By Les Wright
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My own path to heart-centered Gay men’s tribal community has taken many circuitous side routes. I found it only after I stopped looking and allowed it to find me. My civil war is over. I am creating a place in this new Billy community, where I am seen as a Gay warrior and spiritual healer. As my heart continues, however falteringly, to heal and become free and open to the world, I begin anew, post-AIDS Holocaust, to embrace my Gay/queer brothers.
“Welcome home, Billy!” is how they greeted me. When, in a tribal drumming and chanting ceremony my remaining defenses shattered, I knew I was finally reborn, and invited to embody and give voice to the Gay archetype of bear. I have bene pondering “bear spirit” ever since.
Having always been drawn to older men, as mentors and lovers, I suddenly realize I have become the sort of older man I have always been drawn to. I now turn and face back, reaching out to my younger Gay brothers, just as I continue to reach out to my own mentors among the community elders. I’m just beginning to learn: I can leave a trail of crumbs behind me, as one elder kindly admonishes, but I cannot leave a trail ahead of me.
I am no longer imprisoned by old scripts, if I so choose. Unscripted means I have to fly by the seat of my pants. A lifetime’s preparation — of overcoming psychological compartmentalization and fragmentation, of groping blindly, backsliding and willfully self-sabotaging, of emotions frozen or out of control, of personal will paralyzed, thwarted, run amok, or liberated from — has now transformed me. At 54, I begin to take my place in my community. And I begin to understand, from a broader perspective of the evolution of queer men’s spirituality, the legacy of homoerotic community: we are perpetually engaged in liberating ourselves and each other, generation after generation.
Audre Lorde has long been a muse and mentor. When she wrote (in “Litany for Survival”) “For those of us / who were imprinted with fear / … learning to be afraid with our mother’s milk,” I understood. All my life I had been taught to mistrust — straight people, Gay people, my sense of home, my mission in life, even who I am. As I now learn to trust, for the first time, I am able to enter into tribal community.
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Les Wright lives in San Francisco. He is the editor of The Bear Book I & II.