Table of Contents
Google listing of all pages on this website
Johnson's Facebook page
Johnson's YouTube channel
Toby Johnson on Wikipedia
Also on this website:
FINDING YOUR OWN
TRUE MYTH: What I Learned from Joseph Campbell: The Myth of the
Great Secret III
SPIRITUALITY: The Role of
Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness
Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature
of God and the Universe
MATTER: updated, revised & expanded edition from Lethe Press
with Afterword by Mark Jordan
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
A NOVEL ABOUT HEALING.
THE MYTH OF THE GREAT SECRET:
An Appreciation of Joseph Campbell
Books on Gay Spirituality:
Crane Gay Spirituality Series
done five podcasts with Harry Faddis for The Quest of Life
Toby's review of Samuel Avery's The
Dimensional Structure of
Coincidence: "Aliens Settle in San
About Liberty Books, the
Lesbian/Gay Bookstore for Austin, 1986-1996
Toby and Kip Get Married
Simple Answer to the Gay Marriage Debate
Why gay people should NOT Marry
The Scriptural Basis for
Same Sex Marriage
Wedding Cake Liberation
Gay Marriage in Texas
Shame on the American People
The "highest form of love"
Second March on
Why people need
homosexuality to be a sin
Bifurcation of Gay Spirituality
cause of homosexuality
origins of homophobia
about Jungian ideas in gay consciousness
What is homosexuality?
is Gay Spirituality?
What Jesus said about Gay
Common Experiences Unique to Gay
Is there a "uniquely gay
The purpose of homosexuality
The Reincarnation of Edward
The Gay Succession
Wouldn’t You Like to Be Uranian?
Interview on the Nature of
What the Bible Says about
Mesosexual Ideal for Straight Men
of Gay Spirituality
of Gay Liberation Activity
Why Gay Spirituality: Spirituality
as Artistic Medium
Monastic or Chaste Homosexuality
Is it Time to Grow Up? Confronting
the Aging Process
Notes on Licking (July, 1984)
Gay Consciousness changing the
world by Shokti LoveStar
Easton Mountain Retreat Center
The Mysticism of Andrew Harvey
Andrew Harvey &
Spirituality Summit in May 2004 and
the "Statement of Spirituality"
"It's Always About You"
The myth of the
Joseph Campbell's description of
Avalokiteshvara at the Baths.
Campbell Talks about Aging
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
The way to get to heaven
Buddha's father was right
Cutting edge realization
What Anatman means
The Myth of the Wanderer
Change: Source of Suffering
& of Bliss
The World Navel
What the Vows Really Mean
Manifesting from the Subtle Realms
The est Training
and Personal Intention
Dreaming in Ursula LeGuin's The Lathe of Heaven
Advice to Travelers to India
The Danda Nata
& goddess Kalika
Nate Berkus is a bodhisattva
John Boswell was Immanuel Kant
The Two Loves
Toby Johnson Believes
The Joseph Campbell Connection
The Mann Ranch (& Rich Gabrielson)
Campbell & The Pre/Trans Fallacy
The Nature of Religion
What's true about
Gay is a Blessing
Drawing Long Straws
Gay Spiritual Functions
The subtle workings of the spirit in gay men's lives.
The Sinfulness of
for a study of gay nondualism
Having a Church to
Harold Cole on Beauty
The Three-layer Cake
& the Multiverse
"The Evolution of Gay Identity"
"St. John of the
Dark Night of the Soul."
Let Me Tell You a Secret
Religious Articulations of the
The Collective Unconscious
Driving as Spiritual Practice
upsidedown book on MSNBC
Step in Evolution
The Moulting of the Holy Ghost
is a Bodhisattva
The Hero's Journey as archetype
You're on Your Own
Immaculate Conception & Assumption
Not lashed to the
Prostitution and the Nature of Evil
Hu: "God is present here"
The Life is in the Blood
retirement and the "freelance monastery"
Seeing with Different Eyes
Facing the Edge: AIDS as an
occasion for spiritual wisdom
experience at the Servites' Castle in Riverside
A Most Remarkable Synchronicity in
Great Dance according to C.S.Lewis
The Techniques Of The World Saviors
Part 1: Brer Rabbit and the
Part 2: The
Part 3: Jesus
and the Resurrection
Part 4: A
Course in Miracles
Secret of the Clear Light
Understanding the Clear Light
Souls Get Reincarnated
Joseph Campbell, the
Hero's Journey, and the modern Gay Hero-- a five part presentation on
In honor of Sir Arthur C Clarke
Karellen was a homosexual
About Alien Abduction
are you looking for in a gay science fiction novel?
with the movie When We Rise
about Gay Mental Health
Ideas for gay
Kip and Toby,
Toby at the
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"
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 Mark Thompson
About Sterling Houston
About Michael Stevens
Our friend Tom Nash
The Alamo Business
About Kimberley McKell
Be Done on Earth
by Howard E. Cook
Pay Me What I'm Worth by
The Way Out by Christopher
The Gay Disciple by John Henson
Art That Dares by Kittredge Cherry
Coming Out, Coming Home by Kennth
the Light by B. Alan Bourgeois
Over Coffee: A conversation For Gay
Partnership & Conservative Faith by D.a. Thompson
Dark Knowledge by
Janet Planet by Eleanor
Kairos by Paul E. Hartman
with Jesus by D.K.Maylor
Kali Rising by Rudolph
Missing Myth by Gilles Herrada
Secret of the Second Coming by Howard E. Cook
The Scar Letters: A Novel
by Richard Alther
Future is Queer by Labonte & Schimel
by Charlene Spretnak
Spirituality 101 by Joe Perez
Cut Hand: A
Nineteeth Century Love Story on the American Frontier by Mark Wildyr
by Eleanor Lerman
Rizzoli by Felice Picano
to Unlocking the Closet Door by Chelsea Griffo
The Door of the
Heart by Diana Finfrock Farrar
by David Duncan
and Demion by Mel White
Gay Men and The New Way Forward by Raymond L.
Dimensional Stucture of Consciousness by Samuel Avery
Manly Pursuit of Desire and Love by Perry Brass
Together: Longtime Male Couples on Healthy Intimacy and Communication
by Tim Clausen
Between Materialism and Spiritual by Jean-Michel Bitar
Serpent's Gift: Gnostic Reflections on the Study of Religion by
Jeffrey J. Kripal
America and the Religion of No Religion
by Jeffrey J. Kripal
Invitation to Love by
Consciousness, and God: A Lonerganian Integration by Daniel A
A Walk with Four Spiritual Guides by Andrew Harvey
Can Christians Be Saved? by Stephenson & Rhodes
Secrets of the Ancient Mystery Schools by Stephenson & Rhodes
Spiritual Being: Energy Meditation and Synchronization Exercises by
Walt We Trust by John Marsh
Solomon's Tantric Song
by Rollan McCleary
Special Illumination by Rollan McCleary
Sin by Lawrence Scott
Fruit Basket by Payam Ghassemlou
Landscapes by John Ollom
& Pumpkins by David Hatfield Sparks
Yes by Brad
Blood of the Goddess by William Schindler
Sanctity & Male Desire by Donald Boisvert
Roads of Excess,
Palaces of Wisdom by Jeffrey Kripal
Dharma by Jay Michaelson
Jesus in Salome's Lot by Brett W. Gillette
The Man Who Loved Birds by Fenton Johnson
Vatican Murders by Lucien Gregoire
"Sex Camp" by
& About with Brewer & Berg
Episode One: Searching for a New Mythology
Soul Beneath the Skin by David Nimmons
Holy Ground by Donald Boisvert
Revolutionary Psychology of Gay-Centeredness
by Mitch Walker
Out There by
The Crucifixion of Hyacinth by Geoff Puterbaugh
Silence of Sodom by Mark D Jordan
Never About What It's About by Krandall Kraus and Paul Borja
edited by Catherine Lake
Gospel: A Novel
by WIlton Barnhard
Faith: A Skeptic's Journey by Fenton Johnson
Dating the Greek Gods by Brad Gooch
Truths in Church by Mark D. Jordan
Substance of God by Perry Brass
Tomcat Chronicles by Jack Nichols
Things Gay Men Can Do to Improve Their Lives by Joe Kort
Jesus and the Shamanic Tradition of Same Sex Love
by Will Roscoe
Third Appearance by Walter Starcke
The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight by Thom Hartmann
and Thriving After a Life-Threatening Diagnosis by Bev Hall
Homosexuality, and the Gods by Ronald Long
Interview with Ron Long
Queering Creole Spiritual Traditions by Randy
Conner & David Sparks
An Interview with Randy Conner
and Time by Gerald Heard
Sex and the Sacred by Daniel Helminiak
Blessing Same-Sex Unions by Mark Jordan
Rising Up by
Undeniable Longing by Mark Tedesco
Vintage: A Ghost
Story by Steve Berman
for the Soul by Larry Chang
Soulfully Gay by Joe Perez
MM4M a DVD by Bruce Grether
Double Cross by David Ranan
Transcended Christian by Daniel Helminiak
in Love by Kittredge Cherry
the Eye of the Storm by Gene Robinson
Starry Dynamo by Sven Davisson
Paradox by Fr Paul Murray
Spirituality for Our Global Community by Daniel
Gay & Healthy in a Sick Society by Robert A.
Coming Out: Irish Gay Experiences by Glen O'Brien
by Robert Goss
Towards Gomorrah by Dan Savage
Flesh of the Word by Richard A Rosato
Catland by David Garrett Izzo
for Gay Men by Bruce Anderson
the Path of the Urban Mystic by Darren Main
by Malcolm Boyd
Times Seven by Salvatore Sapienza
Does "Queer" Mean Anyway? by Chris Bartlett
Critique of Patriarchal Reasoning by Arthur Evans
the Soul by Dale Colclasure & David Jensen
Legend of the Raibow Warriors by Steven McFadden
Prayer by Gregory Flood
are the Messengers by Daniel Plasman
The Human Core of Spirituality by Daniel Helminiak
The FInal Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
Religion and the Human Sciences by Daniel Helminiak
Good Parts by Daniel Curzon
Reviews of Books with a Message
Interrupted by Michael Parise
Confessions of a Murdered Pope by Lucien Gregoire
Stargazer's Embassy by Eleanor Lerman
Living, Conscious Aging by Ron Pevny
Footprints Through the Desert by Joshua Kauffman
Religion by J.L. Weinberg
The Mediterranean Universe by John Newmeyer
is God by Jay Michaelson
by Dennis Merritt
Home by Fenton Johnson
Hard Lesson by James Gaston
God vs Gay?
by Jay Michaelson
of Tears: Sadness and the Spiritual Path by Jay Michaelson
Fred by Richard Alther
the Son He Expected by Tim Clausen
9 Realities of Stardust by Brice P. Grether
Afterlife Revolution by Anne & Whitley Strieber
Queer Spirit Awakening by Shokti Lovestar
the Truth of Your Life by Merle Yost
Super Natural by Whitley Strieber & Jeffrey J Kripal
Paper, Rock by Fenton Johnson
Following his Bliss
An Interview with Toby Johnson
Alexander Renault interviewed Toby Johnson in
early 2005 for an interview series he was developing on the Internet.
He had just completed editing a book about his own and other men's
mothers' deaths, Walking Higher: Gay Men Write about the Deaths
of their Mother. He was also author of a couple of novels, Soul
Kiss: The Confessions of a Homoerotic Vampire and Forbidden
Tricks and Queerer than You Think: On
Post-Millenial Bodies, Post-Millennial Sex, and Post-Millenial Porn.
Sadly, not long after conducting this interview Renault was struck by a
car while he was crossing a street in his hometown and was killed.
— — —
Introduction by Alexander Renault
“We are witnesses to the birth of a new religious consciousness. This
new consciousness offers enlightenment and meaning to individuals, even
as it poses tremendous challenges to institutions. The gay rights
movement is part of this transformation—a reason the movement meets
with such violent opposition from traditional religious institutions.”
A friend of mine who is a member of a gay affirming
American Baptist and Brethren church rolled his eyes when I first told
him I was planning to interview Toby Johnson. He told me that he
found Johnson’s ideas a bit “radical” for his tastes. “Vibes,
psychic phenomena, and strange synchronicities” struck him as a bit too
bizarre. Then my curiosity really set in.
I discovered Johnson’s work much later in his career
after reading his 2003 book, Gay Perspective: Things Our Homosexuality
Tells Us About the Nature of God and the Universe, which I found
fascinating. When I finished the book I contacted the author
about setting up an interview. I had a lot of questions.
Johnson is the author of eight books. His
seventh, Gay Spirituality: The Role of Gay Identity in the
Transformation of Human Consciousness, won a Lambda Literary Foundation
Award in 2001, while his latest, Gay Perspective, has been nominated
for the same prize in 2004. He also penned In Search of God in
the Sexual Underworld: A Mystical Journey, Secret Matter, and Plague: A
Novel About Healing. Johnson also edited The White Crane Journal
for seven years.
Let us begin with a few opinions from professionals
before delving into my own. Author Lori L. Lake wrote that
Johnson “weaves together a wonderful narrative about all the ways gay
people can help society transcend ignorance and embrace true love and
Lake also added, “Early on, Johnson says that gay
men may find [his books] to be more about them than lesbians
will. He indicates that since he is writing from the experience
of a gay man, he doesn’t assume to speak for women; however, as a
lesbian reading this book, I found that the author accorded respect
toward all women and advocated for a holistic and feminist view of
relationships for all.”
Living Traditions Online had this to say: “Since we
are sexual outsiders we bring a different view to questions of love,
intimacy and society as well as to the big questions of religion and
God. This is where Toby Johnson comes in.”
the Gay Orgasm
“God is not a being we can know personally but
simply a term used to describe transcendent consciousness.”
Three of Johnson’s books were greatly influenced by
Joseph Campbell, particularly The Myth of the Great Secret: An
Appreciation of Joseph Campbell. He uses the work of Campbell
to show how a study of multiple religions forces the inquirer to
explore the realm of mythology and psychology, leading us to the
conclusion that there may not be as many “religious truths” as we may
have believed at the onset of our search. Johnson concludes that
there are no religions that can encompass all of our humanity and its
intersection with our spiritual natures.
As far as narrowing down Johnson’s basic philosophy
regarding the nature of spirituality, he embraces the myth of the
Mahayana Buddhist World Savior of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara who
is portrayed as an androgynous (“gay”), bare-chested young man in
meditation. This Bodhisattva willingly takes on himself the
incarnations of all sentient beings to free them from suffering.
All people are incarnations of this being.
Johnson believes that gay sex, orgasm in particular,
is a reverberation, a memory, of our common mystical oneness with
Avalokiteshvara. These reverberations can be felt in erotic
longing and images and love of homoerotic beauty. Through gay
sex, God and heaven can be felt in the here and now.
As perpetual outsiders, queer people have always
understood, often initially only on an unconscious level, to look at
the Gemini nature, the duality of what we are taught is the truth about
ourselves. Always being taught that a equals b, when deep down we
also know that a can equal q, we can become more discerning or more
Johnson takes this a step further by voicing his
opinion that the GLBT communities are so often under attack because
they undermine institutions, those rigid dogmatic systems of political,
financial, and thus social control. He explains that male versus
female systems become transformed into good versus evil, whereas in
“pre-Edenic” time GLBT people, i.e., not differentiated into male vs.
female, were examples of harmony, a trait we still offer society
to this day.
Not Going Gently
“An important part of the gay contribution may
be precisely the revelation of the hidden dimension to life.”
In 2000, Johnson published his essay “Dark Night of
the Soul” in Genre Magazine. Here he detailed the
connectedness between secretness and sacredness. Through the
coming out process, “We have gone through the dark night, through the
way of purgation, and discovered a whole new world and new
The origin of the piece comes from a poem written by
the sixteenth-century Spanish Carmelite mystic San Juan de la
Cruz who penned “On a Dark Night.” St. John was an unusual character
who was held prisoner in a monastery for his extreme views about
monastic observance which included preaching mortification and other
austerities. His poem is seemingly about a man’s encounter with
God, then the rapture of their joining which leaves the man waking up
in a field of lilies.
Johnson’s interpretation of the poem is that the
saint runs off and meets a gay lover whom he recognizes as an
apparition of God, but then explains the images as allegories for
spiritual development. Johnson claims if you if you read it with
“gay awareness” you can clearly understand the poem as a piece of gay
spiritual awakening. While many theologians refer to “The Dark
Night of the Soul” as a state of depression experienced before
spiritual transformation, Johnson reads the piece as an awakening of
The depression felt in young gay adulthood is the
realization of the need to redefine our lives after childhood ends. The
depression in mid-life, i.e., the “noonday devil,” comes when we
consciously realize that by doing the same thing everyday, and seeing
no change in the world, we find ourselves in the midst of boredom that
expands to a painful existential crisis (not clinical
Johnson writes, “In the dark night, life seems flat
because higher consciousness seeks deeper meaning. This is a stage in
learning perspective and getting priorities in order. This is a
plunging into the depths in order to reform one’s personality and
self-concept.” He believes this characterizes the coming out
process and that this highly personal crisis is not a dark hole but
rather a tunnel. Once through, we can be led to relief and
joy. Johnson remarks, “[U]ncertainty and not-knowing . . . [is] a
relatively enlightened stage of religiousness.” Only then can we
eventually “open our eyes and see in the darkness.”
One of Johnson’s most profound ideas comes from his
writings on gay sex. He explains that we can experience a
blurring of identity during sexplay. In the fire of gay passion,
we can sometimes confuse our own bodies and our partners’. This
has the potential to produce a unique oneness with another sentient
being, bringing about a transcendent experience.
Here we see sex as experiencing God. St. John
of the Cross may have used the analogy of a field of lilies but I would
like to mention Johnson’s moment beneath a mirrored disco ball.
He stood and stared at this rotating, sparkling object and felt a
oneness, experienced a connection to God, or “universal consciousness”
as he often refers to it. I was anxious to have him further
explain this experience.
The Crisis of Self-Worth
“If we were lucky, we later learned that not
fitting in equipped us with self-fulfilling prophecies of specialness
and with useful skills and talents, especially sensitivity to other
people’s feelings—if only in the interest of self-protection and
This prolific author wrote the essay “Spiritual
Questions in Gay Counseling” in 1988, included in the Sourcebook on
Lesbian and Gay Healthcare, edited by Michael Shernoff and William
Scott. He writes,
“The misrepresentation of
gay consciousness as mere sexual libertinism is reinforced by the
peculiar antisexual obsession of American
Christianity and by the political strategy of conservatives, who know
the sexual behavior of “other people” is a hot-button issue with their
constituents and contributors. Ironically, this misrepresentation is
also perpetuated by the protests of gay activists and the pro-sex
celebrations of gay culture that inadvertently stir up the wrong voters
by pressing that same hot button.”
I was looking forward to asking Johnson about some
of our latest notorious issues. While the gay marriage debate
rages ever onward, and some religious power structures face the crisis
of a plethora of molestation charges brought against priests, I was
curious about where these issues may take us, the GLBT communities,
socially, politically, philosophically, and spiritually.
Our world is changing rapidly but we are also being
swallowed by dogma. Johnson adds, “In fact, mythological
traditions that are supposed to give meaning and direction to life
don’t, because they don’t make sense anymore. Religion is the
problem. It hasn’t kept up with the changes in human nature,
wrought by science and civilization.”
Of course his writings are typically forward on such
“The churches have lost a lot in the last few
centuries. They’ve been proved wrong about the structure of the solar
system, the shape of the planet, the course of evolution of life on
Earth, the origins of disease and mental illness, the existence of
witches, and the causes of “supernatural” phenomena. Admitting that the
Old Testament condemnations of homosexual activity are just primitive
cultural taboos would rather erode the churchs’ power
and authority. Acknowledging that the
anti-homosexual stance that has been a mainstay of morality is
inconsistent with the principles of love of neighbor and respect for
other human beings would just show how out of step with modern thinking
Yet so few involved in the preaching of antigay
propaganda go directly to the source. Johnson clearly recognizes
this by commenting, “Is the truth about homosexuality to be found in
the Bible or the declarations of Vatican officials, or in the personal
experience of actual homosexual persons?”
As a gay man in the midst of his own dark period of
transition, publishing an impossibly difficult anthology on death while
in the midst of his own marital discord, I wanted to hear Johnson’s
views on adults going into crisis—what does all of this mean? He
writes, “In the same way that reaching middle age naturally results in
a re-evaluation of the meaning of one’s life, so experiencing tragedy
demands a similar re-evaluation. The practical issues of competence,
sexuality and career pale in the face of death. Is that all there
After working for many years in the mental health
field I was struck by his warning against hiding from reality and
transformational pain: “Psychiatrists may prescribe medication to
make disturbing questions go away.” Toby Johnson believes that much of
this comes down to the problem of meaning and how we perceive our
self-worth. This struggle so often manifests as anxiety and
depression, but is potentially source of new direction and meaning for
“I think the effort that needs to be made to
save the good part of religion—there’s beauty in religion and there are
these wonderful stories that have great meaning and in the past have
had such an impact on human lives—those are all putting out these
karmic vibes. If you can get into the good side of them, when they
teach peace and love and that we’re all in this together.”
Alexander Renault: How’s your day going, Toby?
Toby Johnson: Oh, it’s going fine. I was
just working on my website this afternoon so it’s been pleasant.
AR: I’m still working on Walking Higher. It’s making me
bug-eyed. Quite an education from the viewpoint of both writer
and editor. Getting ready for your interview I kept thinking, “I
hope I don’t babble my gay ass off.”
TJ: (laughs) Yes, but you get to edit all the bad parts out.
AR: No, actually I leave a lot of the babbling in. I’m not a
purist when it comes to interviews. I think that in our mistakes,
the things we say that come out off-kilter, can be more insightful than
the typically well prepared question and answer.
TJ: I checked out your other interviews and I like what you do.
AR: I love interviews— what could be better? There’s so much you
don’t know and you get to ask people about anything. I’ve learned
more from interviewing people than anything else I’ve ever done.
My first question is about the great gay marriage controversy. I
think it’s wonderful that so many people are talking about it, that
it’s become such a political hot potato.
TJ: My take on almost everything that happens around gay news is that
the important consequence is not the focus of the news, gay marriage
for example. The important thing about gay political activity is
always the message that it sends to young homosexuals just trying to
figure themselves out.
AR: The knowledge.
TJ: And those are the people we always need to be reaching because if
we can give them a good experience then we set them up to have good
lives, which is what all of us want. I think many of us have
managed to achieve this through becoming liberated.
AR: It’s an ironic twist, this bizarre focus on gay people and
“recruiting.” It’s like, yes, we are reaching out to the young
because we don’t want them to have to live the experiences many of us
older fellows suffered through. GLBT people have to be careful…
TJ: Well, you have to believe that homosexuality exists.
TJ: If you believe that homosexuality exists as a form of human
consciousness then it makes sense to reach out to people who have this
category of human consciousness in their lives and explain it to them
in a system and understanding it positively instead of
negatively. If you don’t think it exists—
TJ: —then of course none of this stuff makes any sense—
AR: I can’t comprehend that there are people who deny that GLBT people
exist. That level of ignorance, right there, stops me in my
TJ: Because they don’t experience it. For example, anal eroticism
around homosexuality in general, because they don’t experience it, they
assume that no one else could.
AR: I see—
TJ: Remember when you were a child? Well, I should speak for
myself. When I was a child I had this funny kind of expectation
that everyone spoke English inside their head and French people had to
AR: —That’s a great way to put it—
TJ: —to English in order to speak French. I think that’s how sex
works. That’s why we gay men all believe that everybody’s really
AR: Because we’re still filtering in our own way?
TJ: We don’t understand why anybody would be heterosexual.
AR: (laughs) Isn’t that a funny twist? Some say the acceptance of
queer sodomy means that the civilization will soon collapse.
TJ: Maybe what is true is that as strict rigid societies begin to open
up … let me say it another way. As societies begin to collapse,
the homosexuals come forward to save the day.
AR: Ha! That’s great! I always think of lesbians as
TJ: Somebody needs to.
AR: Well, of course.
TJ: But I wonder, do we save the day? I sort of think we do.
AR: Someone in Robert’s church came up to him one day and mentioned
that she was offended by the argument that God’s sole purpose for all
of us is procreation. She and her husband decided when they got
married that they didn’t want children. She didn’t like the idea
of someone from the outside deciding her worth as a human being
according to whether or not she reproduced. She once told me that
the argument she hears over and over again is that nature, and thereby
God, seeks the masculine and feminine union. I said, “Why can’t
that balance exist in a single individual?”
TJ: That’s in almost everything I’ve written, the specialness of this
kind of consciousness that we call “gay.” I think this precedes
sexual orientation. Because we are gay, we see the world not as
polarized, but as a harmony. And as we become sexually mature that
causes us to orient our sexuality toward other people who are like us,
rather than people who are opposite us and thus getting into the whole
battle of the sexes that seems so unappealing from our perspective.
AR: That’s a bit radical but interesting.
AR: I’m curious— what’s the connection between gay spirituality and
sexual acting out? I mean this is a huge, global question, but
briefly, what did you mean by gay sexuality necessarily being sex
TJ: I don’t think that one becomes gay— one doesn’t identify as gay— if
one isn’t sex-positive. The people who think that sex is a bad
thing don’t come out of the closet.
TJ: There are many people who are sort of half-in, half-out, and keep
getting pulled back and forth, and the door slams on their hand.
They’re really having a serious problem so my saying that being gay is
automatically being positive is awfully facile. But those
problems would go away with thinking positively about sex, while
thinking negatively about sex will only worsen them.
AR: Is it part of the male brain?
TJ: If you weren’t pretty devoted to sex you wouldn’t come out. If it
doesn’t mean much, why do this?
TJ: Why even investigate it? Why think that you need to come up with a
new religion if you weren’t strongly motivated?
AR: Speaking of religion, I wrote down this wonderful passage you wrote
and I’ve been quoting to everyone I know. I just love it—“You would
probably be surprised to know how many gay men have raised their eyes
to a disco ball glowing overhead and seen God.”
TJ: My editor wanted me to cut that sentence.
AR: Are you serious?
TJ: He said, “Oh, no, no—”
AR: Your intuition was right. I printed the line out and taped it to my
TJ: (Laughs) One of the very high mystical experiences of my life was
at The Saint one night and experiencing the disco ball as God. This is
to say that at the moment that disco ball, that focus of attention, was
so wonderful, it was what the metaphor for what God is supposed to do
in your life.
AR: Like the Buddhists who try to bring themselves completely into the
AR: Or like the Zen masters who smack their students with rulers to
bring their attention to the present, like when you were looking at the
Next question: what is “leather spirituality”?
TJ: I have a great respect for the leather spirituality but it’s not my
own particular path. I have an interesting opinion about leather
spirituality that I’ve written in several places and I can share my
ideas with you. I want to preface this by saying that I don’t exactly
believe in reincarnation but I think that the myth of reincarnation is
really about the phenomenon that people give off karmic resonance,
psychological vibes which go out into the universe and get picked up by
TJ: This is one of the ways that the past communicates with the
present. The lives of people who lived in the past are still vibrating
and we’re resonating to them like radio signals. That’s what’s thought
of as reincarnation. Let’s use that model of reincarnation, that people
you vibrate with in the past you might think of as your “past lives.”
AR: I see.
TJ: I think that there have been an enormous number of people—many,
many of them homosexuals—who have been tortured to death in the
Inquisition, in gay oppression of all sorts, and in that experience of
dying under torture they have had a mystical experience. I think what
reverberates into the ethers out there, and gets picked up by people
now, is the link between—
AR: The ecstasy?
TJ: The ecstasy and the torture.
AR: But S&M scares a lot of people because they don’t understand it?
TJ: It’s a “past life memory.” Well, because if you don’t resonate with
it, and the torture doesn’t look like ecstasy to you, because it looks
literally… Oh, it’s one of those things where if you don’t have the
experience yourself it’s hard to understand that someone else would
want to. You can’t help but think, “Well, pain hurts me. How
could pain not hurt?” When that guy’s groaning—
AR: And they don’t understand the psychology of the power balances
TJ: Power balance is a whole other thing.
AR: Issues with authority, etcetera.
TJ: I must say that I was a hippie flower child, who came out of the
peace movement and the counter-culture and all that, and I have a
serious discomfort with all the power stuff.
AR: Okay. But a guy in a police uniform still makes me weak in the
AR: I don’t believe I’ve ever said that out loud before but yeah. I
just finished this vampire novella, The Temple of My Father’s Pleasure.
The publisher thought it sounded too incestuous and artsy so it’s being
released as Soul Kiss: The Intimate Journal of a Gay Vampire. From a
marketing point of view I understand it, though. I tried to take the
incest taboo as far as it would go. But in the end I don’t think it was
so much an interpretation of worshipping the father figure as much as
an interpretation of the God figure—taking that horrific Byzantine
Catholic God I was brought up believing in and then turning the tables,
changing the power balance. I think it was a way of taking control of
something that horrified me as a child.
TJ: The vampire myth is very interesting. I was reading one of your
essays on vampires in literature so I know this is one of your
interests. Obviously, part of this is the transformation that takes
place. Before you become a vampire it seems like the worst thing that
could happen to you and then there is this phenomenal experience. Anne
Rice seems to be the one who really championed this, writing about this
experience of transformation—and you come out the other side and you
realize, oh my God, this is the best thing that could’ve happened to
TJ: And that is what coming out gay is like. Now I think what the
vampire mythology sort of adds to this is that there’s a compulsion
that gets attached to it. The vampire has to continue—
AR: To feed.
TJ: – or somehow get this life force.
AR: Gay vampire books are popping up all over the place now. The
connection between HIV and vampirism, I mean it’s so obvious.
You once wrote, “Religion is the problem and hasn’t kept up with
changes in human nature wrought by science and civilization.” Someone I
work with is very “born again” and I’ve learned a lot from her—my
sister’s also “born again”—and she told me that her pastor teaches that
it’s a mistake to take even tiny steps away from scripture and
dangerous to the future of religion. I think your quote is an excellent
rebuttal to this.
The religious purists aren’t keeping up with changes with our
understanding of ourselves as human beings. So what exactly do we do to
get religion caught up with science and our understanding of
civilization and human evolution?
TJ: We wait.
AR: (laughs) So it’ll eventually happen?
TJ: You know, I think eventually truth wins. I think an effort needs to
be made to save the good part of religion. There’s beauty in religion
and there are wonderful stories that have great meaning and in the past
have had such an impact on human lives. Those lives are all putting out
these karmic vibes. If you can get into the good side of them, when
they teach peace and love—
AR: —and compassion—
TJ: —and that we’re all in this together. Look at the teachings of
Jesus. Except for the stuff that doesn’t make any sense, there’s
nothing in the teachings of Jesus to object to. On the other hand
that’s very unlike Christianity because that doesn’t seem to have much
to do with the teachings of Jesus.
AR: They would argue that.
TJ: Well, I know, but Jesus certainly didn’t think he was writing
scripture. Jesus had no idea that out of his railing against the
scribes and Pharisees, i.e., the church officials and conservative
religious leaders of his day, anyone was going to write something to
add to the Old Testament.
AR: So we’re trapped in dogma.
TJ: Had he known how literal his words would be perceived he’d be
horrified. If Jesus ever came back today—
AR: “He’d never stop throwing up,” is what Woody Allen wrote. What role
has HIV played in gay spiritual consciousness? I’ve read some of your
work on that and I’m having a terrible time wrapping my head around it.
I’m missing a piece and not understanding you. Is it that gay
spiritual consciousness teaches humanity how to be more compassionate
and understanding by having to deal with people with HIV?
TJ: Probably at its simplest. HIV in our culture—not so much anymore
but in that great crisis when the whole thing exploded in the 80s and
90s—was such a call for compassion and understanding. There was
recognition of gay people oddly through—
AR: —the sudden and mysterious appearance of queers all over the place—
TJ: —Rock Hudson. So I think that HIV has ironically played an
important role in acceptance of gay people.
AR: I agree with that.
TJ: But I think though that as a spiritual issue it comes about partly
because having any illness calls out for healing.
AR: Mental or physical.
TJ: And spirituality has this healing component to it. Some of that is
a little bit magical and pie-in-the-sky and some of it is real. I don’t
mean so much that you get physically healed but that you get
psychologically healed. And people who are psychologically healed
probably have better health. I think to make sense of any evil in a
moral term is to understand it as not being compassionate. Not caring
about someone else’s pain. I think that human beings should
automatically feel each others’ pain in a way that we could not cause
AR: I think gay people make the best therapists and are more empathic.
And the best artists. They often make good writers because they allow
themselves to feel it all… when they’re not drunk or on drugs. (laughs)
What is gay intuition?
TJ: One of the things in my book Gay Perspective I wanted to describe
is how we know things. The subtitle of the book is “What Homosexuality
Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe.” So, how does
homosexuality tell us things? I’ve got three practical ways—thinking
about it intellectually, what does it mean—then the experience we have
being homosexuals, what is the existence of gay culture, what we see as
“gay.” Then there’s also a consciousness that doesn’t really fit into a
rational model and that’s just the sense of things we know because
we’re gay. Because we’re gay we resonate with the homosexuals of the
AR: I like that.
TJ: Why do we have good taste? Not that we all do—
AR: Most of us do, yes. (laughs)
TJ: Most of us know how to assemble an outfit—insignificant, trivial
things, but how did we come to have that talent? That’s what I mean by
gay intuition. The resonance with other people in this kind of
mind-space which we experience as modern homosexuality. And a lot
of it is unconscious and there’s the big difference. We don’t
even know we’re responding to things. The big point of gay intuition is
this half-whimsical thing we call “gaydar.” We recognize one another.
We’re not always right and a lot of it is wishful thinking and sexual
AR: But at the same time—
TJ: We’re almost always right.
AR: We can usually tell if someone’s got a little Jane in them.
TJ: We recognize that. And that perception is what the psychics and New
Age people call “seeing auras.” We don’t experience them as colors but
we’re picking up—
AR: We can read them.
TJ: We know how to read them. The gay intuition is reading the vibes of
the homosexual collective consciousness.
AR: I’ve been waiting to ask you this. Is Barney the purple dinosaur
the antichrist, and if so, is he getting any help from Tinky-Winky?
AR: What is it with this current bizarre cultural hysteria, this
obsession, over … hell, I don’t even know what to call it. It’s so
stupid I can’t put it into words. What the fuck is it all about?
TJ: That started as a gay joke in Australia when people recognized his
red purse and the purple color. They said, “Oh, look!! He’s one of us!”
The Christian fundamentalists then heard about it—they didn’t even
discover it themselves!
AR: I didn’t know that. I’m glad I asked.
TJ: Yeah, Tinky-Winky was picked as the mascot for Gay Days in Sydney,
the year or two before it scandalized the U.S. I have this little doll,
it’s the red one—
AR: —I think that’s Po—
TJ: —and when you squeeze it, it says about six different things and
one of its lines is “Faggot, faggot—”
AR: Really? (laughs)
TJ: “Faggot, faggot, eat my pie”
AR: (laughs) Eat my pie?!
TJ: It’s very strange.
AR: Where did you get that and how can I buy one?
TJ: They came out a few years ago and somebody discovered them and gave
me one as a birthday present. They were quickly withdrawn so they’re
not being sold anymore.
AR: Quelle damage. They must’ve been made for gay men like the Billy
TJ: No, it’s British for sausage…
AR: “Pork faggots.” The doll’s marketer was a moron. Or a genius.
TJ: But when people are fearful they see disturbing images of all kinds—
AR: —the projection—
TJ: —of things out there as a conspiracy to attack them.
AR: In the 1970s people thought the salt in a Ritz cracker spelled
S-E-X. I did some research in college for a paper on subliminal
perception and still have several of the old books. The people who
wrote them were obviously projecting their repressed sexuality onto
objects in their environment.
TJ: The salt spelled “sex”?
AR: Morons. Here’s a question for you as a psychotherapist. You wrote,
“How one relates to straight men determines one’s experience of the
world.” It made me think about gay men and their relationships with
their fathers. I firmly believe that gay men should work with male
therapists. I’ve had, believe it or not, about a billion hours of
therapy under my belt and I think as gay men we need to work through
the shyness, the unconscious neuroses about paternal rejection, some,
or perhaps much of it, self-created.
Then there’s the other extreme like the character Michael in Queer
as Folk who finds out his father wasn’t a Vietnam Veteran killed in
the war but a drag queen his mother briefly dated in high school.
Everyone thought it was so embarrassing. I think gay men do lack
healthy male role models and in psychotherapy to come to terms with
that … I know a lot of gay men who will only work with a female
therapist because they can talk to a woman more freely.
AR: I worked the floor in psychiatric hospitals for seven years, direct
patient care as a psychiatric technician, and one thing I learned is
that we tend to attract what we try to avoid. Maybe it’s the
unconscious mind’s way of trying to force the conscious mind to heal
itself. Gay men need to work through their father figure issues. The
therapist could be gay or straight but I think it’s imperative to have
at least one male shrink at some point in time. Would you agree?
TJ: I agree with you about working with a man. The sentence you started
with quoting me is really a much more general observation. Straight men
run the world and we’re always dealing with the way straight men want
to do things. They run the world.
Let me say that one of the neatest things that’s ever happened to me in
my life, and one of the way in which I think I had the greatest
influence but without it being particularly attached to me—I mean this
is one of those little karmic vibes happened after me but that I was at
the beginning of—was when I was working in San Francisco in the mental
health clinic. We were officially a community mental health clinic but
we were a private agency. The agency contracted with the city to
provide the services and part of the gimmick of this agency was that we
were going to be very avant-garde and progressive so they were going to
fund gay services out of our clinic.
AR: Did it work?
TJ: Then it turned out, in fact, that their budget was so tight that
there wasn’t enough money to allow gay therapists to see gay clients
because we had all these straight clients and chronic out-patient
mental cases that we had to see. So the program funding wasn’t
there and we didn’t have the capital to expand. We formed a
mental health employee group called the Dafodil Alliance. DAFODIL stood
for Dykes and Faggots Organized to Defeat Institutionalized Liberalism.
AR: I like that. Did you come up with it?
TJ: No, I didn’t come up with that. There was a lesbian social worker,
Carol Hastie, who was the powerhouse behind this from the beginning. It
was her idea. She was really into the politics of being a dyke. We
organized a demonstration to raise attention to the fact that we didn’t
have enough money to see gay clients in our gay clinic— supposedly gay
AR: That could work.
TJ: One of the women had a friend who was in a lesbian brass marching
AR: You have to love that.
TJ: She got them to come down and be part of our demonstration.
AR: Isn’t that funny!
TJ: And we marched from the clinic to City Hall and marched around the
block and then went up the street to the mental health office that was
up on Larkin. A huge crowd gathered. By the time the 15 of us reached
the offices there were a thousand people.
AR: Television cameras and reporters?
TJ: Oh, sure, they were there. Well, the head of the mental health
agency came out onto his little balcony outside his window—
AR: —just like in Evita!
TJ: —and he was just amazed at what happened. He immediately agreed to
give us $60,000.
AR: That was a shitload of money back then.
TJ: We created a task force to study gay mental health provisions in
AR: That’s wonderful.
TJ: I was male co-spokesperson of this. What this task force came out
with, besides funding recommendations, was a Gay Client’s Bill of
AR: Good idea.
TJ: There were five principles and the first one was “Gay clients have
a right to a gay therapist.” They have a right to know what their
therapist thinks about homosexuality, if they’re sensitive to the issue—
AR: Shrinks love to keep you guessing. You know there was so much
homophobia in psychiatrics in the 1980s. It was dreadful.
TJ: This became incorporated into San Francisco’s health department
rules. Then six, eight, ten years later when AIDS came down the line,
already San Francisco had this commitment to gay professionals for gay
AR: They had it in place.
TJ: Gay doctors for gay patients. I think part of the reason the whole
AIDS industry, and openly gay doctors and all that, developed was
because of the seeds that were planted that day the lesbian marching
band showed up.
AR: Dykes to the rescue, as usual.
TJ: It’s wonderful to see how something that at the time seemed so
insignificant could have such—
AR: —the impact—
TJ: —an impact down the line.
AR: Kind of a Rosa Parks moment?
TJ: I’m agreeing with the point that you initially made. I think gay
clients should have the right to see a gay therapist, somebody with
whom they can identify. Well, you know that the therapist is in charge
and if you’re gay and your therapist is straight—you get the message
that people who are right and solid and in charge and sane are the
AR: You wrote, “People who live entirely in their minds and who
deliberately ignore their bodies and their sexual feelings are far more
likely to consider ideology more important that experience.” My
question is—well, Virginia Mollenkott gave a presentation at a Catholic
college and somebody was really going at her. Of course she got the
feeling that the guy who was verbally attacking her was probably trying
to run away from something of his own. So what’s the correlation
between getting trapped in ideology and ignoring your sexual feelings
rather than dealing with experience? My question is do people hide
TJ: I think people who are afraid of their bodies move into their minds
as a way to not deal with what’s going on in the body. They’re out of
shape or they don’t feel attractive or they’re afraid of their
sexuality or they’ve been traumatized around thinking about their
bodies. You know how our society does so much of this to people.
People who are very comfortable with themselves radiate a strong sexual
vibe. I don’t think they do it on purpose, but you can tell when people
are comfortable and confident. So it strikes me that people trapped in
ideology are less confident and comfortable.
AR: More rigid.
TJ To quote you from a minute ago, maybe the causality goes both ways.
It’s their discomfort with feelings that make them move out of their
body and into their mind. To discount the importance of feelings.
Certainly, part of the anti-sex Christian movement—well, religious, not
just Christian—sort of says that you shouldn’t pay attention to
feelings because you feel like you’d like to have sex.
TJ: That’s not a reason to do it. You have to have a logical,
God-revealed or socially ordained reason. Not just, “It feels good.”
What really upset them about the hippie counter-culture was, “If it
feels good, do it.” But that’s what everything else on earth does.
AR: That’s a good way to put it.
TJ: The pleasure principle is just part of nature.
AR: Here’s my favorite all-time question: What might your readers or
admirers find surprising or even shocking about you?
AR: It’s a bitch of a question, isn’t it?
TJ: Yes, it is. I’m not sure if I can answer that or if I want to.
AR: That’s why it’s such a good one. Remember, we can edit later.
TJ: Well, something I hope my readers would actually like, and not be
shocked by, is that I’m just a regular old hippie homosexual guy. I
think that part of the model of religious people and religious scholars
is that you’d think they would be “religious” and “special.”
TJ: There’s that idea of the meditator. Well, I sit in meditation 40
minutes a day—that’s a lot for some people. But I live a normal life.
AR: You’re more accessible than people might think.
TJ: I eat meat.
AR: You’re down to earth.
TJ: Down to earth, yes. I think that part of my message is that
religion is not about purification and self-denial. It’s about love and
AR: The Buddhist nun in my Thich Nhat Hanh video said the most
surprising thing she learned by studying under the monk was that she
didn’t have to change. She found that who she was was okay, and on a
TJ: Oh, yes.
AR: And that made the difference. And I thought, There is the knife
between East and West. That’s why so many people in the West look at
eastern religions and cannot comprehend them. How could anybody believe
that? It’s illogical!!! It’s such a completely different mindset.
TJ: In fact, it’s so simple. Early Buddhism is so simple.
TJ: Be here now.