A Place for Us By Dan Vera & Bo Young
Bo: For myself, I'd say because I think the idea of "sanctuary" is important to Gay men…Harry Hay's discourse on this, that we include here, is probably the core of the issue. The idea that to be able to self-define who we are, it's necessary to withdraw from the larger community so we can have a literal safe zone in which to SEE who we really are…this isn't particular to Gay people, either…the long tradition of retreat from community to self-reflect…
Dan: The idea seems so radical. I recall the first time I visited a sanctuary I was stunned by the idea that everything around me was built by Gay hands. I was in "Gay land" if you will. I remember that I was affected physically by it.
Bo: The first time I went, it was nothing less than magical…not what I expected at all…and I think I hear that from a lot of people, whose first idea is that it's going to be some kind of "free love" on-going orgy… which, I think reflects more on the general cultures definition of who we are.
Dan: I was familiar with experiencing urban enclaves of Gay living, where we've carved out a little place or rebuilt it from what was there before, but this was land that was barren and built by people like me. It was edifying to see and experience what was possible — because I think I was still under sway with the belief that we couldn't create or we were ancillary to what straight culture builds.
Bo: Yes…the physical places were incredible…are incredible…the hobbit-ness of it all..we're in "the shire"…it really gives form to the whole idea that we HAVE a culture!
Dan: Yes, with that bit of whimsy and usually an amazing eye to detail.
Bo: To say nothing of the ability to make magic…make something…out of nothing…discards, scrap lumber, pieces of glass
Dan: This was actually Zuni Sanctuary in New Mexico, which of all the places we've mentioned was created from the land up…
Bo: I think the concept of "the Circle" was really cemented in Radical Faerie culture here…the "heart circle" was practiced…and elevated to a pillar of that community in these places…and the Gathering
Dan: The other thing that's powerful about sanctuaries is that it is meant to be a free-zone from the constant translation we have to do in our lives.
Bo: Yes…and in the most subtle of ways, I think this is one of the most freeing parts about them.
Dan: It wasn't until I visited a sanctuary that I realized how much time I spend translating myself, or repelling the wave upon wave of messages and images I get of otherness. There were no ADs or television constantly showing hetero-normativity again and again
Bo: What I also find interesting is that initially, it was believed that the sanctuaries had to be rural compounds…but in fact, Harry even talks about this, and John, they believed that they were living in a sanctuary in Los Angeles…all the while dreaming of a rural sanctuary…
Dan: Again. This might sound a bit extreme but until you've experienced a free zone where you're not buffeted by it you don't know how it is SO pervasive.
Dan: Yeah. I loved that part of Harry and John's talk. Especially when John starts describing their little group house as a sanctuary.
Bo: I remember how quiet the place was (my first sanctuary was SMS)…I spent about three weeks there (just after Dancing my first Naraya, and after breaking up from an eight year relationship) in the middle of December, into January…I wanted to move there.
Dan: I was also impressed by John's defense of the need for Gay men to have their own homes and honoring the importance of that. John was always like that, very both/and. It's important to build sanctuary communities but it's also important and vital for us to have homes with beauty and comfort.
Bo: For this issue, though…we wanted to present not only Faerie sanctuaries, but also alternative places like Easton Mountain…Gay-centric, but organized differently…and the piece about different Queer-friendly place in Europe.
Dan: It's hard not to visit a sanctuary and not want to stay. The quiet and the community. Enrique Andrade's piece about working with urban Gay teens in Portland is an example of one building refuge "Safe spaces" as a form of sanctuary. I want to go out on a limb here and say that after coming out as an individual, visiting a sanctuary was like fully coming out to ourselves. I mean there was a sense of our uniqueness as a people in community.
Bo: When Cove and Rosie and I were leading Harry and John's SexMagic workshops at Destiny, we were always talking about how we might be able to do them in an urban environment…and it was difficult…the rural sanctuaries offer so many rich possibilities…the possibility of being naked all the time, among them, of course…
So I want to talk about the idea behind this issue…Primarily, I was interested in sort of a "polling" of the faerie sanctuaries, and including the other sanctuaries, such as Gay Spirit Vision, Easton Mountain and the Hermitage in Pennsylvania…
Dan: They all have different histories but come out of a similar impulse to carve out a space, a refuge for doing work together removed from the hustle and bustle of urban life.
Bo: And I wanted to get a report on the status of these places…some of which have been around, now, for decades…and I think we got a very interesting set of reports and pieces. Some of these places are thriving, and some are having various kinds of difficulties. Some seem to be achieving something that resembles Harry's "dream" of a safe harbor for Gay men…and some that seem to be falling prey to the usual pitfalls of utopian communities.
Bo: …like internecine squabbling…who is "allowed" and who isn't…almost like the Jews deciding “Who is a Jew and who isn’t, there’s a lot of “who is a Faerie and who isn’t?”…women being allowed, trans people being allowed…all very touchy, and creating no small amount of controversy. I remember Wolfie, AKA Silverfang, who I know as a female, a Bisexual, if not a Lesbian, on her knees in front of Harry, in the middle of a Naraya, asserting her “faerie-ness”…much to Harry’s consternation, I might add…and her right, therefore, to be “on the land.”
Dan: It makes sense that as things age, they evolve. They change and adapt to new challenges. What is the state of the sanctuary for Gay men today?
Bo: Well, for example, one of the hallmarks of Wolf Creek…one of the things that really grabbed me when I first went there, was the idea that anyone, at any time could request "fag only space"…and anyone who wasn't a "gay male identified" male would be asked to leave the land…
I must admit the first time I heard that I was gobsmacked by the idea and at the same time, it immediately communicated the core principle of safety to me as a Gay man…I was in a safe place that would protect me if I needed it…And I was always impressed, as well, that there were other sanctuaries that didn't do this, that became more broadly defined sanctuaries for "queer people" of whatever gender… or, in the case of Short Mountain, that became recognized in the community as a wildlife sanctuary in the wider, general community…
I mean…I'll never forget going to a work week before a Gathering once, and taking a truck down to a local gravel pit to get stones for pathways…and I was told just to say I was "from the sanctuary"…and here I am in deepest darkest Tennessee…and I'm thinking this is just about like wrapping myself in lavender and parading down Main Street….I had all the urban preconceived ideas of what rural life was like…
So I pulled up in this truck, and announced that I was "from the sanctuary"…and this redneck good ol' boy in the shack greeted me, and asked "Oh we love the sanctuary…how're all the boys doin' up there?" It was the first time I ever had the experience of that kind of acceptance and tolerance, if you will, outside of an urban environment.
Dan: I had the same experience in New Mexico with the folks at Zuni. This isolated sanctuary — perhaps the most remote of the ones we're covering — in the middle of Mormon Indian country and yet they've managed to carve out community with the single women, the non-traditional religious, the artsy people who are SO very thankful to have access to this group of creative men living in their midst. Who helped create an artist community and gallery in this very rural area. Just powerful and daring and "right."
Bo: …which speaks to Harry's idea of a need to withdraw to be able to discover who we are in peace, to self-define…and through that, the larger, dominant community would come to understand us on our own terms…or at least there was the possibility of that happening.
So…the purpose of this issue, then, is to let readers see the wide selection of sanctuaries that are available to them…I know some people are wary of faeries in general…and I hope this shows that there are other options…and, at the same time, I hope this makes some of the faerie sanctuaries more appealing…
Bo: And makes the variation among faerie sanctuaries more apparent, too…each one seems to have it's own personality and its own way of functioning.
Dan: Well, there are so many options for folks. I hope that this issue would help remind our readers that the need for space outside the city, outside the conventional world — beyond the translation is not only necessary but very possible.
Bo: From Radical Faerie land to Rational Faerie retreats…
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