When I read the February, 07 2012 ruling regarding Proposition 8, I knew it was time to finally tell people why I call myself a Gaytheist. There was something in the language of that ruling that seemed to speak directly to me. One moment I was reading the news, the next, I was reading a letter addressed to a self I try to keep quiet inside me; the self that was forged by encounters with people who claim their ignorance and cruelty as God’s will, the self I named “Gaytheist.”
“What is a Gaytheist?” I didn’t coin the term “Gaytheist.” If you Google it, the only actual definition you’ll find is at the redoubtable Urban Dictionary site, where it’s described as “A person who is both homosexual (or possibly bisexual or transsexual) and an atheist. This is a mark of pride, not an insult, though it’s best used when referring to oneself.” This is not who I am, not quite. “Gaytheist” is who I am in relationship to a very specific God in a world of Gods.
People create Gods. Gods give us comfort in times of pain; purpose amid chaos. We make our Gods out of the only materials we have: our hearts and minds. There are organized religions based on consensus, but the truth is, for every person there is a God. And even though they are infinite in their subtle individuality, there are only two Gods. The brilliant projections of the best of us are the Gods made of love. The shadow-selves dredged up from the worst of us, those are the Gods made of fear. Whether they manifest as a pillar upon which we elevate our highest hopes for mankind or as a stone of judgment we cast at one another, these Gods are real. They are us.
I don’t make it my business to worry about worlds beyond this one, but I have learned to navigate this world with one eye on these Gods. Which Gods will I encounter in a day? How will they treat me? Will my interaction with these Gods in any way affect my life or that of my family? These Gods push buttons in voting booths. They leave messages at the local office of your Congressman. They are disseminating propaganda in the streets somewhere, right now. I’ve become a theologian in the same way a refugee in an unknown wilderness becomes a biologist. Which plants are edible? Which animals are dangerous? It’s not a matter of heaven or hell to me; it’s a matter of survival.
Like most people who are homosexual “(or possibly bisexual or transsexual)” as the Urban Dictionary would have it, I’ve dealt with these Gods first-hand. When I was twenty-five, I made dinner for the Gods of Fear as they sat in my parents’ living room, watching Pat Robertson condemn gay people on cable television. Their faces, illuminated with the otherworldly light of the tv screen, were solemn; they looked very much like those belonging to my aunt and uncle. The Gods of Fear nodded in agreement to the words that would send me to a hell I did not believe in. If they thanked me for the meal I made them, I don’t remember. I blocked out everything that followed that moment that day. I spent a decade of my life afterward, believing that this was the only God in existence until the day the God of Love came along in the form of an equally religious family member. She gathered her mother, her children, and their spouses, and her grandchildren and raised a glass to welcome my partner Kate to the family. It’s hard for me to reinhabit that moment without being overcome by the warmth and acceptance given as a gift we never dared to ask for, yet had been ours all along. Each face in that room was a smiling sun; the God of Love ruled the day. I’ll never forget it.
The God that I, as an “other” in this heteronormative culture, do not believe in is the fearful one created by the sponsors of Proposition 8, the God that “serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians…” I quote these words directly from U.S. Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt’s ruling. In the five days since the publication of these words, we’ve seen the legalization of gay marriage in Washington State. The events are unrelated, but when taken together, they resemble progress; they inspire hope.
So I call myself a Gaytheist. I believe in the Gods of Love who walk amongst us. The majority of them are hopelessly heteronomal, but they are Gaytheists, too.