Monday, October 20, 2008

Review: Spirited: Affirming the Soul and Black Gay / Lesbian Identity

edited by G Winston James and Lisa C. Moore.

Published by Redbone Press

Reviewed by Donald McKinney

Most gay men and women have a strained relationship with spirituality. In the UK few, if any, of the main churches are supportive; a few more will tolerate us with pursed lips and disapproving eyes.

It is not surprising then that most turn away from the churches and indeed spirituality all together. Perhaps that explains the bars, backrooms and causal sex that can so easily spiral into self-hate and depression.

And so, while this book is aimed primarily at the black community, it none the less speaks to all of us. Clearly the primary aim of this book is to help black men and women come to terms with their sexual identity. It does this through a fairly eclectic mix of up-lifting real-life stories. Written by the men and women themselves, the style, content and readability of the tales vary widely. And while there are specific references to the African-American community and Black churches, much of the problems, the hurdles and barriers that have to be overcome are common to all of us.

For those of us seeking a spiritual support, one option is to turn to other non-traditional religions. In the 1960’s for Malcolm X and the Black Panthers the solution was to convert to Islam, whom they saw as being non-white, non-western. But for the gay man or lesbian Islam is no better. Some turn to older religions: Buddhism and Shamanism where being gay is at least tolerated.

Here in the UK the problem for the gay man and woman is perhaps less than for the black gay men and women in America where their churches are so much a part of their community. Nonetheless as you read this book you begin to see that there is a journey that has to be travelled: awareness of self; recognition of spiritual desires and ultimately satisfaction of those needs.

It is a powerful, heady even, realisation that we can do this. We can be who we want to be and no-one can stop us. And it does require change. Some would say sacrifice and loss but that language is un-helpful. What we require is determination and self-worth. And surely that is something all of us can aspire to.

This book then is a wake-up call to all of us. It is so easy to be beguiled and distracted by the glitter of the day-to-day world. Only in rare moments of silence do we hear the echo of our soul. Yet there lies our destiny. Read this book, be inspired and begin to write your own story!



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