Q-City Mission Statement
Q-City Wellness Project’s mission is to facilitate the health and wellbeing of gay, bisexual, and queer identified men. We define health broadly as a multifaceted, ongoing, transformative, process, one of expanding and evolving consciousness. Our approach to health is an integral one: comprehensive, inclusive, non-marginalizing and embracing.
The following is a vision of Q-City and its efforts by one of its founding members, Pat Gourley, and does not necessarily reflect the vision or belief systems of any of the other members.
One vision of what Q-City might hope to accomplish is a facilitation of an integral approach to gay male health and wellbeing. Exactly what I mean by this is not totally clear in my own mind at this point but an evolving approach to addressing the seemingly overwhelming and daunting issues facing gay men and doing this from a much broader perspective than one that has been historically genitally focused. I do believe “who we are” involves much more than who we choose to fuck and how we fuck them. My views and perceptions on all of this have been greatly informed by many people over the past thirty years and I would like to acknowledge several of them before I launch into this.
I would first like to acknowledge the influence of the work of Eric Rofes and in particular his book Dry Bones Breath. It was this book and a couple of Gay Men’s Health conferences in Boulder that got me to thinking outside the AIDS Box when it came to gay men’s health. Just what is a healthy gay man? ……………..
The first person to get me to re-examine how I viewed health and wellness was Larry Dossey, M.D. in his 1984 book, Beyond Illness. AIDS was upon us but still getting sorted out, the causative virus only isolated in 1983. It was a time when I desperately needed an analysis of illness not based on divine retribution. Through the Gay and Lesbian Community Center I had been involved with early AIDS education since 1981, even before the first Colorado “case”. I would devour every word from The New York Native and then run to The Center with the latest information. As I struggled with the evolving reality that HIV was apparently sexually transmitted and that anal sex was a very efficient means of transmission I had to re-examine the entire basis for my identity which had been shaped and molded by the sexual liberation politics of the 1970’s.
I don’t remember how I stumbled on Dossey’s book, probably just prowling around Tattered Cover, but it was a godsend and I read and re-read certain parts many times. Let me quote a few one-liners from that seminal book and hopefully these will convey not only Dossey’s vision, at least in 1984, but that of Q-City as I see it.
- Health is a realization, not an acquisition.
- There is nothing absolute about the goodness or badness of health and illness.
- There is only one health event, and that is life itself. All the dissecting we engage in, all the carving of life into bit-pieces of health and illness creates an illusion that destroys the seamless existence of life.
- At some fundamental level health is. It is not a state to be attained through immunizations, exercise, blood pressure control, or diet. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the patency of one’s coronary arteries. Health exists as a state which cannot be sundered by the appearance of cancer nor the eruption of a heart attack. It is a ground state, a state of wholeness which excludes nothing. It is lodged in spirit; it is subsumed by spirit. And the knowledge of health is made possible by spiritual awareness.
Larry Dossey, 1984.
The next person whose thinking I would like to acknowledge is Margaret Neuman. In the early 1990’s I decided I needed an advanced degree in nursing, hindsight renders that choice today to be totally inexplicable! One good thing to come out of that effort though was my introduction to the thinking of several different nursing theorists and Margaret Neuman was one of them. In a nut shell she defined health as expanding consciousness….
“As you approach adulthood, uncertainty about your sexuality followed by the realization that you are “different” from others may force you to disidentify from socially conditioned patterns of thought and behavior. This will automatically raise your level of consciousness above that of the unconscious majority, whose members unquestionably take on broad inherited patterns. In that respect, being gay can be a help. Being an outsider to some extent, someone who does not “fit in” with others or is rejected by them for whatever reason, makes life difficult, but it also places you at an advantage as far as enlightenment is concerned. It takes you out of unconsciousness almost by force.
On the other hand, if you then develop a sense of identity based on your gayness, you have escaped one trap only to fall into another. You will play roles and games dictated by a mental image you have of yourself as gay. You will become unconscious. You will become unreal. Underneath your ego mask, you will become very unhappy. If this happens to you, being gay will have become a hindrance. But you always get another chance, of course. Acute unhappiness can be a great awakener.”
Eckhart Tolle (The Power of Now. pg 144)
As we dance into the new millennium we are emerging from a period where much of “gay health” has been subsumed, defined and deconstructed into what is happening between “men who have sex with men” and the fate of lesbian health has not faired much better with an odd over the top focus on breast cancer. How the fuck did that happen? I would say it happened pretty much because we let it happen. AIDS was such an unbelievably devastating thing that it was an easy cop out to just hand all of our health issues and identity over to Public Health Departments and the “AIDS Industry” and call it a day. We have, especially gay men, allowed our bodies, minds and souls to be deconstructed only to our genitals and what we do with them.
This is not to discount the phenomenal and historically unprecedented response of the gay and lesbian communities in the early 1980’s to the AIDS epidemic. Our commitment, mobilization and organization to face a difficult issue, that was threatening our very identity particularly as defined by much of gay liberation in the preceding decades, was truly phenomenal. In this effort we provided great evidence for the fact that we are a complex and caring people with much more to our identity than who we go to bed with.
The “gay liberation movement”, though pretty good it seems at crisis management has, historically, only half heartedly addressed many other internal issues such as sexism, race, and that big elephant in the room, class realities. The one issue though that I feel we have neglected no matter our gender, race or class is the development of a sound, healthy and evolving queer human identity. Though arguments can be made that queers grapple with these issues, in large part thanks to lesbian guidance, better than the dominant hetero society, we still have much work to do.
Rather than focus on these difficult internal community and personal issues we have directed much of our non-AIDS energies into the struggle for “equal rights”. It’s not that this issue lacks importance. The focus on it is a bit narrow though and of course the right to marry, the repealing of sodomy laws and being able to serve in the military as an openly queer person fighting for the “liberation” of Iraq really does little to help the average queer in his or her own personal evolution. In a repeated survey over the years of teenagers regarding what is the worst possible fate to befall one the top listed choice has not changed: FAGGOT. This is as true in 2003 as it apparently was 20 years ago, despite Will and Grace, Queer as Folk and the Bravo channels gay and lesbian marriage soap operas. I actually hold out some hope for “Queer Eye…” but that is another article!
So what the hell is it that we should be about here if its not butthole liberation, the right to marry and bear arms, gender choice, job security ……..
Q-City would like to help this along by helping queer people develop not only a self affirming integral transformative practice but become leaders and valued examples in the whole evolutionary trip that is life on planet earth. My thinking along these lines is totally informed by a man named Ken Wilber, one of the greatest minds of our time.
Integral transformative practice = “‘All levels’ refers to the waves of existence, from matter to body to mind to spirit; ‘all quadrants’ refers to the I, we and it dimensions (or self, culture and nature; art, morals and science; first person, second person, and third person). Thus an ‘all level, all quadrant’ practice means exercising physical, emotional mental and spiritual waves in self, culture and nature.
Start with self: the waves of existence (from physical to emotional to mental to spiritual) as they appear in oneself can be exercised by a spectrum of practices: physical exercise (weight lifting, diet, jogging, yoga), emotional exercises (qi gong, counseling, psychotherapy), mental exercises (affirmation, visualization), and spiritual exercises (meditation, contemplative prayer).
But these waves of existence need to be exercised not just in self (boomeritis!) – but in culture and nature as well. Exercising the waves in culture might mean getting involved in community service, working with a hospice movement, participating in local government, working with inner city rehabilitation, providing services for homeless people. It can also mean using relationships in general (marriage, friendship, parenting)
to further your own growth and the growth of others. Mutually respectful dialogue is indeed the time-honored method of linking self and other in the dance of understanding, a dance which is deeply conducive to integral embrace.
Exercising the waves of existence in nature means that nature is viewed, not as an inert and instrumental backdrop to our actions, but as participating in our own evolution. Getting actively involved in respect for nature, in any number of ways (recycling, environmental protection, nature celebration) not only honors nature, it promotes our own capacity to care.”
Ken Wilber. (A Theory of Everything. 2000. Shambala Press.)
Please excuse the very long quote but there is no way I can communicate this vision for Q-City in any more succinct a fashion that copping to Ken Wilber! I sometimes worry that I have never had an original thought in my life and that is probably true but what the hell there are people doing the hard work for me, so I salute the Ken Wilber’s and Eckhart Tolle’s and say simply say, Thanks!
What we queers need to do is put our own “integral capacity into practice” (KW). This does not mean that AIDS, queer marriage, transgender realities, youth issues, gender parity etc, etc are not important but we have a lot more on our plate and much more to offer once we have a firmer grasp of who we are.
So what Q-City hopes to offer the queer communities locally are maps and some road side service, for how to develop and foster a queer integral transformative practice that will not only benefit ourselves but all sentient beings on planet earth. We offer only pointers in a particular direction and of course some of them may be dead ends. You need to decide what works for you as long as you buy into the fundamental proposition that we are an evolving life form and that as queers we may have a bit of a leg up on our hetero brothers and sisters but only if we accept the responsibility inherent in working for the salvation of not just ourselves but all sentient beings.
It is time for us to jump out of the sandbox of “identity politics” and assume the leadership role that is our birth right, and facilitate the positive evolution and ultimate enlightment of all. We hope to help point the way by helping in the development of a queer integral transformative way of living this life. It is this practice that will help us to actualize our true potential realizing who we really are beyond limited GLBTIQ identities.
This of course will go way beyond “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”. Trust me this is not all quadrant all level! The basic premise for the show though is valid I think and that is we can make the world a better place by sharing our gifts. We have more than just fashion, interior decorating and food, but it is OK to start there! I suppose an argument can be made that this show is just vapid consumerist crap, but you know I think they show a genuine concern and actually love for the straight guys and it all comes across to me at least as not mean and boy the world could use a lot more of this type of male interaction! STAT!
So what might an integral practice look like for a Queer on the street ?