Gay And Lesbian Spirituality Essay

1630 words - 7 pages

I began investigating gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer (GLBTQ) representations of the sacred during my late adolescence. In college, my knowledge of same-sex desiring and gender-variant deities evolved into a study of the spiritual roles and legacies of GLBTQ people. Such legacies are abundantly evident in parts of the world where indigenous and pluralist religion have remained unhindered, such as on the Indian subcontinent where hijra (male-bodied female-identified individuals) are seen as harbingers of good fortune and curses and perform ceremonies at weddings and births. Early written accounts of traditional same-sex desiring and gender-variant roles in the Western hemisphere can be found in the diaries of the first colonizers as well as an engraving memorializing Vasco Núňez de Balboa’s massacre of third-gender American Indians in what is now Panama. Pejoratively referred to as berdache by early anthropologists (from the Arabic, meaning ‘slave boy’), many modern GLBTQ First Nations people have adopted the term Two-Spirit as a pan-tribal identity that reclaims their traditional spiritual and social roles while transcending labels denoting mere sexual orientation. The term affirms them as unique whole human beings.
So what is the spiritual legacy of GLBTQ people in Diaspora traditions? The answer is as interesting as the diverse strands of conjure throughout the “New World.” Due to the overwhelming forsaking of West African practices by African-Americans in the United States as well as white anthropologists’ tendency to overlook gender-variance in spiritual traditions borne out of Africa, few mentions of this legacy exist. Within the predominantly Protestant context of the Southern United States during the 18th and 19th centuries, West African entities were left without the masks of Saints to disguise themselves and continue unbroken lineages of worship. Out of this region sprang Hoodoo, a solely magical tradition that utilizes aspects of Christian doctrine and even greater use of Christian Scripture. For other drop-off points of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, known as the Middle Passage, much more of the legacy survived.
Santería, Vodun, and Candomblé are all unique expressions of indigenous West African religions and all have conjure, magic, and ecstatic ritual as major threads in their praxes. Centralized in Cuba, Haiti, and Brazil, respectively, each honors the orishá (orixa, Brazilian) and / or Lwa – pantheons of gods who rule over and are associated with the natural world and various aspects of life, orishá and lwa veneration can also be found in New Orleans Voodoo Hoodoo where Spanish and French Catholicism provided for syncretization of their imagery with that of Christian Saints. Today, the orishá and lwa are honored all over the world via these religions as well as their more indigenous forms. Many African-Americans have also dipped deeply into their ancestral well and found new spiritual homes in these traditions,...

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