The Weekly Service

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Last night I couldn’t sleep, lay awake for an hour and then woke before dawn still crackling with energy. It’s as though I am carrying the collective healing of a whole group of people and I can barely contain it, barely open my heart to let it in, it is so joyful. Who would have thought such a reaction would come from talking about grief?

Yesterday I gave a sermon at The Weekly Service. It’s a group that’s been on my radar for over a year, a church for nonreligious people, an opportunity to have meaningful conversations with like-hearted community, something I’ve been dying to check out. So when co-founder, Cam Elliot saw me at The Moth in Melbourne last month and invited me to share my story at the Service I jumped at the chance.

The story I told was not about the more-than-human or my relationship with it and it was not about violence against women. It was about my mother and about grief, a deeply personal story about one of the most significant and precious moments of my life. I called it “We don’t do grief in our family: a healing tale” and a crowd of almost 50 people turned up to hear it.

Beforehand I was a bundle of nerves. Several audience members were mentors and heroes of mine, not one, not two, SEVERAL. Plus my family were there and my cousin. I had to go and stand in the lane way under the peppercorn tree just to keep myself from dissolving into a puddle of fear. When it came time to speak, the nerves faded into the background, I sang one of my songs about presence and surrender and following the ‘quiet whispers of joy’ and was very grateful that my quivering hands managed to keep forming the chords.

Then I took a deep breath and told the story. It’s one I’ve told a couple of times before but I badly wanted it to be alive for this group. The Weekly Service has gathered a precious community of seekers and truth speakers, the first time I sat among them I wept with the feeling of safety and welcome, all my petals unfurled. Now, sitting in front of them, I wanted to honour them by offering all of myself, my presence, my rawness, my truth.  I wanted to let myself be seen.

I have no idea what it was like for them, I can barely remember what I said or how it went. I remember the reactions though, remember my joy at hearing people’s reflections and connections, at having my story given back to me fresh and new from all these different perspectives. They saw things in it that I had no idea were there and took beautiful things beyond my imagining to apply to their lives. Wow.

A new culture is coalescing. A new way of being in the world. We are sick of complaining about late industrial capitalism and we are rolling up our sleeves and making something new. Long have I admired the people at the forefront of this creative task, yesterday I felt like I was taking my place among them. I couldn’t be more excited about what the future holds, communities like this make life worth living.

Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing. Arundhati Roy

Queer nature

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My girlfriend has been doing a learning journey called Right Relations in Rites of Passage. She just made me watch the seminar ‘Archetypes of Gender and Sexuality Beyond the Binary’ and it has blown my mind.

When I came out as lesbian in my mid twenties it surprised exactly no-one. My Dad’s older sister came out as lesbian when I was a small child and my parents were big supporters of her and her partner. I grew up believing that it was normal to be gay and when I came out it felt like it wasn’t a big deal, no-one cared, it was a personal decision and it didn’t matter.

The queer community has never been a big part of my life, my home and family are ‘safe spaces’ so I didn’t feel like I needed it as much as some. I don’t drink alcohol so although I have sometimes enjoyed dancing at bars and clubs, I never really felt at home there. My professional life has been in the community sector working towards gender equality and preventing violence against women and there have always been other queer women around. I have close friends who are queer and feel like those relationships are important but never felt the need to seek out people who were ‘like me.’

On my spiritual journey (via new age meditation circles and goddess retreats), and my Earth connection journey (via deep ecology and vision quests), queerness never appeared. I was often the only openly queer person in the room and my queerness was viewed as irrelevant – everyone said I was welcome and I felt welcome, I would pass the information received through the lens of my queerness but that was a personal process, rarely shared with the group.

The seminar I just watched changes everything. The facilitators argued that queerness is part of the ecosystem, that sexual diversity is a normal part of nature and that queer people in human cultures have often occupied a celebrated role as edge walkers, cultural guardians and stewards. They associated the gender binary as we now know it with processes of colonisation and imperialism that attacked and oppressed third gender folk in order to take away their power as they subdued indigenous cultures.

Without being consciously aware of it I had imbibed the notion that being queer is unnatural. I had reasoned that the Earth loves diversity so surely I am loved in my queerness but now I can see that in telling myself that my queerness ‘doesn’t matter’ I have been unconsciously devaluing an important part of myself. The seminar argues not only that my queerness is natural but that it is powerful and important. My queerness is a gift I have to offer the world.

I can’t tell you what it’s like to have these crucial parts of myself brought together – my queer identity, my Earth love and my spiritual journey. I feel a deep sense of belonging that I hadn’t realised was missing. I feel empowered to inhabit my queerness within the rewilding and Earth connection communities as an offering rather than a meaningless aside like the fact that I am tall and have brown hair.

A whole lot of recent thoughts and ideas have suddenly become clear and slotted into place. Ru Paul talking about how straight people have always appropriated queer culture, an article for the New York Times where Krista Burton describes how ‘hipsters broke my gaydar‘ and the realisation that two of the three asian quest protectors that trained with me last year were lesbian. All started me musing on the notion that queer folk are culture makers because once you transgress one boundary it’s easy to just keep going.

Being queer means being an edge walker, it means taking a journey led by the body and the heart away from the dominant society’s notion of how we should be and who we should love. Being queer gives us the power to write our own rules, to speak truth to power, and to align ourselves with our innate nature. Being queer is a service to nature, to the ecosystem and to human communities.

Massive gratitude to Pinar and So from Queer Nature and to Clementine for researching and putting the seminar together and for being the powerful edge walkers you are.