Uplift: Uplifting LGBTQ+ Experience Within and Beyond Unitarian Universalism

Coming Out Day 2023: Coming Out Spiritually

Multicolored circular stained glass window. One of the magnificent rose windows at UU San Francisco.

One of the Magnificent Rose Windows at UU San Francisco

Circular multicolored stain-glass window.

By Eric Eldritch

When you think of National Coming Out Day 2022 versus 2023. What is similar? What is different? Clearly, this year, Christian Theocracy and White Nationalism movements are emboldened. Hateful legislation is being proposed around the nation.

The very act of “Coming Out” and “Being Out” is simultaneously more important, more transgressive and more dangerous than ever before.

We each have spiritual journeys to find out what fits best body, mind and soul. My journey started out in a fundamentalist evangelical version of Christianity. I was raised (indoctrinated) to sing childhood songs like: “One door and only one! Yet, its sides are two! I’m on the inside, on which side are you?” You might know that song, you might also know the hand play poem “This is the church, This is the steeple. Look inside and see all the people.” By the time I was in high school I was decrying local pastors telling them to their face that they were going to hell, and that their whole congregation was not saved because they did not baptize their congregants by immersion – the way God intended it! I used scriptures from of course, the only reliable source of scripture, the King James Version of the bible. Hmmm, I hope I haven’t lost you in the harshness of this story. There is a good outcome.

At eight years old I realized that I was gay, and finally, two decades later, at 28 years old, I actually came out. I owe many dear, patient friends who helped me with“Coming Out” and who helped me to forgive myself, to help me out of my “Straight” jacket. Coming Out. Being Out. Being my whole, complete, authentic self was my salvation, my freedom.

These friends came from the amazing network of LGBTQ friends and allies I met though the Pride Interfaith Services held in Washington, DC. Those services started during the years of the Names Project, AIDS Memorial Quilt. Maybe you’ve seen or been part of making a quilt piece. Seeing those acres of quilts carefully, prayerfully laid out was astounding. Being with people of all faiths in interfaith services helped my Come Out in terms of my sexuality and of my spirituality. For me, my heart opened to realize a new truth and rewrite a new versio of that childhood song to say:“Many doors! Many Ways! All the doors are true. I’m on my own path. So happy to meet you!” My journey has compelled me to “Be Out” now in many ways: I’m UU-Pagan. I’m Polyamorous. I’m Poly-Spiritual too. It’s been a wonderful journey.

The annual National Coming Out Day calls us all to pause and consider what it has meant and what it means to “Be Out” in our world today.

Since the 1980’s Unitarian Universalists have learned to “Be Out” as individuals and “Be Welcoming” as allies. Unitarian Universalism has led important work across the denomination to designate Welcoming Congregations, navigate campaigns for Marriage Equality, and continue to speak up for all forms of social justice. In the Uplift October 2018, you’ll find these words:“As Unitarian Universalists we affirm the inherent worth and dignity and the full humanity and beauty of our trans siblings. Beloveds we see you. We will follow your lead. My fellow UU’s, we’ve also got work to do to be communities of inclusion and solidarity protecting and advocating with the transgender, genderqueer and non-binary community.” Much of what lies ahead is a continuation of the same important work accomplished in the last four decades. 

How do we maintain a concerted effort to confront all systems of oppression (Racism, Anti-Trans, Anti-Queer, Anti-Choice and Anti-Democracy) day in and day out throughout the year?

As queer and trans people, we continue to define, affirm and redefine ourselves. We learn from each other and weave a kinship that helps us grow. We see ourselves and we see others more clearly. This year, let’s affirm our kinship with each other and renew our collaboration with allies. Together we are meeting the challenge of thwarting the ongoing barrage of social and political attacks against us. We are finding creative ways to support the many hard choices facing those around us: queer and trans individuals and families; teachers and librarians; physical health and mental health clinicians. So much is challenging us, offending our sensibilities and threatening to dismantle our rights.

How do we help each other “Be Out” spiritually to counter the oppressive laws and bans that continue to pile up? We need to continue our r/evolution.

As we face all that comes our way this year, “Coming Out” with a few new labels for a UU interfaith strategy may help us stay grounded and to change our world. To get started, let’s answer this new question about our orientation. Let’s consider expanding our definition and explore what it means to “Be Out” spiritually. Whether your spiritual orientation is Poly-Spiritual, Mono-Spiritual, A-Spiritual, your spirituality is crucial to addressing the oppression and bans that continue to plague us.

Poly-Spiritualists find spiritual meaning and inspiration in many sources, symbols and practices. For them, being Poly-Spiritual provides grounding and energy from a variety of spiritual and religious approaches. Interacting with people from various traditions affirms and energizes a Poly-Spiritual person sense of contemplation and actualization

Mono-SpiritualistsI find spiritual meaning and inspiration in a single set of spiritual practices. Being Mono-Spiritual provides a coherent, contiguous practice that is a foundation and springboard for understanding themselves and transforming the world. Identifying with a specific spiritual and religious approach as a hyphenated UU (e.g. UU-Christian; UU-Pagan) provides clarity of a belief system that roots that can grow deep and bear fruit.

A-Spiritualists I find personal meaning and inspiration in a simple principle like “Be Kind.” For them, being A-Spiritual provides a simple, trusted framework for a that does not depend on religious paradigms to understand and interact with others. Historically, Atheists, Agnostics, Humanists, Free Thinkers and the more recent Nones all have important views on Being Out spirituality, and hold views on social justice and Being Out. An A-Spiritual person might say: I don’t need religion to teach me how to focus my attention, find a moral compass or help others. I just need two words: “Be Kind.”

How do we make space for people to “Be Out” authentically and nurture everyone to follow their own spiritual path? 

National Coming Out Day is an opportunity for spiritual reflection. Might we use this opportunity to gauge the authentic alignment of our inner selves with outward action. As Unitarian Universalists we are called to covenant with each other and to challenge systems of oppression. As co-conspirators, we pledge to work to improve the lived reality of the most marginalized among us. Whether we be Poly-Spiritual, Mono-Spiritual and A-Spiritual … Coming Out spiritually queer, contradicts Christian Nationalism and defends religious pluralism.

Queering Faith Together we create an equitable society for diverse LGBTQ people. We must continue to emphasize that people of faith are not our adversaries — and that equity and religious freedom are interconnected and mutually reinforcing.

Q Spirit promotes queer spirituality through saints, history and books for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community and allies.

About the Author

Eric Eldritch

Rev. Eric Eldritch (he/him) is ordained as Pagan clergy with Circle Sanctuary, near Madison Wisconsin and a Third Degree Priestx of Stone Circle Wicca. Eldritch is a member of Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church in Adelphi, Maryland. Annually, for the past 20 years, he has co-coordinated...


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