A few weeks back I had the opportunity to host film director and producer Del Shores to Atlanta for a screening of the film “Southern Baptist Sissies” as a benefit for AID Atlanta. The night was a huge success. I had the honor to hang out and have a moment with Del and I was extremely proud to have helped raise money for an AIDS service organization.
However, I left the film heavy hearted, because the subject matter of young boys growing up in the South dealing with the self-hate teachings of the church about their sexuality struck a chord. At the end of the day the film was the story of my childhood—only the title of my movie would have been “Midwestern Catholic Marys.”
Self-hate was ingrained into my psyche at a very young age. When “praying the gay away” as prescribed by our local priest wasn’t working, I would grovel and make deals with God on a nightly basis not to send me to Hell.
The years of fear and self-hate really did a number on me until instead of finding God I finally found a really good therapist. I am now a proud “recovered Catholic,” but I still have moments of horrible anger fueled by the ignorant hate spewed by so many religious leaders. Being compared to pedophiles and drug addicts by old, cranky, scary popes and crazy conservative politicians could actually make me go out of my mind if I let it.
I ultimately had to create my own church as a result of “going it alone” for so many years with no support from religious communities in the ’70s and ’80s. There have been moments in my life when my inner peace has truly come from lots of cardio instead of lots of Christ or the strict practice of meditation rather than maniacally praying to Mary.
One of my favorite places locally that has helped me develop my personal spiritual path is Exhale Spa in the Loews Hotel, where my practice of yoga has been taken to the next level. Yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual discipline, which aims at transforming your body, mind and spirit.
The Saturday 4 p.m. “Chill Class” is a great introduction to the fascia restorative practice called Yin Yoga. I believe fascia is the fabric of life; the body’s structural and energetic support system. Yin poses are still, deep and quiet. Practitioners focus on self-exploration, meditation and discovery. Exhale’s Zen atmosphere sets the tone for finding your inner peace—only in a 5-star setting instead of in uncomfortable pews.
Since God can be found virtually everywhere, our city is also the perfect place to step outside your door and find your freedom of religion for free in the nature that surrounds us. Whether it is Piedmont Park, the trails at Sweetwater Creek or a hike up to the top of Stone Mountain, nature has been one of the key elements of letting go for this nancy.
I have created my own belief system and a unique personal relationship of God, Goddess, Buddha, Mother Earth and even Jesus for that matter. Our community is a lot like Jesus. Jesus was a rebel and a radical. He hung out with the misunderstood, and if He were alive today He very well would have found his own salvation, like many gays do, on a good old-fashioned dance floor.
I have a feeling He would be easily found drinking his own juice every second Sunday of the month with DJ Vicki Powell at my favorite Church: Sister Louisa’s in the Old Fourth Ward. I can just see His hands up in the air like he just doesn’t care because truly, as long as love is in the picture, He really wouldn’t care. Once this Midwestern Catholic Mary finally realized this truth, I finally found my religious freedom. Can I get an amen?