We live at a time in postmodernity in which the themes of past eras have found their way back into our collective consciousness. Viral epidemics and pandemics such as HIV, swine flu, and bird flu have replaced bacterial plagues. Inverted totalitarianism has replaced imperialism. Multi/transnational corporations have replaced empires. Wars on Islamic extremism have replaced the Crusades. The impact of these forces upon our collective consciousness is to force dichotomous, binary thinking. We are pressured to believe in right and wrong, good people and bad people. We are encouraged to be suspicious of nuance, complexity, ambiguity, and the diunital, i.e., the union of opposites. Spirituality and religion, like sexuality, can be sites of contestation or compliance. They can broaden and expand our ability to embrace the liminal or embolden hostility toward liminality .
These may seem like lofty ideas, so theoretical as to be meaningless to the average person. Ask the bisexual-identified Muslim who wishes to enter the United States with a dildo about how theoretical these issues are. Ask the pansexual hotel worker who is using a prayer to the Orishas to remain healthy because s/he has no health care or job security if these issues are too removed from what is happening in everyday people’s lives. Ask the machinist with two lovers, recently laid off and now dependent upon the food bank of the church, who is being told by a right wing media pundit that the Chinese or Mexicans are to blame for unemployment if these issues don’t have tangible material consequences. Ask the bi academic, shuttling between assignments to several different classes at several different colleges trying to scrape together a living wage and still maintain her/his connection to grace as a part of the large pool of contingent faculty in higher education, if these issues are too academic. We live in a time when we are being pressured to contract inward upon ourselves and see queerness—sexual, spiritual, political, or social—as too radically inconvenient for the moment.
Even movements that intend to exact more freedoms have contributed to the denial of same. The way in which the gay liberation movement has engaged heterosexism has contributed to popular culture narratives of categorical sexualities with straight and gay as fixed, infallible, and totalizing forms of sexual identity. Same-sex marriage advocacy has been practiced in ways that are antagonistic to marriage equality. Authentic marriage equality would have to include polyamorous relationships between more than two partners and genderqueer relationships that embrace gender expressions beyond the binary of male and female.
We, therefore, have to take care to be critically self-reflective as we move in the world, particularly if we intend our actions to have socially just and ecologically sound consequences. How we frame our loves, sexual and sacred, can play an important part in critical self-reflexivity. We see this special issue of the Journal of Bisexuality on bisexualities and spiritualities as a contribution to that framing. In this introduction, we offer you our summary of what’s inside, the highlights and gaps, what we found interesting and what we still long to read about, areas where we feel the intersecting fields of bisexualities and spiritualities still have glaring present absences and absent presences. We chose to look at spirituality in the context of bisexuality or through a bi/pan/polysexual framework because of the opportunity the framework offers to disrupt the dichotomous and offer the liminal and diunital in considering spirituality. We also wanted to see if there were spaces within theology and spirituality that had not been excavated, or could not be excavated, by a heterosexist or homosexual-centric framework.
This special issue began as the spiritchild of Loraine Hutchins. Loraine, one of the founders of the modern bisexual movement in the U.S., is known for instigating conversations about how bisexual-, pansexual-, and polysexual-identified persons experience, conceptualize, and practice spirituality and religiosity from the uniqueness of their lived erotic experiences. This interest stems from her previous work on the sacred and the sexual (Hutchins, 2007, 2002, 2001). In seeking a collection of work that was inclusive of various traditions and cultural contexts, she sought out writers who could contribute to the desired diversity of voices. H. Sharif Williams (Herukhuti), a sex radical shaman of the Hip Hop generation, saw the original call for papers for the special issue and sought out Loraine. Through conversation, we discovered our common threads. Ibrahim Abdurrahman Farajajé served on both of our doctoral dissertation committees. We were colleagues of M. Paz Galupo—for Loraine as coworkers at Towson University and for Herukhuti as a contributor to a special issue of the journal guest edited by Paz (Williams, 2007). We also discovered how much we were each called to explore the sacred and the sexual.
We decided to partner on the special issue as guest co-editors. Our collaboration demonstrated a bridging across cities, generations, genders, ethnicities, and spiritual traditions. We hoped to be the nuance, complexity, ambiguity, and diunital that we want to see in the world. As we performed the editorial tasks associated with a journal issue such as drafting and distributing the call for papers, soliciting manuscript submissions, identifying peer reviewers, etc., we shared our work and her/histories with each other. We chose to make the relationship nuanced, complex, and deep. We learned about each other’s loves, sexual and sacred. We rejected the option to have a disembodied and desacralized academic process. The space we created allowed us to engage in critical self-reflection and critical feedback with each other.
We share these various aspects of our process with you to provide context for this special spirit issue, and to contribute to the project of dismantling the depersonalized, disembodied academic. To open the discussion of where we have come from and where we are going in these pages, we offer this prayer/invocation to our readers:
May you find joy
May you create love
May you experience grace
May you know peace
May you give birth
May you inspire lust
May you apply wisdom
May you offer honor
May you share ecstasy.
Excerpted from Our Hearts Still Hold These Intimate Connections:
An Introduction to the Spiritualities Special Issue of the Journal of Bisexuality, which later became Sexuality, Religion and the Sacred: Bisexual, Pansexual and Polysexual Perspective, Routledge, 2012, co-editors, Loraine Hutchins & H. Sharif Williams, Goddard College