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Attending to choices about personal life and community living.

I think of spirituality as attention to the choices we make about the quality of our personal and communal lives. I prefer to do it rather than talk about it. But when such matters are connected with sexual identity and/or relationships I am clear that backlash is at hand.

The way the question is framed -- as if race or class or gender could be substituted -- I smell power being exerted to maintain a fictitious model of the spiritually correct, that is, heterosexually married couples with children or celibate people in religious orders, both expert on their respective states. The saccharine vocabulary that usually conveys such notions is obscene in its reliance on the divine to bolster a constricting agenda.

That my being lesbian has much to do with the quality of my spirituality is dubious. Obviously the framers of such a premise do not advance it neutrally. Nor would they advance it at all with regard to heterosexual people unless they hoped to make unflattering comparisons to people like me. Fancy the reaction to the suggestion that being heterosexual is bad for one's spiritual health. Not.

I observe the fetishing over sexual preference is reserved to those on the right who use religion as a cover for their prejudices. In the late 20th century, at least in my mixed neighborhood inside the Beltway in suburban Maryland, it would be hard to get up much of a conversation about spirituality and sexual preference on a good day. We attend to each other, but that is not how.

We go to the farmers' market and buy organic produce. We greet one another in the early hours when we're out for a jog. We exchange tips on how to keep the garden weeded or what gets recycled this week. We talk politics and try to keep abreast of what's happening in the world to change it. Amazing as it may seem to some, we do all this without constant reference to our sexual circumstances.

We party in my neighborhood four or five times a year. So when it snows hard or we need to borrow tools for home repair we know we can count on one another. Sometimes we go to a restaurant for dinner, maybe 20 of us or so from eight households. Or we gather in a back yard for a potluck picnic where the children are included.

I have never heard spirituality come up, nor have I ever felt less than fully welcome even if, as a lesbian in the group, I know I am part of a minority of two or three. All this in an urban U.S. neighborhood, and the sun comes up every day. Where do people who talk about spiritual identity in terms of people's sexuality live?

Maybe it is my cooking that makes me a valued part of the neighborhood or that I shovel my sidewalk. I rather think it is because my neighbors are unpretentious when it comes to things spiritual. We have more to worry about than one another's sex lives, especially since there are homeless people nearby to feed and the usual school problems to address.

We are mature enough to know that variety is part of the human community. Just as it would not occur to us to discuss whether members of a particular racial/ethnic group can obtain holiness, the whole discussion is perverse when it comes to sexual orientation. It may not be illegal but it is surely bad taste.

Of course, my neighbors have noticed that my partner, Diann Neu, and I are both women. I hope they have, because we like it this way. We both wear dresses to the office, shorts to carry out the trash in summer and long pants when it is cold. I am sure that a child or three have asked why there is no daddy at our house or kids yet. I assume that their parents have responded that every house does not come with a daddy, nor with kids, for that matter, but that every house should have as much love as Mary and Diann's does. That is why so many international guests arrive and why people in town for a meeting on the Hill or a demonstration for justice find a warm welcome and a hot meal. And it is why the neighborhood kids are welcome, too.

I hope those parents tell their children that love and lesbians go together like love and justice, and hearts and flowers. The rest, as the rabbis say, is commentary or, as I see it, idle gossip, or pernicious mischief. Not in my neighborhood, thanks.
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Title Annotation:Special Report: Gay Men and Lesbians Describe Spiritual Journeys
Author:Hunt, Mary E.
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Sep 2, 1994
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