Many LGBTQs had the experience of feeling like they had to divorce the God they grew up with in order to live an authentic life. A lot of pulpits condemned homosexuality and this hurtful rhetoric translated into feelings of shame and resentment for LGBTQ youth. I grew up in the church and loved it but came to an inevitable fork in the road in which I had to choose between being a good Christian and being true to myself. I left the church when I was fourteen and came out when I was sixteen. Like a lot of gay kids, drama club became my sanctuary. This experience isn't as common today thanks to the willingness of many churches to evolve with society. But it still happens.
Seven years ago I came up with the idea to host a weekly spiritual service in gay bars on the WeHo strip. The original intention was to offer a different experience for bar goers. The location was crucial because ever since there was a gay community bars have served as a safe-space (mostly) where we could connect with one another. I also thought young LGBTQs would appreciate a sober environment that focused on cultivating a rich inner-life and didn't judge you solely on your exterior.
We met on Sunday mornings. Late mornings. In the beginning only a small group of folks would show up. There were weeks that we had two people at services but it didn't phase us too much, we knew that if we continued to show up the idea would catch on. We were right. Slowly but surely the crowds got larger, we formed a membership base, outgrew the bars all together and now have our own center in West Hollywood, which we are currently out-growing. It's really catching on.
We experienced our first growth spurt in 2013 and again in 2015. These are significant years in LGBTQ history. In October of 2013 Prop 8 was lifted in California and in June 2015 the Supreme Court guaranteed the right to same-sex marriage. I've often contemplated why marriage equality and our growing community parallel one another and I find the conclusion inspiring.
The first years of Inspire were focused on healing wounds left by organized religion. We emphasized the importance of self-love, forgiveness and compassion. I could feel how uncomfortable some of the attendees were just coming to a space that resembled a church and I knew we wouldn't have any returning guests if the elephant in the room wasn't addressed. By sharing authentically, together we created a new and empowering experience in spiritual community.
We carried the same principles into our conversations regarding marriage equality. In order to bring equality to our nation we had to believe that we were worthy of it. We worked on healing internalized homophobia, judgment and shame so we could be unwavering in our stance for justice, not as an intellectual understanding but as a power we felt in our bones. We decided that love was a force capable of transforming hate into harmony. We understood that when one person attacks another it's because they're afraid. This allowed us to use the hate speech thrown at us as an exercise in compassion. Those who seemed to oppose us were actually helping us love ourselves more deeply.
Marriage Equality is an reflection of the LGBTQ community's ability to love ourselves. It's a beautiful testimony to the work we've done together over decades of darkness. We've created families out of friends, we took care of our sick and we rallied together when it mattered the most. This is why I'm witnessing such growth at Inspire Spiritual Community and organizations like ours. We know we have the right to a deeply nourishing relationship with something greater than ourselves. Now that we're creating a new landscape of possibility in our communities, I'm happy to see that we are grounding in a foundation of love. I know from experience that love is strong and solid. When we're willing to start there, movements can be made and miracles can unfold.
Peace within. Beauty throughout.
Learn more about Inspire at www.InspireSpiritualCommunity.org