LGBTQ+ at Unity San Francisco
Let the Truth of You Stand for Itself
As a spiritually conscious community, Unity San Francisco believes that all people are created with inherent sacred worth – no one exists outside of the Divine.
In Unity, we believe God is absolute good, and because all people exist within and as part of this divine energy, each of us is also inherently good.
The Unity movement is open to all individuals inclusive of race, color, gender, age, creed, religion, national origin, ethnicity, physical disability or sexual orientation. Unity not only welcomes LGBTQ+ members and visitors in its centers but happily ordains LGBTQ+ ministers and credentials lay people as Licensed Unity Teachers.
Request a copy of “WORTHY: LGBTQ Stories of Overcoming Rejection and Religion to Find Truth”
With raw, powerful stories from the LGBTQ community—including Unity ministers and others who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning—Worthy is a booklet offering spiritual support from LGBTQ writers who overcame years of rejection to see themselves as dynamic expressions of God.
The booklet explores journeys of addiction and recovery, marriage, parenthood, abuse, and coming out, with topics including:
- Coming to Terms
- Healing from Religion
- Creating Families
- Transforming Gender
- Knowing My Worth
These stories of healing—of never giving up the search for spiritual understanding and of self-acceptance—have endings that are not simply happy but full of gratitude and love.
Rev. Ken: “You are worthy!”
A Message from Rev. Ken
Senior Minister, Unity San Francisco
I learned at a very young age that it was not safe to be myself. When I was 11 years old, Time Magazine had a picture of a gay pride march on the front cover with the title, “The Homosexual in America.” I saw the magazine when it came into our house and asked my mother, “Who are those men on the cover?” She told me that they were very sick and disgusting people. I felt the knot tighten in my stomach as I flipped the pages and looked at the story. I knew that I was one of them, and I had to go into hiding.
Hiding, however, was never easy for me. I was ridiculed throughout grammar school by other boys and the nuns for my effeminate behavior. Then, I was tormented and beaten at home by my father, who was determened to, as he put it, “make a man out of me.” High school was a little easier because I found other people like me and disappeared into the drama club where I could be honored and celebrated.
After high school, I was outed by my mom, who listened to a phone conversation I was having with a boyfriend. Thrown out of our home and sent into a search for answers, I found myself sitting with our family priest, who counseled me to give sexual desires for men over to God and to marry a woman and have a family. I walked out of his office and knew that I could not live that lie. I walked away from the Catholic Church and my spiritual life.
After a decade of living as a proud gay man in NYC, I was diagnosed as HIV+. There was no cure, no treatment, and seemingly no hope. A dear friend of mine, who was suffering from Kaposi Sarcoma and other opportunistic infections from HIV, showed me a book someone gave him. It was, You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay. As I devoured her book, learning about Affirmations and Denials and listening to tapes and meditations from Louise, my spiritual curiosity and spiritual nature were reignited.
From friends, I heard about a woman who was giving lectures on a book called A Course in Miracles. I certainly needed a miracle, so I found myself studying with Marianne Williamson, devouring her cassette tapes, and joining her HIV support group. People in that group told me about a place called Unity that I should check out.
Read more about Rev. Ken
When I arrived at my first Unity service, I saw something I had never encountered before in a spiritual community. There were people of all races, ages, and sexual orientations. There was talk of spiritual healing, of God’s love, and a message of hope and positivity. Eric Butterworth was the minister of that community, and he forever changed my life when I read his book, Discover the Power Within You.
I went on from that point to a wonderful life and career in the Broadway theatre, but my spiritual journey was far from over. While I had found the healing I needed at that moment, I had still not done the deep inner work to release my internalized homophobia and self-loathing. Today, it is so easy to see how I started numbing those dark feelings and how I kept needing more and more anesthesia. So much so that I found myself in rehab and once again desperate for answers. Luckily for me, the 12 Steps Program led me to a practical spiritual practice and back to Unity, where I set about my spiritual work of recovery.
My mom recently sent me a box with my old report cards. These were so fascinating to look at, because they dispelled the narrative I had always told myself. As I looked through the years, one pattern jumped off the pages: straight A’s in religion. I was raised Catholic and went to Catholic schools from kindergarten through high school. The story I told myself, and everyone else about those grades was that I was always asking questions to the nuns and priests who taught me because I couldn’t believe what they were saying. Looking back, it is as clear as it could be, but I did not know it; I have always had an intense spiritual curiosity.
It took me my HIV diagnosis to resurrect my spiritual seeking and study. It took my drug addiction to help me shed decades of internalized homophobia and self-loathing. Today, I am grateful for those dark nights of the soul, for they uncovered what I had left for dead and buried: my spiritual self. As the Catholic priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin wrote, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience – we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
Today, over 32 years since my HIV diagnosis and 17 ears since my last drink or drug, I live a life beyond my wildest dreams, married to a man I love with three beautiful children. A life where prayer, meditation, and spiritual curiosity are the cornerstones of my practice, and a life where I get to help people find their true nature; their spiritual selves.
A Message from Rev. DeeAnn
Associate Minister, Unity San Francisco
I was 11 when I first realized I was different from my friends.
First, I loved God. My family were active members of a conservative/orthodox Jewish center that was like a second home to me. I went to Hebrew school and attended weekly services. I loved learning and studying the Torah. The prayers, the history – I particularly loved the history. I would place myself in the stories of the Torah. I was Abraham, Joseph, Moses – all the prophets who had powerful and transformative relationships with God. I was drawn to spiritual leadership and dreamed of becoming a rabbi.
Second, I was discovering my sexuality. While my girlfriends were enamored with boys, I found myself enamored with them. I dreamed of kissing girls.
It was also the year that I learned two very painful lessons that took decades to unlearn: Girls cannot be rabbis, and girls must never admit that they wish to kiss other girls.
I left Judaism and hid my sexual identity. I eventually found the strength and self-awareness to come out and claim my sexuality, and maybe not surprisingly, began to reclaim my relationship with God at the same time. Some inner knowing kept me searching for a spiritual tradition that would support my love of prayer, my desire for community, my passion for ritual, my commitment to transformation, and would not simply accept but welcome me as a lesbian.
I still remember walking into my first New Thought service. Relief and shock ran through me as I realized that I wasn’t merely tolerated as a lesbian – I was truly welcomed and embraced. I looked at the leadership and saw lesbian, gay, and transgender ministers. I found a spiritual framework that took the gender out of God, took the suffering out of God, and took the judgment out of God. Most important, it was a spiritual framework that saw me as intrinsically whole and wonderfully unique. It was one of the most healing moments of my life.
Religion and religious dogma have done so much damage to members of the LGBTQ community. However, there is a way to love God and to also love whomever you wish. You don’t have to choose one over the other.
It has been a deep journey of healing for me to stand in my spiritual authority as a minister, as a lesbian, and as a woman. I have released the painful beliefs my 11-year-old self had accepted without knowing any better – that I was a mistake, I was an abomination, I was less than, and I was intrinsically wrong somehow, a great big God mistake.
My life is now one of peace and well-being. I love my life, my wife, my desires, and my spiritual calling. I am so deeply grateful to share this message of hope with others.