December 2021 State of the Tribe Address
Another year has come and gone, and the Council of Trusted Elders of Gay Spirit Visions (the Council) would like to take this opportunity to reflect on some of the activities our organization has helped put together this year, as well as point to some of the things coming down the pike for next year. It has been another quite aberrant year and has served to highlight all the ways in which our resourcefulness and indomitable spirit outshine our obstacles.
Before I go any further, I want to say what an honor it has been to serve as your Council’s Presiding Elder in 2021. As some of you may know, this was my second year serving on the Council. I have learned so much about this wonderful community and about myself, and I will always remain grateful to have had this opportunity to serve the GSV Community and to collaborate with this talented Council. Thank you all.
I am excited to share with you that I will continue in the role of Presiding Elder in 2022. The last two years have been a real rollercoaster ride. I am planning to add a little more stability to GSV as I have learned the ropes with the help of the other members of the Council. As this year ends, Johnny Gray/Mothra, Mackie Mack (Obando/Luna Farfalla), and Randy Taylor will be rolling off the Council as planned and make room for other GSV siblings to accept the mantle of service and leadership in our community. Joining the Council this coming year will be John Schendel (Karma), Bill Harris, and Glynn Dilbeck. I feel that our new Council members and the continuing members of our Council will do a terrific job leading this community into the future. Thank you to all who helped produce the three annual gatherings, for taking care of yourselves and each other, and this special community which is Gay Spirit Visions.
Presiding Elder, 2021
Gay Spirit Visions
Why GSV went to virtual gatherings
The year 2021 was mostly a continuation of 2020, but fortunately GSV had been around that challenging block at least once. During the months of planning the events for 2021 there was considerable need to be cautious, as healthcare guidelines seemed to change on a weekly basis. The country implemented gathering restrictions and anyone who could was urged to telework. At that point, the Council was faced with an exceedingly difficult decision: do we go on with the gatherings in person, or do we cancel? In between a rock and a hard place, the Council decided to go with a third option: a virtual gathering. The virtual gatherings in 2020 worked quite well but we had no idea what 2021 was going to be like. We knew how important it was to keep doing the work of GSV despite the uncertain circumstances of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. For the safety and comfort of our GSV siblings, as well as that of The Mountain staff, the Council felt it was best to hold the 2021 Winter Meditation and the 2021 Spring Retreat in virtual space. Yes, it was a different kind of gathering but connection happens on an internal level, not an external level. We chose to preserve what makes GSV what it is: authentic relations, safe spaces to be ourselves, and a welcoming community that cares for one another. The Council worked extremely hard and thoroughly to hold a safe 2021 Fall Conference in person, with a backup plan to go virtual if we felt that was the best option. Fortunately, at the 2021 Fall Conference we were able to meet in person and have all the joy and reconnections which came with it. It was a powerful and wonderful weekend. If you were not able to attend some of the events we held during 2021 here is a summary.
Winter Meditation: “Reflecting on Resilience”
David Cable, Convener
This virtual gathering was designed to help us explore how we access and sustain our personal resilience. General sessions helped us gain insight into how we navigated adversity in 2020 and how we used that insight to sustain ourselves in 2021. Breakout sessions each day functioned like small group sessions allowing for more intimate conversations outside of the main group. Workshops included gentle breathwork, contemplative exercises, and a body-focused exercise. Those sessions provided access to being present with a grateful heart (and how that helps us to be more resilient) and enhanced our self-compassion and compassion for others. One evening we had a beautiful sound bath where we felt the relaxing and healing vibrations of a variety of singing bowls, percussion instruments, and a rain drum. Feeling rejuvenated and resilient was a wonderful way to close the evening session.
Spring Retreat: “Growing Seeds of Hope and Connecting with Self, Sangha & Sacred Cosmos”
Hunter Flournoy, Convener
We are still indebted to Hunter who showed us once again that yes, our gatherings could be translated into a virtual platform. This gathering was a logical next step from the Winter Meditation on resilience. We took what we learned about ourselves, our place in the world, and built upon it. With thirty years of experience as a breath worker, trauma therapist, and spiritual healer Hunter knows: integration is everything; and integration absolutely requires a few moments of catching our breaths together, harvesting our learning, healing our wounds, and setting a new course together. Hunter gathered some of the most seasoned teachers, facilitators, and mischief-makers in our community to come together, to share their own stories of hope and reconnection, and support you in reflecting on your own. These were people who have done the challenging work of integrating their own journeys and the even harder work of helping others do the same. The combination of Hunter’s leadership, meditation workshops, and sharing stories provided opportunities for members of our community to connect with one another in deep and meaningful ways to grow seeds of hope.
Fall Conference: “(Re) Directing Our Energies to Queer Worldmaking”
Greg Hummel (Bumblebee), Convener
After the Council’s extensive research and planning for a safe COVID-19 protocol, the Council made the decision to have an in-person Fall Conference at The Mountain. This was our organization’s thirty-second fall gathering! This gathering continued the progression toward deepening our connection to others by sharing our stories and listening to others’ stories. Hearing the stories of what others had gone through and sharing what we have gone through not only brought us closer together but also strengthened us by building a communal knowledge of what is possible in the realm of Queer Worldmaking. We chose to not have a keynote speaker as is the tradition of our Fall Conference as we wanted to focus on existing and overdue reconnections. Instead of a keynote speaker, we were graced with extra free time to reconnect in person with each other, in small groups, and with The Mountain environment. Workshops included meditations, enneagram discussions, using body and voice to create moments of fierceness, breathwork, sacred touch, building connections through tango, and more. Our traditional practices of the Shauna Pleas Boutique, Parade of Beauties, and the Variety Show flourished with laughter, gratitude, and tears of joy.
Technology Working Circle
GSV has a Technology Working Circle to manage Zoom hosting, virtual breakout room preparations, and other virtual-based needs so that future virtual conveners can focus on what they do best: convene. This Working Circle currently has five individuals who have volunteered their services to the greater cause.
Shauna Pleas Boutique
The GSV Council initially passed a 2020 budget that included an allocation of funds to obtain new clothing racks to replace many of the racks in the Shauna Pleas Boutique which broke during the 2019 Fall Conference. Many thanks to Mackie Mack (Obando)/Luna Farfalla and others who spent a few extra hours assembling new racks, discarding worn-out apparel, and putting the Shauna Pleas Boutique in order after the Fall Conference. Jim Lapp/Duchess of Delight graciously took many items to be dry cleaned. We will see those items again during the 2022 Fall Conference Parade of Beauties!
GSV/GSU Archives Update
As many of you know, GSV has been collecting oral histories from our members for many years and storing them at the Georgia State University Special Collections and Archives. There are now more available in the database for viewing and reading at Research.Library.GSU.edu/GaySpiritVisions. Consider reaching out to the Archives, Culture & Tradition Working Circle if you would like to share your story with the greater public.
The COVID-19 global pandemic has impacted much of our daily life. Feelings of isolation were experienced by many in our community because of shelter in place orders. The Council is responding to this by compiling a list of focused resources which provide ways of connecting with others. Our intention is to provide resources which will help you cope with feelings of isolation.
The Council is very grateful to all who graciously supported GSV in 2021 by making monetary donations. Thank you!
In 2021 twelve individuals requested financial assistance to offset the cost of attending a gathering. Thanks to your generosity, five individuals received full financial assistance and seven individuals received partial financial assistance.
Over the course of this year, sixty-six individuals donated a total of $7,986 to the Raven Wolfdancer Financial Assistance Fund by way of either direct donations or through GSV’s Silent Auction Fundraiser. Four individuals donated a total of $115 to GSV’s General Operating Fund. Thank you so much for your continued support as we support one another in the years to come.
In addition to donations given to GSV this year, you also donated over $895 to The Mountain during our winter and spring gatherings. Information concerning monies donated to The Mountain during our fall gathering has not yet been shared with the Council. Many of you also provided donations to The Mountain during their matching fund donation drive. The Mountain wishes to express their continued gratitude and thanks for your generosity during a particularly difficult year.
If you would like to contribute to GSV and find yourself with more money than spare time, monetary donations can be made via the GSV website or by mailing a check to GSV, P.O. Box 339, Decatur, GA 30031. Gay Spirit Visions, Inc. is registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Monetary donations to GSV are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.
Facing Forward: Words from the Returning Presiding Elder
Welcome! I am looking forward to the magnificence we will manifest together! And thank you to the Council for your gracious service to GSV. Each member of the Council did a magnificent job leading our organization through the many challenges of 2021. Council members stepped up to take leadership of issues critical to the organization and worked well together as a collaborative unit. For this I am profoundly grateful.
It is an honor to have been asked again to wear the mantle of Presiding Elder in 2022. This organization is so dear to me. I have attended most of the GSV gatherings since I first arrived at a local GSV potluck and heart circle 10 years ago. I have served on the Altared Spaces Working Circle for most of the past 10 years as well. By participating in a Working Circle, I was able to deepen connections I made while attending GSV gatherings. Additionally, being part of bringing gatherings into being has been a lot of fun and a lot of hard work. I’ve experienced significant personal growth during my time with GSV.
As Presiding Elder, I would like to keep our organization as transparent as possible. I would like to include you as much as possible because you are important to this organization. You have an equal voice in where we take GSV. All of us hold part of this organization in our hearts and we deserve to be held by it in return. Without you, we do not have this community.
So, thank you for being a member of our amazing community. I hope you like where we are going.
Proceeding into 2022
Gay Spirit Visions
Words From the Council
GSV is very much a living community, and we are ever looking forward to our next opportunity to gather. We have a Winter Meditation coming up in a few weeks and two other gatherings currently in the planning process.
Schedule of Gatherings in 2022
Winter Meditation: January 14-16
Spring Retreat: May 13-15
Fall Conference: September 22-25
As you may already know from the announcement made at the beginning of December, the theme for the upcoming Winter Meditation is “Working with Your Locus of Control.” (Register Here) This will be a time to check in with yourself to see if you are influenced more by your actions or by external events outside your control. “A locus of control orientation is a belief about whether the outcomes of our actions are contingent on what we do (internal control orientation) or on events outside our personal control (external control orientation). Additionally, your locus of control can have a major impact on your life, from how you cope with stress as well as your motivation to take charge of your life. Your locus of control can influence not only how you respond to the events that happen in your life, but also your motivation to act” explained psychologist Philip Zimbardo in his book Psychology and Life. Meditation and interactive sessions will help us gain insight into how we have navigated 2021 and how we can use that to be helpful to us into 2022.
The 2022 Winter Meditation will be virtual (online) for safety reasons, as the wintry weather usually has us indoors much of the time. We are hoping that the Spring Retreat will be in person, but we have not yet made a final decision regarding this. The Council is working with The Mountain’s new leadership team and is planning for GSV’s 2022 Fall Conference to be in person! We will keep you updated via email and on the Gay Spirit Visions Facebook page as decisions are made. We all want to gather in person as soon as it is safe to do so. We can hardly imagine what the spring and fall gatherings will be like after such an enriching winter gathering! Know that we on the Council, Working Circles, and future Conveners are all working diligently to put together the best gatherings we can for you. The 2022 Spring Retreat is currently being developed, and the 2022 Fall Conference is in the works as well.
An introduction to new council members in their own words:
Bill Harris — I live in Atlanta and have been involved with GSV for 10 years. I previously served on the Council and served as Treasurer for GSV. Additionally, I have been the liaison for the Small Groups Working Circle for about 6 years. Small Groups function as a vital means for cultivating connections between those who attend the Fall Conference. During the COVID-19 pandemic, GSV added breakout rooms to its virtual gatherings in lieu of small groups. Breakout rooms expand the connections beyond the large Zoom room. I am currently retired and met my partner at the 2017 Spring Retreat.
John Schendel (Karma) — I live outside of Asheville, NC and first came to GSV in 2001. GSV held me lovingly, compassionately, and with great patience as I searched for authentic gender identity and sexual solid ground. I repeatedly left familiar and safe well-trodden refuges to go on journeys into myriad uncharted lands. I discovered territories I never knew existed, both within me and outside of me. I am still traveling but know deeply both the multiplicity and unity of gender/expression in me and seek connection with the embodied souls on Earth who may invite all of me to join them and to whom I can offer the same space and freedom. I love GSV in my own unique way and am happy that I have stumblingly found enough of my own self to stand in (thanks to the love of you GSV brothers) so that I may offer my truer (if not always truest) self in service to our sacred community.
Glynn Dilbeck — I live in Bethpage, TN and my first conference was in the fall of 2019. As the newest GSV sibling on the council, I hope to a bring fresh perspective from eyes of a newcomer. I look forward to collaborating with my fellow Council members to support GSV and its mission.
As you can see, the new members of the Council have a range of experiences with GSV. Additionally, they live in different cities which helps to widen the geographic scope of our leadership. The GSV Council is looking forward to serving the GSV community in 2022.
Working Circles: Come Play with Us!
The primary purpose of the Council is to ensure that GSV produces the organization’s gatherings. Our gatherings are the core and crossroads of this community. Without the support and hard work of our dedicated Council and Working Circles, the Council would be powerless to create the amazing events that, as of this year, we will have been doing for THIRTY-TWO YEARS.
Volunteering with GSV Working Circles is a fantastic way to build community, to meet new friends, to help create GSV magic, and to ensure the continuation of our magnificent, open-hearted tribe. The liaisons are the coordinators of their respective Working Circles, and we encourage you to reach out to them if you feel called to dive into GSV for more than the occasional gathering. Being in a GSV Working Circle is one of the best ways to keep that GSV magic going all year long!
Presented below are GSV Working Circle names, liaisons, and email addresses with which to reach them:
Altared Spaces — Randy Taylor
Communications — Ralph Fruchtman
Archives, Culture & Tradition — Bruce Tidwell (Dandelion)
Entertainment — David Berger
Silent Auction — Wade Jones
Financial Assistance — Jeff Beacham (Timber)
Gender Freedom & Expression Mackie Mack (Obando), Tony Bayles
Rituals & Fire — Johnny Gray, Kraig Blackwelder (Nightshade)
Sacred Touch — Mahan-Kalpa Khalsa
Small Groups — Bill Harris
Welcome & Hospitality — Tony James
Technology — Brian Schroeder, David Cable
Come join us. We would love to have you.
YOU are GSV
The strength of the wolf is the pack, and the strength of the pack is the wolf. So it is with Gay Spirit Visions. All that we do is the result of the magic of community and teamwork. The Council reads the surveys you submit after every gathering. We take them seriously and make changes as necessary. As we move forward, consider ways you would like to take your relationship with GSV a step further. Maybe it means coming back after a long hiatus. Maybe it means attending all three gatherings this year. Maybe you just want to share a few ideas or your feelings with us. Or maybe you feel it is time to lend a hand to one of our invaluable Working Circles, to lead a workshop at one of our gatherings, or to spearhead the community as a future convener or Council member! Trust us, there is a place for you in GSV. Meet us wherever you are. We would love to have you.
Let us keep an open dialogue. You are warmly invited to communicate with the Council, to send us feedback, to ask us for what you need from GSV, to tell us of your sweet dreams of community and how our gatherings might make those dreams come true. [email protected] is the perfect way to reach out to us to make this organization what you want it to be. You have a voice. You have desires. You have the right to be heard, to be heeded, to be held. Your Council is listening. Our number one goal as a council is to continue having gatherings but we cannot do it without you.
Gourmet hugs to you from the GSV Council,
Neil Burns, Jeff Beacham/Timber, David Berger/Badger, David Cable, Jonny Gray, Tony James, Mackie Mack (Obando)/Luna Farfalla, John Rivest, and Randy Taylor