Queering the Sacred: Reimagining Spirituality on Your Own Terms

Queering the Sacred: Reimagining Spirituality on Your Own Terms

What do movies such as But I’m A Cheerleader, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, and Boy Erased have in common? 

First, the characters are gay. Second, they have the protagonist being condemned for their sexuality. And lastly, there is an intervention by others to “convert” them. 

Most Western reiterations of queerness and spirituality detach from the belief in a higher being and sometimes denounce God exactly. Embracing your sexuality seems to be a dichotomy to accepting and living by spiritual guidance. However, taking away the religious aspect of queer experience among Filipinos is difficult, especially if religion is considered to be a ‘spawn point’ for many of us. Not all queer people rebuke their spirituality because they have come out of the closet; many still choose to embrace both of these two facets, not just because it is customary– but rather because it is the person’s faith. Raymond Alikpala’s book titled God Loves Bakla explores just that. 

In the context of the Philippines, one that is so deeply rooted in our colonial past, being bakla entails such a negative connotation. Many religious institutions, not just what the author practiced growing up, have historically condemned homosexuality and transgender identities, creating conflict and alienation for queer individuals seeking spiritual connection. Heteronormativity was forced into us, then. We start to exclude queer identities and alienate them. 

The exclusion of LGBTQ+ identities in churches has created a gap, so painfully massive and systemic, that queer individuals seeking spiritual belonging and acceptance turn away from it. These people, even those as young as Alikpala when he realized his gayness, have been ostracized enough that finding support on the same arms that hurt you can be a very arduous task. 

For many queer individuals, reconciling their sexual orientation or gender identity with the teachings of their chosen faith can be a source of immense internal conflict. Like Alikpala’s retelling of his experiences as a student in a known high school and university, the Catholic values upheld in said institution have caused him to feel ashamed of who he was. The religious texts and traditions may be interpreted in ways that contradict many people’s lived experiences, leading to feelings of shame, and guilt, which question their own worthiness within the faith. This internal struggle can be emotionally draining and create a sense of dissonance between their spiritual beliefs and their authentic selves.

“When I was growing up in the Philippines, the word bakla was universally understood to be very bad… I would spend the next thirty years running as far away as possible from the word.” Alikpala recounted. 

Now how does coming out fix it? 

It doesn’t fix anything right away, as a matter of fact. 

However, coming out is a way of protest; of standing your ground and being brave against the heteronormative and homophobic system that continues to oppress us. It’s giving yourself freedom. 

God Loves Bakla’s author described it as a liberating process. Because he was so used to having his homosexuality treated as a secret, he felt that coming out publicly had started to usher him into a whole new world. Coming out was Alikpala’s, and many others, way of independence. Next to this reclamation of the self is the control to reimagine spirituality one may have. 

While many may not reconnect with God in the same manner as Alikpala, individuals from a younger generation often facing similar struggles may turn to agnosticism, atheism, or mysticism. Some may navigate this complex terrain, offering challenges and opportunities for deep connection, whether within oneself or within diverse communities that celebrate various expressions of the sacred.

Either way, the self seeks solace in the form of a community–seeking out queer-affirming faith communities or re-interpreting religious texts through a queer lens. It was the case for the writer, he has managed to bridge the gap between these two conflicting concepts. God Loves Bakla is Alikpala’s journey of self-acceptance, which just so happens to be connected to facing head-on his spiritual conflicts. 

Raymond Alikpala’s book God Loves Bakla is a heartfelt and excellent read for anyone who wants to understand the struggles of balancing self-identity and its relationship with faith. 

Through Alikpala's journey, readers are invited to consider how spirituality can be a source of empowerment, rather than exclusion, for the LGBTQ+ community. These works challenge traditional confines and advocate for a spirituality that celebrates diversity, fosters acceptance and promotes a deeper understanding of the divine in all its forms. The message is clear: love and spirituality are boundless, transcending beyond conventional norms to include every individual, and not disregarding their identity.


Written by Leila Andrea P. Anchovas

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