06/26/2015 03:12 pm ET Updated Jun 26, 2016

A Message Of Hope From A Gay Interspiritual Minister

Courtesy of Joyce Liechenstein

For all the precious lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, queer fluid and all who wish to have no labels at all, I wish you a genuine, very happy Pride week, filled with real joy and many blessings.

I am an interfaith/interspiritual minister and a companion on the journey of coming out as a gay person. I am Associate Director of One Spirit Learning Alliance in New York City, a warm and welcoming community of religious and spiritual seekers wishing to make a positive change in the world. I am also a spiritual counselor and psychotherapist with a practice in New York City. I share with many of you the pain and suffering of being labeled and judged "different, less than, sick."

In the 1960s, I experienced the guilt and shame of being gay. I endured years of anxiety brought on by the sense of not being good enough, not worthy, and thinking that something was radically wrong with me. Some members of my family were very upset and hurt; they did not understand me. At the time I came out, one could even be arrested for not wearing what was thought of as gender-appropriate clothing. But, with the help of wonderful therapists over the years, I became free of self-judgment and anxiety about being gay, and I found unconditional love and acceptance in a number of spiritual communities.

This is what I want to share: I want to tell you first that you are an absolute gift from God to this world. "You" includes lesbians, gay males, bisexuals, transgender, queer and gender fluid persons. (And a host of other labels as well.) You may find this surprising, since you may have been told otherwise by your churches, synagogues, mosques, temples and spiritual teachers, as well as parents and friends. Their communications to you may have caused you great shame and produced intractable guilt, maybe leading you to seriously consider taking your own life.

Jesus, a great rabbi and master teacher, never said a word about your orientation/identity other than, "You are the light of the world." It is clear to me that if you were going to fry sunny side in hell for eternity because of who you are, he would have at least mentioned it. Nowhere in the Gospels does he condemn us. In fact, his whole message is that God is love, God's love is unconditional and we are all of us loved by God beyond our wildest dreams. Additionally, we find in the First Letter of John, Chapter 4: 7 and 8:

Whoever loves is a child of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.

...No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in union with us, and his love is made perfect in us. ...

God is love, and whoever lives in love, lives in union with God, and God lives in union with him.

...If someone says he loves God, but hates his brother, he is a liar. For he cannot love God, whom he has not seen, if he does not love his brother, whom he has seen.

...Whoever loves God must love his brother also. (First John 4:12-21.)

In the Letter to the Ephesians 4:6: "There is one God and Father of all mankind, who is Lord of all, works through all, and Is In All." (Capitalization is my own.)

Our contemporary science says that being gay, bisexual, transgender or queer is not a choice, and that we come into the world exactly as we are. Many of us know from the time we are very young, even 3 or 4 years old, that we are "different." Girls loving girls, boys attracted to boys, some boys feeling like girls on the inside and some girls feeling like boys, somehow in body that doesn't feel like our own.

It is so very important to understand that as the Prophet Jeremiah says: "I chose you before I gave you life, and before you were born, I selected you to be a prophet." (Chapter 1:4-5) I think this message is meant for all of us. We are all chosen to be who were are meant to be. Many people do not know who God is; they have "gotten God all wrong," as Neale Donald Walsch writes in his book God's Message to the World.

You may not know this, but in some religious traditions, like those practiced by certain Native American groups, gay people are considered precious, "twin souls." Going back to Freud, in his "Letter to a Mother of a Homosexual," written in 1935, he writes that many great people have been homosexuals, among them, Plato, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. It is vitally important that you reject any idea or notion that you are not good enough, not OK, a sinner and are in violation of God's law. As mentioned, the only real law of God is that God is love, and we are all called to love all persons, no matter what their identity. God's unconditional love means just that -- it's UNCONDITIONAL. God's love and grace extends to all people. The message of spiritual teachers down through the ages is that we are light (Matthew 5, for example). Our true nature is light, and God lives within us and within all peoples; we are God's beloved sons and daughters. Again, God loves us beyond our wildest dreams.

So, it is really urgent that you come to know and accept this truth, right now, no matter what you have been taught by others. We are fortunate in our time that there are many wonderful services, communities that know this truth and are here to help us move to a deeper place in our understanding, so that we may love and accept ourselves totally, exactly as we are. (See resources at the end of this article.)

You came for a purpose. You are an incredible gift to the world. Please choose to stay on the planet and fulfill your destiny. Your life will get better, I promise. There is so much help available.

Finally, even Pope Francis said of gays, "Who am I to judge?" Joel Osteen, a Christian evangelical teacher, refuses to make a judgment about who will get into heaven. He once said in a sermon: "You may be surprised at who is in heaven when you get there, and some of the folks in heaven may wonder what you are doing there."

Please become an explorer. Be really open to knowing the truth about God and the wonderful truth about who you are. It has taken me many years to learn to love myself, and I am still learning to totally love and accept myself, exactly as I am. I am here to tell you, this can be done. You deserve your own love.

God bless you. All my love to you,

Joyce Liechenstein

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Information and Support Resource:

NYC Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual, Transgender Community Center: 212-620-7310
The Ali Forney Center: 212-206-0574
The Reciprocity Foundation: 646-692-4000
The Trevor Project: 866-488-7386
The Door: 212-941-9090

The above all have provide counseling, legal services, medical services, education services, career services, creative arts therapy and many other wonderful services.