Spiritual Affirmation

When Our Sanctuaries Are Desecrated

by Rev . J. Manny Santiago

Lee en español ~ Read In Spanish

A few years ago I found myself in Seattle, serving a congregation that very much reflected the reality of the city: white, middle-class, extremely progressive in their thinking, but with a lack of actual real life understanding of the realities of people of color.

While there, it became evident that this congregation was not going to become my sanctuary.

Every Sunday I would get comments on my accent, my choice of clothing, my hand gestures, my concept of time… Every Sunday, the place that was supposed to be my sanctuary became a place of judgement and oppression. This is the reality of intersectionality: while some aspects of our identities would be accepted, others are ignored or judged.

It was in this context when I reached out to a friend on the other side of the country and asked if he knew of any Latinx organization in my new town. As luck would have it, he did know about one: Entre Hermanos (Among Brethren). This organization hosts a weekly Latinx Night at Neighbors Club.

This gay club became my sanctuary. Neighbors would become a place to connect with other LGBTQI Latinx people, to listen to music in Spanish, to hear conversations in Spanish or Spanglish, to see the beautiful faces of my communities coming together. It was at this sacred place where one day, I saw the most gorgeous man on Earth; the man that became my love, my companion and my husband.

A gay club can be and it is a sanctuary for many of us. 

A gay club is a sanctuary for those of us who have grown tired of churches, synagogues, temples, ashrams and mosques telling us that we are not worthy. A gay club is a sanctuary for those of us who have been rejected by family and friends because we have chosen to live our true selves.

A gay club is a sanctuary for those of us who know that the sacred is in the dancing and the sharing and the laughter and the camaraderie…

In the very specific case of gay clubs that offer Latinx nights, the place becomes a sanctuary for people who have been rejected in many other forms; people who have to work twice as hard to be accepted, welcomed, celebrated, even recognized as human beings. A gay club is a sanctuary for those who have crossed borders in order to feel safe, because they—WE—could not live our true selves back in our places of origin.

It is a sanctuary where we finally realize that we are not alone in this world.

A gay club is a sanctuary where we create our own familias and where our selves are nurtured in the loving and compassionate love of a queer God who has looked after us and has welcomed us as Her/His own children.

As I read many of the names of the siblings that have been massacred on Sunday because of the hatred spewed by religious fundamentalism, by the inaction of so-called “Christian” right wing activists that have prevented gun control legislation from advancing, as I read those names, I can’t help but think: it could have been me.

They are God’s queer children. They are God’s Latinx children. They are God’s Puerto Rican children. I embody all these identities as well. Therefore, it hurts as if it had been me, because in these sanctuaries that we—our familia—have created, we have become all one.

On Sunday, that sacred place was desecrated.

Still, we rise again and tell people that this is not the end of us. It is not the end of queerness; it is not the end of Latinxness; it is not the end of crossing borders – geographical, ethnic or of any kind; it is not the end of creating familias of our own.

Today we honor our hermanas y hermanos by committing ourselves to continue creating sacred spaces to dance, to play, to kiss and caress, to embrace and laugh… In the midst of all the mourning and pain, we rise up and say: enough!

Photo via flickr user Fibonacci Blue

Comments (4)

Jamie E Roberson

Thank you so much for your
Thank you so much for your email. I too feel the pain of this horrific act of violence against my Pride Children. To know the true I Am That , I Am is to know we are all Gods Children and only God can judge us, Not us. My prayers and my candel will be lite for all the family and friends of our children. In my Pride communities here in Columbus Ohio I am everyone’s Auntie Jamie. And love each of you.

Jessica Lex

Manny, thank you for your
Manny, thank you for your words. Heartbreaking. But you are right…enough!

Rev C Holmes, MCC

Dear Manny – thank you for
Dear Manny – thank you for sharing what’s real about why and how our gay bars are also our sanctuaries. I’m glad for our bars, our churches, and our centers. LGBTQI need our gathering places in this hostile world. We will not give up the fight, we have only started.

Alex O'Neil

Thanks for your beautiful
Thanks for your beautiful words amigo. I agree 100%. Here in Vancouver I go to a VERY affirming church but am still thankful for gay bars, though there are few dance ones. But when I go to Puerto Vallarta México, for the winter, even though though my church is not quite as affirming as here I feel a warm spirituality in the gay bars I go to where I am at home with my Latino brothers and sisters who are far more Christian than my experiences in some churches I used to go to…

Comments are closed.