Mar ’02

Inside Outside

This month has been truly revolutionary. Last month I was dredging the depths of my mind and spirit to find why I felt the need to act in manners which were similar to when I was an adolescent. It was fairly simple to come to the conclusion and it is here in this web page that I am articulating it for the first time.

My adolescence was primarily colored with three things: discomfort, unhappiness and anger. I was uncomfortable because of the awkward nature of my body. I was shaving in sixth grade, I had a full hairy chest by age 15 and I was completely ridiculed for it by my peers, not to mention that they were busy insulting and persecuting me because I am gay. I was unhappy because I was in a household where my parents were not in harmony, in fact they were very sick of each other and nobody wanted them to split up more so than I. Add on to this the fact that I felt alone in the world because back then there were no gay role models. And I was angry for life having handed me what seemed to be a fucked up hand of cards and then insisted that I keep playing poker! My mechanisms of survival were quick wit, a fast shooting tongue, and a DRY sense of humor. I never felt like I fit in with my peers because I was thinking the thoughts of an adult. I had aspirations and goals, the greatest of them to graduate the hell out of school and not have to look at any of those people again. But all of this was for a reason.

After I graduated I realized that through all of this strife, I came to learn a few things: that I am a divine child of God, that what other people think about me doesn’t matter and that nothing matters more in the world that my own happiness. I also learned that I was a rather talented and wonderful person and that once I was in a group of people that shared the same goals and perspectives as I, that I was perfect and beautiful as God made me. In other words, once I found my people, I was indeed happy. It was not that I needed outside influences to be happy, it was that my surroundings reflected the FACT that I was happy.

Well, once I became involved with my godfamily, and made ocha, that began to change. What I came to realize was that my outside surroundings had changed. I was now plunged into the Lukumí community which is riddled with many traits that I personally cannot tolerate. (This does not mean that everyone in the Lukumí community is like this, there is just an undeniable presence of these traits in general.) Suddenly, I was surrounded with people who fed off of drama. There was a hunger, a need for it in their lives. They crafted elaborate stories about who did what negative thing to another, and what their consequences were. They immediately sought external causes to their personal problems instead of looking within. No one could ever be good enough – criticism ran rampant. There was talk of this person over here doing something wrong and that they messed up ceremonies for this other person, etc. So my surroundings changed to warn me that the road ahead was not a happy one, but I did not perceive this until now.

Once I made ocha, and received my itá, the other shoe dropped. I received SO MANY restrictions in my itá that there was no aspect or portion of my life that was untouched. I could not eat any of the things I enjoyed eating. I could not go to the few places that brought me joy. I could no longer wear the very clothes that I had hanging in my closet which were an outward expression of the person I was. I could not date the kinds of men that I liked. I could not even have sex in certain positions (forgive the graphic nature of that statement but it is true.) NONE of my life was untouched by this reading. And then the iyaworaje began and suddenly I was prisoner in my own home. There was no beauty in my life, no joy, no consolation could improve my outlook.

I realize now that the reason that I was behaving in a toxic manner and the reason I was snapping and people and stepping out of line was because of the fact that I was once again surrounded with discomfort, unhappiness and anger. I was uncomfortable with the clothes I had to wear and the fact that once again I was a social outcast. I was unhappy because all of the things which brought me happiness in my life were gone forever, including the prospective of a normal functioning relationship. And I was angry about the way I was being treated by my godfamily, by society and because I was once again alone. When the conditions of my adolescence were reconstructed, I naturally regressed to those conditions. My surroundings were reflecting my inner emotional tension.

I have to admit, that in some respects, I regret being initiated. I regret having stepped away from a happy, rather normal life (and even my version of normalcy was eclectic!) I regret becoming involved in a religious community riddled with ugliness, greed, gossip and manipulation. There are many things going through my mind and my heart at this time, including the feeling of just saying “Fuck it!” and walking away from all of it, and part of me thinks that this is where I will end up.

Do I love Shangó? Absolutely! I love the orishas, I love their presence in my life and I love the beauty of their religion. What I have a total and complete distaste for are the people in the religion. The manner in which many of the eldest members of the priesthood feel that their status grants them the right to treat others in a totally unloving and unkind manner. There is a lot of conceit and lack of simple courtesy in the religion. When I was a priest I NEVER THOUGHT OF OR DEMANDED another to serve me! God gave me legs so that I could get up and get myself a glass of something to drink, and he gave me two hands with which to cook my own meals. Now, I have no problem doing these for another if the impulse to do so genuinely comes from within, but no one should EVER expect to be served. Many people in the world died to end slavery, including ancestors in the religion, so why must we perpetuate slavery within?

Additionally, corruption and capitalism have tainted this religion in America such that priests are asking for exorbitant amounts of money for ceremonies. This is totally unnecessary. In many ways, I feel that Shangó is just shrugging his shoulders when he is asked if he wants some luxurious ceremony. I feel in my heart that he is totally satisfied with the notion that we care enough to make any gesture that nothing extravagant is needed, almost the ritual itself is unnecessary because you desire to honor him and that is enough. Does this make sense? Well, I guess it doesn’t need to because it is what I feel in my heart and that is really the truth in my existence.

Next Chapter >>> Conversations with Grandma



  1. Completely and wholeheartedly agree with you. Truth be told, it is the main reason why I haven’t crowned my Orisha yet.

  2. I agree with you!

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