Celebrate a Gay New Year's Eve on December 31 with the Worldwide LGBT Community

RainbowZine, a service of Rainbow Law: news for the LGBT community. www.rainbowlaw.com, www.rainbowzine.comA review of the major winter holidays celebrated in the United States reveals that only one is focused specifically on the growth and development of LGBT people. While Gay Pride celebrates the anniversary of Stonewall in June, the Bridge of Light on December 31 reveals the more reflective and spiritual side of the greater gay and lesbian community.

Many gay and queer people are noted for our love of merrymaking. We are celebrated entertainers, gracious party hosts, and unsurpassed in the art of throwing a fabulous splash with style. However, many of us are disconnected from the winter holiday season because of strained relationships with our families or a feeling of disconnection from the season's religious symbolism. Therefore the holidays can be a source of pain and loneliness.

Dr. Maulana Ron Karenga first celebrated Kwanzaa, the African-American cultural holiday, in 1966, and today it's celebrated by millions throughout the world African community. However, until Bridge of Light was founded in 2004, nobody ever celebrated a distinctively queer winter holiday.

Bridge of Light is an interfaith and omni-denominational cultural and spiritual tradition originating in 2004 and connected in its inspiration and organization to the Gay Spirit Culture Summit held that year, a gathering of 100+ spiritual leaders and change agents in the gay community.

Since then, the annual winter ritual (now in its fifth year) has helped to draw attention to the positive contributions made by members of the LGBT community in the areas of spiritual growth, inner transformation, and religious leadership.

The core of the tradition is a simple ritual of lighting six candles, one for each color of the rainbow flag, on New Year's Eve, plus a seventh candle on New Year's Day. Each color corresponds to a universal spiritual principle as well as the specific ways that this principle has found expression in the course of LGBT history and in our contemporary world.

On December 24, 2009, a major change in the descriptions of the principles underlying each of the colors of the rainbow was announced. Joe Perez, founder of the Bridge of Light tradition and author of the books "Soulfully Gay" and "Rising Up", credits meditations by Rev. Kittredge Cherry for more fully developing the insight that the colors of the rainbow flag are aligned to six of the seven colors of the chakras, the spiritual energy centers of the human body. Rev. Cherry is a lesbian Christian author, minister and art historian who offers gay-friendly spiritual resources at "JesusInLove.org".

According to Perez, the revised principles are intended to provide a starting point for individual and group meditations on the meaning of spirituality in the lives of members of the LGBT community. A red candle honors Community, an orange candle honors Eros, a yellow candle honors Self-Esteem, a green candle honors Self-Expression and Justice, a blue candle honors Wisdom, and a purple candle honors Spirit (Universal Consciousness).

These are the Seven Principles of the Bridge of Light, and complete instructions for celebrating the tradition:

Step 1. On New Year's Eve, light a red candle, the first of seven, and let it burn through New Year's Day. The candle honors the Root of Spirit, the first chakra. Celebrate the evolution of Spirit in love and eroticism defined as it first arose in ancient spiritualities, including Wicca, paganism, and Goddess/pre-patriarchal religions (approximately 10,000 BCE and continuing to the present day).

Step 2. On New Year's Eve, light an orange candle as the second of seven, and let it burn through New Year's Day. The candle honors the Fire of Spirit, the second chakra, the principle of Eros. Celebrate the evolution of Spirit in love and eroticism that first appeared in the era defined by the rise of the great divine and mortal heroes of the ancient world, celebrated in song and myths: Gilgamesh and Enkidu, Horus and Seth, Jonathan and David, Naomi and Ruth, and many more, beginning about 5,000 BCE.

Step 3. On New Year's Eve, light a yellow candle, the third of seven, and let it burn through New Year's Day. The candle honors the Core of Spirit, the third chakra. Celebrate the evolution of Spirit in love and eroticism that first appeared in the era defined by the rise of the major world religious traditions (Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Confucianism), beginning about 500 BCE and continuing to the present day.

Step 4. On New Year's Eve, light a green candle, the fourth of seven, and let it burn through New Year's Day. The candle honors the Heart of Spirit, the fourth chakra, and the principle of Love. The candle celebrates the evolution of Spirit in same-sex love, eroticism, and traditional gender role defiance in the era defined by the rise of the modernity in the industrial age and the beginning of modern democratic states (approximately 1,500 CE and continuing to the present day).

Step 5. On New Year's Eve, light a blue candle, the fifth of seven, and let it burn through New Year's Day. The candle honors the Voice of Spirit, the fifth chakra, and the principles of Self-Expression and Justice. The candle celebrates the evolution of Spirit in same-sex love and gender role evolution in the era defined by the rise of Romanticism, Transcendentalism, late modernism, and early postmodern artists and pioneers (approximately 1,800 CE to the present day).

Step 6. On New Year's Eve, light a purple candle, the sixth of seven, and let it burn through New Year's Day. The candle honors the Eye of Spirit, the sixth chakra, and the principle of Wisdom. The candle honors the evolution of Spirit in pluralistic expressions of sexuality and gender in the era defined by the rise of the feminist, homophile movement, gay liberation movement, queer movement, and LGBTQ community in the past 50 to 100 years.

Step 7. On New Year's Day, light a white or pink candle, the seventh of seven. The candle honors the Crown of Spirit, the seventh chakra, and the principle of Spirit (Universal Consciousness). The candle honors the evolution of Spirit in the contemporary period and future generations to come, and the emerging integral connections between the struggle for gay liberation with the struggles for justice and dignity of all peoples throughout the world, the healing of the natural world, and the amelioration of suffering of all sentient beings.

The 2009/2010 Bridge of Light tradition is part of the 7th annual World Spirituality Day, an event sponsored by an unaffiliated group: Integrative Spirituality, a not-for-profit omni-denominational spiritual organization based in San Francisco, California. World Spirituality Day is regarded by some as "The Earth Day for the Spirit."

Joe Perez, founder of the Bridge of Light holiday, said: "Today, New Year's Eve is a mostly secular experience, yet for centuries the world's wisdom traditions have recognized this one day as a special gateway between the old and the new, the sacred and the profane. Bridge of Light honors the unique way that Homophiles throughout the centuries have lived with spiritual dignity and beauty."

Perez added, "The Bridge of Light is a symbol recognizing the hidden unity veiled by the many colors of the rainbow, the symbol most closely associated with the gay rights movement worldwide. As important as it is to appreciate the diversity of unique colors, it is also important to recognize our commonalities and dignity as human beings."

The first Bridge of Light events were celebrated by small clusters of people on at least two continents in 2004. Today, nobody knows how many people celebrate the tradition. A Facebook group "Bridge of Light" was launched in December 2009 that anyone can join and upload ideas for celebrating the tradition. The group is at http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/group.php?gid=188851789242.

Endorsements of Bridge of Light (Partial List)

Greg DiStefano, a spiritual explorer and national book award-winning author of the gay spiritual memoir "Breakdown, Diamonds, Death, and Second Chances," said: "Bridge of Light is a wonderful way to add a greater depth of spiritual meaning to the New Years occasion. For GLBT people, their supporters, and the wider global culture, the Bridge of Light celebration will help keep focus on universal spiritual values while honoring diversity, unity and equality."

Toby Johnson, the author, gay spirituality activist, and former editor/publisher and current contributing editor of White Crane Journal, said: "Throughout the past people we'd now understand to be gay/queer were the creators and stylers of religion and culture. As we continue in that sacred role in the evolution of consciousness, it is only consistent that gay culture would offer a gay -- and modern, secular, liberationist way of understanding the winter solstice celebration of rebirth of the year and the archetypal myth of the Eternal Return."

David Rappaport of Bowdoinham, Maine has joined the roster of endorsers for Bridge of Light. David is the Senior Program Officer of a healthcare foundation and a mystical seeker. He said, "In these post-postmodern if not exactly post-Biblical times in which Christian and other fundamentalists seem to seek to create separation -- spirituality from religion, reason from belief, individual from community -- I believe it is important to counterbalance by working towards integration. Bridge of Light is a welcome step towards wholeness."

Jacob Staub, a Reconstructionist rabbi, a member of the faculty of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, and the co-author of "Exploring Judaism: A Reconstructionist Approach," has endorsed Bridge of Light. He said, "I endorse the new Bridge of Light celebration as an opportunity for queer people and their allies to focus on their values and their spiritual lives."

Jari Dvorak, a seeker and spiritual organizer living in Toronto, is one of the founders of Dharma Friends. He endorsed Bridge of Light by saying, "I say yes to a holiday that celebrates our spiritual diversity while affirming our fundamental unity! In keeping with integral values, GLBT people need to be embraced as spiritual equals. It's not only because of our rights, but because it is important for the whole of humanity. Everyone is invited to travel on the path of open ended spiritual development. I trust the Bridge of Light will become the seed for a wonderful worldwide holiday."

Scott Dillard, an Assistant Professor of Rhetoric at Georgia College and State University, said: "As an advisor to the Gay Straight Alliance at Georgia College and State University I am eager to help my students connect to their uniqueness as GLBT people and to their past and future. This sort of celebration is just the thing that young people need to help them feel a part of an emerging tradition."

Rev. Koshin Paley Ellison, a Zen Buddhist priest in New York City, a poet, a hospital chaplain, and a psychotherapist with the Psychotherapy & Spirituality Institute, said: "I think the Bridge of Light is a wonderful offering to these times."

Paul Browde, M.D., a psychiatrist in New York City and a participant in the Gay Spirit Culture Summit, said in his endorsement of Bridge of Light: "I think it is important that we are clearly not denominational in any way. We are everyone; we live in all communities, all spiritual and faith backgrounds, and all families. We are part of the greater humanity, yet we express a very particular, very unique spirit."

Cami Delgado, a psychotherapist in private practice in Miami and pioneer of AIDS care in Miami-Dade County, said: "I'm excited about the new holiday. It's a concept whose time has come. As a psychotherapist who works with gay men, I am well aware of how healing and powerful gay-affirming rituals and events can be. Bridge of Light brings new meaning and purpose to the holiday season."

Other endorsers of the Bridge of Light include: Carolyn Baker, Ph.D., an adjunct professor of history and author of "Coming Out from Christian Fundamentalism"; Andrew Ramer, author of "Two Flutes Playing" and other books; Jim Marion, author of "Putting On the Mind of Christ"; Fenton Johnson, author of several books including the Lambda Literary Award-winning memoir "Keeping Faith"; Daniel Helminiak, author of "What the Bible Really Said About Homosexuality" and many other books; Kip Dollar, partner of Toby Johnson, and half of one of the couples featured in Merle Yost's "When Love Lasts Forever: Male Couples Celebrate Commitment"; Ko Imani, author of "Shirt of Flame: The Secret Gay Art of War", founder of MyOutSpirit.com and and editor of the "MyOutSpirit.com Gay Spirituality Blog. A complete list of endorsers is available online. See http://www.integrallygay.com for more details.

http://www.joe-perez.com

A Seattle-based writer exploring integral approaches to values, politics, culture, religion, spirituality, and contemporary life. Rising Up (Lulu.com, 2006) looks at contemporary affairs (more...)

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