Harry Hay would be 100 years old

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Also on this website:

Toby Johnson's books:

GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness

GAY PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe

SECRET MATTER: updated, revised & expanded edition from Lethe Press with Afterword by Mark Jordan

GETTING LIFE IN PERSPECTIVE: A romance novel set in the 1980s and the 1890s.

THE FOURTH QUILL, a novel about attitudinal healing and the problem of evil

TWO SPIRITS: A Story of Life with the Navajo, a collaboration with Walter L. Williams

CHARMED LIVES: Spinning Straw into Gold: Reclaiming Our Queer Spirituality Through Story


About ordering

Books on Gay Spirituality:

White Crane Gay Spirituality Series

  Articles and Excerpts:

Read Toby's review of Samuel Avery's The Dimensional Structure of Consciousness

Funny Coincidence: "Aliens Settle in San Francisco"

The Simple Answer to the Gay Marriage Debate

Why gay people should NOT Marry

Wedding Cake Liberation

Gay Marriage in Texas

What's ironic

Shame on the American People

The "highest form of love"

Second March on Washington

A Bifurcation of Gay Spirituality

 The cause of homosexuality

The origins of homophobia

Q&A about Jungian ideas in gay consciousness

What is homosexuality?

What is Gay Spirituality?

My three messages

What Jesus said about Gay Rights

Queering religion

Common Experiences Unique to Gay Men

Is there a "uniquely gay perspective"?

The purpose of homosexuality

The Reincarnation of Edward Carpenter

The Gay Succession

Interview on the Nature of Homosexuality

What the Bible Says about Homosexuality

Mesosexual Ideal for Straight Men

Varieties of Gay Spirituality

Waves of Gay Liberation Activity

Why Gay Spirituality: Spirituality as Artistic Medium

Easton Mountain Retreat Center

Andrew Harvey & Spiritual Activism

The Gay Spirituality Summit in May 2004 and the  "Statement of Spirituality"

"It's Always About You"

The myth of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara

Joseph Campbell's description of Avalokiteshvara

Avalokiteshvara at the Baths.

You're Not A Wave

What is Enlightenment?

What is reincarnation?

How many lifetimes in an ego?

Emptiness & Religious Ideas

Experiencing experiencing experiencing

Going into the Light

Meditations for a Funeral

Meditation Practice

The way to get to heaven

Buddha's father was right

Advice to Travelers to India & Nepal

The Danda Nata & goddess Kalika

Nate Berkus is a bodhisattva

John Boswell was Immanuel Kant

The Two Loves

Curious Bodies

What Toby Johnson Believes

The Joseph Campbell Connection

Campbell & The Pre/Trans Fallacy

The Nature of Religion

What's true about Religion

Being Gay is a Blessing

Drawing Long Straws

Freedom of Religion

The Gay Agenda

Gay Saintliness

Gay Spiritual Functions

The subtle workings of the spirit in gay men's lives.

The Sinfulness of Homosexuality

Proposal for a study of gay nondualism

Priestly Sexuality

 "The Evolution of Gay Identity"

"St. John of the Cross &
the Dark Night of the Soul."

 Eckhart's Eye

Let Me Tell You a Secret

Religious Articulations of the Secret

The Collective Unconscious

Driving as Spiritual Practice


Historicity as Myth


No Stealing

Next Step in Evolution

The New Myth

The Moulting of the Holy Ghost

Gaia is a Bodhisattva

The Hero's Journey as archetype

Marian Doctrines: Immaculate Conception & Assumption

Teenage Prostitution and the Nature of Evil

Allah Hu: "God is present here"
Adam and Steve

The Life is in the Blood

Gay retirement and the "freelance monastery"

Seeing with Different Eyes

The mystical experience at the Servites'  Castle in Riverside

The Great Dance according to C.S.Lewis

The Techniques Of The World Saviors

Part 1: Brer Rabbit and the Tar-Baby
Part 2:
The Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara
Part 3:
Jesus and the Resurrection
Part 4:
A Course in Miracles

The Secret of the Clear Light

Understanding the Clear Light

Mobius Strip

Finding Your Tiger Face

How Gay Souls Get Reincarnated

In honor of Sir Arthur C Clarke

Karellen was a homosexual

About Alien Abduction

What are you looking for in a gay science fiction novel?

The D.A.F.O.D.I.L. Alliance

More about Gay Mental Health

Psych Tech Training

The Rainbow Flag

Ideas for gay mythic stories

Kip and Toby, Activists

Toby's friend and nicknamesake Toby Marotta.

Harry Hay, Founder of the gay movement

About Hay and The New Myth

About Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, the first man to really "come out"

About Michael Talbot, gay mystic

About Fr. Bernard Lynch

About Richard Baltzell

About Guy Mannheimer

About David Weyrauch

About Dennis Paddie

About Ask the Fire

About Arthur Evans

About Christopher Larkin

About Sterling Houston

About Michael Stevens

Our friend Tom Nash

Book Reviews

Be Done on Earth by Howard E. Cook

Pay Me What I'm Worth by Souldancer

The Way Out by Christopher L  Nutter
The Gay Disciple by John Henson

Art That Dares by Kittredge Cherry

Coming Out, Coming Home by Kennth A. Burr

Extinguishing the Light by B. Alan Bourgeois

Over Coffee: A conversation For Gay Partnership & Conservative Faith by D.a. Thompson

Dark Knowledge by Kenneth Low

Janet Planet by Eleanor Lerman

The Kairos by Paul E. Hartman

Wrestling with Jesus by D.K.Maylor

Kali Rising by Rudolph Ballentine

The Missing Myth by Gilles Herrada

The Secret of the Second Coming by Howard E. Cook

The Scar Letters: A Novel by Richard Alther

The Future is Queer by Labonte & Schimel

Missing Mary by Charlene Spretnak

Gay Spirituality 101 by Joe Perez

Cut Hand: A Nineteeth Century Love Story on the American Frontier by Mark Wildyr

Radiomen by Eleanor Lerman

Nights at Rizzoli by Felice Picano

The Key to Unlocking the Closet Door by Chelsea Griffo

The Door of the Heart by Diana Finfrock Farrar

Occam’s Razor by David Duncan

Grace and Demion by Mel White

Gay Men and The New Way Forward by Raymond L. Rigoglioso

The Dimensional Stucture of Consciousness by Samuel Avery

The Manly Pursuit of Desire and Love by Perry Brass
Radically Gay: The Life & Visionary Legacy of Harry Hay

The New Myth of “Spiritual, not Religious” Through the Gay Window

Toby Johnson

Harry-Hay-Trouble_cover        The hundred years since Harry Hay’s birth have seen a revolution in human society. The Universe has been discovered, both the incredibly tiny: particles within particles, and the unimaginably huge: galaxies beyond galaxies. The human race has looked back on the Earth from the moon; we have achieved a perspective no human being has ever been able to before. For gay people the changes have been enormous. Charles Dickens’ opening sentence from A Tale of Two Cities truly applies: “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.”


        It is considered an important step in psychological development to be able to hold two seemingly opposing propositions in mind at the same time. It forces you to rise to a higher perspective in which best and worst are not in conflict, but somehow coexist as aspects of one another. You see two worlds: the ordinary world and the one from the higher perspective.


        This bifurcation of the world is at the heart of gay consciousness and it underlies—I would argue—“the New Myth,” the stance of “Spiritual, not religious,” and “the Gay Window.”

        — — —

        Heterosexual people experience the world as radically divided between male and female. You are only one or the oFloating manther and can’t be both. They celebrate the conflict: vive la difference. But they also call it the “battle of the sexes.”

Floating man
        Floating Man by Bill Biggers

        Gay people grow up learning to see the heterosexual world because it’s all around us, but, I think, we don’t experience the difference. Our attraction is not across the male female divide. In fact, we don’t seem to take the divide very seriously. We can be both male and female at the same time—or neither! In Harry Hay’s Radical Faerie Proposals for the March on Washington Organizing Meeting, Harry talks about what he calls our “spiritual neitherness.”


        Our attraction is to another self, another Subject, to use Hay’s famous expression. Our attraction is not to opposites but to sames; our beloved is not an object to our subject, but another subject like us.


        We grow up discovering that there are two worlds—like the two cities in Dickens’ title—the world everybody else lives in and then the one that has homosexuality in it. As we grow up, we might discover the real gay subculture that is a homosexual world. But always there’s that distinction between the world “normal people” live in and the world we live in because we understand about sex and homosexuality.


        One of the traits of the “gay wise man archetype” is understanding homosexual and sexual dynamics that other people don’t—and won’t—see, and therefore being a teller of truth. A funny and poignant version of that gay wise man is the mad drag queen with a heart of gold—a Bette Davis/Joan Crawford character who is able to speak the truth that no one else dares to say.

        — — —

         This bifurcation of worlds, I think, appears also in the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, who seems to have been a homosexual, as the phenomenon and the noumenon, the consensual world people generally experience and the real world. It also appears in the notion of the bifurcation of nature by homosexual astrophysicist Arthur Eddington, the idea that the writing desk is this thing made of wood that is solid and the scientific reality that it’s actually mostly empty space with tiny atoms great distances apart on the atomic scale.

Gay Perspective
        That gay people are raised, inadvertently, by straight society to be able to rise to a perspective—the outsider’s perspective—and see a straight world AND a gay world and to understand the straight world as but one way of viewing this is what I have called “Gay Perspective” and which Harry Hay called “the gay window.”


        Through that gay window we are likely to see religion in a different way. Being able to understand religion from over and above, from the outsider perspective is something that, personally, I learned from reading Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces.


        I was a Catholic seminarian when I was assigned that book for a college course on Jungian interpretation of literature. I was dealing with understanding my sexual feelings and identity at that same time. The comparative religions approach demonstrated by Campbell helped immensely as I struggled to reconcile my religiousness and my sexual deviance. I saw that by rising to a perspective the two seemingly conflicting elements could actually coexist and in a way that made them both better and richer.


        Donald Boisvert wonderfully captured how the effort to deal with one’s homosexuality inspires s kind of sanctity.


Sanctity and Male DesireHow could I possibly ever reconcile [my attraction to other boys] with some grand, altruistic life purpose? This question, I believe, lies at the heart of the gay vocation in the world, and of gay spirituality and sanctity more specifically. It summons us to consider how and why we do what we do, and the reason that our vocation so often lies in areas of beauty, creativity, and service. Much has been written about the fertile manifestations of our marginality. I will put forth a radical proposition, though it is historically impervious to proof.


    I venture to say that a significant, if not a predominant, number of male saints have been homosexual, that they have struggled with the meaning of same-sex desire in their lives, most often for the person of Christ, that some succumbed to their sexual urges, while others chose quite consciously to sublimate their needs in works of heroic Christian virtue and fortitude. And, furthermore, that such needs and desires, as evil, sinful, or condemnable as they were thought to be by the saints themselves or by any number of  “godly” others, have been the core, fundamental forces for good, motivating, sustaining, nourishing, and inspiring these great works. (pp. Sanctity and Male Desire 149-150)


        In his Preface to Queer Spirits, Will Roscoe says:

         Queer Spirits -- Will Roscoe

Don’t we lead mythical lives? Even the most unassuming of us can tell amazing stories of victory against overwhelming odds, self-respect forged out of mind-boggling hate, invention and wit mothered by inescapable necessity. When Joseph Campbell spoke of the hero’s journey he should have used us as his example—although he never did. We’re the ones who arrive at wholeness after an oblique journey to the margins of the social order and back again, who suffer inordinate wounds and are healed, who win the gift of “insider-outsider” vision and can therefore speak with authority to men and women alike.


        Some of you may know that I only partly tongue in cheek fancy myself Joseph Campbell“Joseph Campbell’s apostle to the gay community.” It isn’t so much Joe Campbell in particular that I want to champion, though he was, in fact, a wonderful fellow, but the stance of understanding religion and ultimate truth from a perspective over and above. I associate all this way of thinking with Campbell because he was my personal entry into it.


The Hero with a Thousand FacesBecause I had a read his book, I signed up as a work volunteer for a seminar he was giving the first year I moved to San Francisco; I ended up on the crew that worked his appearances in the Bay Area for the rest of the decade, and so was one of his “official followers” (something he wouldn’t have liked—he didn’t want to seem to be a guru—but he did like having people gush over how wonderful his ideas were, especially young men, like the son he did not have. His wife was a dancer and they chose not to have children for professional reasons. Remember, he taught at a girls’ school, Sarah Lawrence College so didn’t have male students. I was one of those bright-eyed young men who gushed.


        Campbell was interested in what he called “the new myth.” That is, now that humankind has developed a global culture with historical and cultural perspective, and can see that there are different religions around the world that are all terribly different, but are also just different manifestations of the same thing, how do we believe them?


        Could a “new myth” develop that includes and explains them all? Could there The Hero with a Thousand Facesbe a new world savior, like a Jesus or Buddha, who reconciles them all? Probably not. There are lots of messiahs these days and nobody takes them very seriously.


        But maybe the concept itself of how all the religions can be true at the same time even though they conflict mightily might itself be a higher meta-myth that makes overarching sense of religion even though the actual stories, myths and doctrines don’t make sense anymore in any literal way. We need a model which can explain all the behavior we observe, a theory that includes all the points on the curve.




        The image of the earth seen from the Moon, for Campbell, captured this new perspective as nothing else could.


        — — —

        I think gay people are naturals for this higher perspective on religion, as we are for a higher perspective on everything. Indeed, that’s a major characteristic of so-called gay consciousness—seeing through the gay window.


        This higher perspective that Campbell alluded to—and that I think is what satisfies his question about the new myth—has shown up in modern culture in the expression “Spiritual, not religious.” This expression, of course, can just mean that one doesn’t have any interest in religion and is sort of lazy about such issues, but doesn’t think of oneself as a bad person therefore. But it also tends to suggest that one feels a deeper moral sense and higher spiritual sense than the religion of “believers.”


       The Human Core of SpiritualityI want to acknowledge Daniel Helminiak with the insight that “spirituality” doesn’t require meditation without mythGod or any of the other elements of religion to exist. meditation without mythSpirituality is about human consciousness. Daniel is, of course, author of What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality. He has many other books, let me mention Meditation without Myth; What I Wish They'd Taught Me in Church About Prayer, Meditation, and the Quest for Peace.       



At the end of Hero with a Thousand Faces, Campbell wrote:


        The descent of the Occidental sciences from the heavens to the earth (from seventeenth-century astronomy to nineteenth-century biology), and their concentration today, at last, on man himself (in twentieth-century anthropology and psychology), mark the path of a prodigious transfer of the focal point of human wonder. Not the animal world, not the plant world, not the miracle of the spheres, but man himself is now the crucial mystery. (Hero, p. 391)


        Since Campbell wrote those words in 1948 or so, the use of the word “man” has, of course, changed—in great part because of the women’s movement and sexual liberation, and the new sciences he wrote of have come to include ecology, brain science, and consciousness studies—even more about the nature of humankind.


        We’re only just coming to understand what all this stuff means, but certainly one way of reconciling all contradictory religions is by understanding them all as about human consciousness. God and the gods are metaphors for our own deepest identities. And we have to relate to “God” in a different way.


        I think Harry Hay’s idea that gay men relate Subject-subject, rather than subject-object, resonates with exactly this concept of God. “God” is not an other, but a reflection of deepest/highest Self. And so the way to relate to God is as self to self, subject to Subject. The way to relate to the world is to see it as a reflection and outflowering of one’s own consciousness.

        — — —


        I don’t know that Campbell had any direct influence on Harry Hay, but the comparative religions approach most definitely did. For, according to the story in Stuart Timmon’s book, one of Harry’s first encounters with the word homosexual and the idea of love of a like comrade, not an oppositely sexed wife, was with Edward Carpenter’s The Intermediate Sex.


        Edward Carpenter

Carpenter, like Campbell would a century later, viewed religion from over and above and observed that “Uranians” had played a pivotal role in the development of religion and continued to possess a kind of special insight.


     Carpenter and George Merrill

        The very idea of “Uranians” manifests this. In the way that men are from Mars and women are from Venus, so homosexuals —the 19th C sexologists proposed— are from Uranus. Ignoring the blatant pun, we can understand that Uranus was the most recently discovered planet; its discovery paralleled the discovery of homosexuality as a category of human being.


        — — —

        The story goes that as an 11 year old boy, Harry hung around the public library and had befriended the librarian. He’d discovered that there was a shelf of books in a locked bookcase—one with the word Sex emboldened on the spine. He convinced the librarian she should get one of these, then new, permanent waves in her hair and since the only time to do that was during library hours, he volunteered to spell her while she went down the street to the beauty shop. While she was gone, he got The Intermediate Sexthe key and opened the bookcase and there found Carpenter’s The Intermediate Sex. So one of his earliest encounters with homosexuality was as a phenomenon of anthropology and religious history.


        Harry got caught, by the way, by the librarian when she arrived back with her new hairdo.


        I’d say, following Carpenter, that people we’d call homosexual or gay or queer—we have so many distinctions now because we’ve had time to think about the richness and variety of this form of non-heterosexual, non-breeding consciousness—are always on the cutting edge of the evolution of consciousness. We’re part of the prodigious transfer of the focal point of human wonder that Campbell correlated with the New Myth.

Buddha by Bill Biggers
        Buddha by Bill Biggers

Campbell’s wonderful retort to the accusation he must be an atheist was: “Anyone who believes in as many gods as I do can hardly be called an atheist.” But that’s an entirely different kind of not being an atheist. Indeed, such an overview includes being atheist too—or nontheist to use the Buddhistic term for transcending literal belief in the myths.

        — — —



 Kenneth Burr Kenneth Burr Coming out Coming HomeComing out Coming Home

I want to observe that there is another kind of bifurcation within the world of gay religion and gay spirituality. For some people, gay spirituality means getting gay people to go back to Church and become active within the religions of their upbringing. (e.g., Coming Out, Coming Home: Making Room for Gay Spirituality in Therapy by Kenneth A. Burr)


        MCC and the various gay affinity groups within the established churches represent this trend. The Radical Faeries, gay Wiccans, The Body Electric represent the other side of the bifurcation, rejecting traditional religious myths altogether and conjuring up our own gods and traditions.


        The comparative religions, “spiritual” approach does not have to reject conventional religion, though it does change how you understand the truth value. But on either side, the truth value has to be reevaluated. Gay people within MCC, for instance, for all they might seem to be “evangelical,” and scripture-based, still have to take the Bible with a grain of salt. They necessarily transcend traditional belief. You don’t have to abandon your religion, but you do have to understand it differently, more as an art form, like the opera or the ballet, that conveys beauty and meaningfulness, but not literal truth. As 21st century human beings, we’re simply beyond that.

         The One in All -- Stevee Postman
The One in All -- Stevee Postman

        This is the direction the whole human race must be moving in; we’re, as usual, up toward the front of the line. Remember the old joke that “when they’re running you out of town on a rail, get to the front and wave a baton and make it your parade.”


        I would say that in the long run the most important contribution of the gay rights movement is going to turn out to be the transformation of religion.


        I think Harry Hay would be very happy with that.

rainbow line

Toby Johnson, PhD is author of eight books: three non-fiction books that apply the wisdom of his teacher and "wise old man," Joseph Campbell to modern-day social and religious problems, three gay genre novels that dramatize spiritual issues at the heart of gay identity, and two books on gay men's spiritualities and the mystical experience of homosexuality. In addition to the novels featured elsewhere in this web site, Johnson is author of IN SEARCH OF GOD IN THE SEXUAL UNDERWORLD and THE MYTH OF THE GREAT SECRET (Revised edition): AN APPRECIATION OF JOSEPH CAMPBELL.

Johnson's Lammy Award winning book GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness was published in 2000. His Lammy-nominated book  GAY PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe was published by Alyson in 2003. Both books are available now from Lethe Press.

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