Many LGBTQ+ people like me have experienced pain from our religious backgrounds or have felt cut off from a spiritual or faith-based practice. This is a problem because spirituality—rooted in ritual—can be the self-care that LGBTQ+ activists actually need.
I want to build community with other LGBTQ+ people to find and share spiritual and grounding practices as we continue to fight daily oppression.
For too long, spiritual wellness and religious communities have been largely run by institutional leaders who center white, cisgender, heterosexual, monogamous people. Because of this, many LGBTQ+ people like me have experienced pain from our religious backgrounds or have felt cut off from a spiritual or faith-based practice.
This is a problem because spirituality—rooted in ritual—can be the self-care that LGBTQ+ activists actually need to address burnout. After working in professional national advocacy for five years, I found that I needed more than my glass of wine and bubble bath to keep me going at the end of the day. What I was missing was a grounding center and a place to recharge from the work.
I believe that we need spiritual systems that center our own intuitions. Ones that honor that we as queer and trans people are divine beings, living as intended. We need spiritual language, ritual, community and connection that isn’t rooted in patriarchal, cis- and hetero-centric leadership. Thats why I started House of Our Queer, a spiritual playspace for the queer and trans community. This has helped me to seek a spiritual community that puts my identities and the people I love at the center.
When it comes to spirituality, I don’t want inclusion. I want deep, expansive celebration. I want to build community with other LGBTQ+ people who want to find and share spiritual and grounding practices as we continue to fight daily oppression.
It’s been a long road and journey to get to this place. I never thought I’d identify as a “queer witch” or be certified in energy work, offering tarot readings at events and starting “Kinky Confessionals,” a safe sharing space for all of our relationships and desires. As a professional LGBTQ advocate, I thought all I needed was a good cause and a paycheck to keep me going. I had closed the door on religion and with it, my spiritual self, and for so many years I was fine with it.
And yet, wherever I traveled, even after moving out to Oakland, I found myself thinking back to my roots. I’m originally from a small town off Cape Cod in Massachusetts. I’m Polish and Chinese and my family immigrated on both sides, my father by way of Malaysia.
There are beliefs and practices in both of my cultures that helped my families make it through unbelievably tough times. These rituals and beliefs have been foundational to my ancestors and my family’s ability to make peace in their lives. On my Polish side it’s Roman Catholic, that’s how I was raised, with Buddhist influences from my Chinese father. I think that’s why even in a rather strict version of Christianity, I was able to find some space for myself.
Growing up, I threw myself into Catholicism and religious ritual seeking and belonging. My home town was so small that the church was more than a gathering place for Sunday mornings. It was a community center, one that welcomed me and my strange family with open arms.
The Catholic church was where I learned about the world and my place in it. I eagerly participated in all the levels from altar server to youth ministry leader to eucharistic minister. I actually chose my college, a small all-women’s institution just 20 minutes north of Manhattan, because it was Catholic. I had no idea until I arrived that it was actually a highly progressive college with a social-justice-focused Honors track that would open my eyes to the world in a new way.
It was easy to come out at my college. Unlike my first community, this one was welcoming and accepting, with most people I met being already comfortable with their non-hetero identities. Putting names and identities to the feelings I’d always known brought me a kind of peace that I will never forget. I dove into that water and have never looked back.
While I was reveling in this joy, there was also a darkness surrounding me. My break from the church, and the strained relationships I had with people most connected, was a formative time in my life I call the “pain place.” So much happens when our beliefs are tied to one specific institution where we can’t separate our beliefs, our rituals, our need for support from their leaders.
If you’ve also been raised with a religion that wasn’t able to evolve with you, I see you. It’s hard.
It’s been a winding journey to reframe and reclaim a spiritual practice for myself, but one that I am finally grateful for. Some people stay in the pain place forever, and that’s ok. I took a long time for space and healing, finding solace by building community through House of Our Queer.
After five years of solid rejection from anything and anyone religious, I started to realize I still had rituals that were rooted in the ways I was raised. I wasn’t praying to God, but I was asking for support from the universe. I wasn’t going to church every Sunday, but I made a Sunday ritual for myself. Whether I was going to the park or a comedy show, I always had something that would signal to me that the week was over and a new week was beginning.
Over time, I eventually reframed and reclaimed a spiritual practice for myself.
Today, my current spiritual practices include energy work, astrology, tarot, sacred sexuality, and guidance from chosen and bio ancestors, alongside reframed Christian practices. I love incorporating magic into my spiritual rituals, which also feels rooted in my childhood.
As a young girl in Massachusetts, I was learning in my Catholic church about Eve and about these magical and forbidden, feared women, while I was also taking field trips to Salem and learning about witches and their powers. I’ve always been drawn to magic and the unique power of women and femmes. I wouldn’t feel complete without a practice of sacred sexuality and an honoring of the femme divine for us all. That exists outside of gender and outside of bodies, but instead in this feminine nurturing aspect that we all have access to. It reminds us to balance our need to feel guided and held with a regular practice of looking inward and following our intuition.
What I realized over time is that we don’t have to be completely out of the pain place to plant the seeds of a spiritual practice, or to hold some space for belief. We can do this work in tandem with pain, practicing and healing at the same time. We can attend to our spiritual rituals even when we’re not sure why we’re doing it, or what we want to get out of it.
We can do this work knowing that as much as we’d like to be “done,” or as close as we might have felt we were to discovering “the truth” at one point in our lives, we’re always starting over. We’re always learning, and however annoying it may be, we’re always growing too.
I’m invested in doing this work with others, helping anyone who’s looking to begin to incorporate spiritual rituals into their own lives, from exploring lineage to building altars to tarot spreads and moon rituals. I have a “yes and” approach to spiritual ritual.
I spend this time reimaging rituals, queering up holiday traditions, and focusing on the appreciation of the year we’ve survived with a focus on manifesting for the upcoming year. One grounding principle for House of Our Queer is “why reject when we can reclaim?”, and truly understanding what happens to our nervous system when we only reject, push away, and don’t replace with affirmation and joy.
That’s why I wrote House of Our Queer: Healing, Reframing, and Reclaiming Your Spiritual Practice. In this book, I share more about this winding journey, my spiritual roots, and my myriad spiritual practices. More importantly, in each chapter I give detailed instructions for what you can do to incorporate spirituality into your own life. Throughout the book, I aim to help readers like you reclaim your own spiritual practices, regardless of where you are on your journey.
To my beloved queer and trans babes out there, please know that your queerness is a blessing. It is an escape. It is a portal to another way of being, building community, and finding partnership in this world. You, understanding and honoring your queerness and letting your gender flow where it wants, is a spiritual ritual that honors your own intuition outside of society’s noise.
Who you are, how you live, how you love deserve to be celebrated!
This pride month, and every month, my dear queer loves, please know that you are not alone. You are not alone in your feelings and desires, with all of the ways you build connections, or the hopes you have for spiritual ritual and community.
If you’ve made it this far in my piece, I hope it’s because you’re finding that there’s something in here and House of Our Queer for you too. Whether you’re queering up your relationship styles, your expression, or your connection to your own inner world, there is something powerful we can build if we do so together.
I’ll be starting a column here with OnlySky as a way to share more about House of Our Queer and to keep engaging with you around the intersection of queerness and spirituality.
Let’s begin to build a community of queer and trans folks engaging in spiritual ritual together, celebrating our diverse backgrounds, finding what works, and doing what we always do — Let’s queer it up and reinvent it for ourselves.