeries are green in different ways. They are a loosely-affiliated worldwide network and counter-cultural movement seeking to redefine “queer consciousness” through spirituality. According to the entry on Wikipedia, radical faeries reject “hetero-imitation. ” The Radical Faerie movement began during the 1970s sexual revolution among gay men in the United States.
The movement has expanded in tandem with, and at times in opposition to, the larger gay rights movement, challenging commercialism and patriarchal aspects of modern LGBT life while celebrating pagan constructs and rituals. Faeries tend to be fiercely independent, anti-establishment, and community-focused. Faerie culture is undefinable as a group; however, among Faeries you will find Marxists, feminists and pro-feminists, pagans, many who celebrate Native American and New Age spiritualities, as well as anarchists, men’s movement adherents, radical individualists, and those committed to self-actualization. Many seek an earth-based movement and sustainable community life. There are rural communities, and urban groupings.
One thing more, that mattered to me at an earlier time, and probably still does: I really enjoy, even resonate with many Faeries who bring together spiritual solemnity with a “camp” sensibility, gay liberation and drag. When Jonathan and I met, the Faeries were almost exclusively men, but it was beginning to change even then, and today, Radical Faeries embody a wide range of genders, sexualities, and identities.
This is the green part, or a key element in the green segment, of the what many call the LGBTQQI community–really a gaggle of loosely connected interests whose main glue is the denial by the dominant culture of our social and political freedom.
Trees and faeries. Green. The color of life. In the drive for political freedom–where I am very active through POFEV: People of Faith for Equality in Virginia and in other groups and activities, too–it is easy to push the Radical Faeries and others like them to the sidelines. They don’t necessarily help us win over Republican politicians and middle-of-the road religionists, let alone those on the Right who might be open to including “us” in the wider community of worthy people. In fact, they can hurt “our” cause by their counter-cultural behavior and attitudes.
But who is this “we,” this “us,” if it does not include the counter-cultural ones? We are, when we exclude those who make us uncomfortable simply because they are different, a people without our whole soul.
Green grows where it will, even in the tiny cracks in my asphalt driveway.That is the Radical Faerie contribution to LGBT life: Green where we least expect it, and in forms we cannot imagine on our own.
There’s life in the green, whatever color your inner Faerie likes to wear.