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EP001: The Queer Hero's Journey with Sister Unity

episodes show notes Apr 03, 2020
Photo: Mike Gerle with Sister Unity (right) and Margarat Snatcher celebraing the first day gay marriage was legal in California in 2004 (the first time).
Blessings from Sister Unity.
Sister Unity and I met more than 25 years ago at a photo shoot where the boys were naked and the sisters were in full, clownlike “face”: bright-colored heretical nun gear. We were shooting for a “cooking calendar” fundraiser. I stood on set naked while Sister Unity drew the Ohm symbol on my right butt cheek in cake frosting. It was a wonderful beginning. 
Later I noticed this incredible being, along with the other Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence providing rituals in unusual places like bars and leather contests. In addition to her hilarity, she brings deep spiritual centeredness that emanates from her open heart and Hindu practice. 
Please listen closely as she outlines the Hero’s Journey and how it applies to queer people. 
You'll hear her mentioned Hamlet, ROM, das, and the Tao, all while making us laugh and reflect on our inner queer lives. She listens deeply, and that listening touches people's hearts. Especially the hearts of those who know we are “the other.”
Ultimately, she leaves us feeling better about our queer self.

Episode Chapters:
  • Coming of Age in the Age of AIDS [3:34]
  • Losing my virginity and coming out [4:42]
  • Queer Hero’s Journey [9:15]
  • The fate of remaining in the closet [12:29]
  • The transformational power of queer kids [14:49]
  • The Ego [18:43]
  • Blueberry Yoga & Being Confounded [31:20]
  • A Sisters’ Blessing  [35:15
  • The Sister’s un-fuck the Shit [37:01]
  • Who is Sister Unity [39:54]
  • Toxic Masculinity [46:58]
  • Use Intuition to Define Family [53:02]

Episode Resources:

You can find Sister Unity on
Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence
Join us! Subscribe to my newsletter on our website, email me directly at [email protected], or join the conversation on Facebook

Episode full transcript:
Today's guest is Sister Unity, sister unity and I met more than 20 years ago at a photo shoot where the boys were naked and the sisters were there helping us in a cooking calendar. Under, she drew the ohm on my right butt cheek in frosting. And that's how I met this incredible being. Who later I noticed was providing ritual in unusual places like bars and leather contests. In addition to her hilarity, she has this deep spiritual centeredness that's identified with Hinduism.
Mike Gerle 1:27
You'll hear her mentioned Hamlet, Ram Dass and Tao all while making us laugh and leaving us feel better about ourselves in the moment.
Mike Gerle 1:35
She listens deeply and that listening touches people's hearts, especially the hearts of those who know we are the other Welcome to the episode. Here sister unity I'm with sister unity.
Sister Unity 1:52
Is she here? She owes me money.
Mike Gerle 1:53
And well this is I've I've never seen sister unity so stripped down except for when we first met
Sister Unity 2:01
while we're sitting in a hot tub, where do you expect me to wear Crillon?
Sister Unity 2:06
By the way, pass the champagne flute?
Mike Gerle 2:09
Let's like check in for a second. We'll just get centered. Okay. And tell me how you're feeling. How am
Sister Unity 2:16
I feeling? It is January 3 2020. Yes. And I have just returned from the holidays with my family, my parents have aged to the point where the children need to give them help. And that is a difficult negotiation with very independently minded parents and I'm speaking as euphemistically as I can. She's a Scorpio and Italian I'm just saying, Oh, goodness, yeah. And, and it was quite a surprise to find them in that condition. It's it. None of us have ever been that old ourselves. And none of us have ever had our parents be that old until they are and so it is always a real eye opener and finding one's footing between abject fear and panic on the one hand, and practical considerations and grounding oneself to continue one's own life in the face of trying to step in and step up and manage someone the life of someone you love. Whether they want you to or not, that's all just a kettle of mutant fish that have been genetically crossed with wild cats. Yes, yeah. So that's how I'm feeling.
Mike Gerle 3:21
That's huge. That's huge. Well, you and I, part of our journey is seeing a lot of people not get old. Because they don't. Mm hmm. And
Sister Unity 3:34
more, it's it's astounding because when you and I were coming of age, it was all about AIDS. Yeah, that was the thing that we thought we were going to lose the world to AIDS. And it turns out, at least tell me if your experience my experience was that I didn't lose the world to AIDS. I lost three people, but I've lost far more to meth and other drugs and alcohol. But far more to meth than AIDS. Isn't that remarkable?
Mike Gerle 3:59
Even Some people who don't die from it, or permanently change, so yeah, so we have people like that in our lives. I would kind of like to talk about how, how been queer we've been being gay men or the other. It usually sucks in a. But if we live long enough, I see that ordeal as as a positive experience, would you see either coming out experience? Well, let's just start with coming. So if you see the coming out experience too as a plus,
Sister Unity 4:42
to answer your question to answer your question, I need to revise your premise. okay for me, it never sucked. There were times that sucked. Okay. But as a general existentialist state, it never sucked. When I came out to my mom, she wrote a letter And I just got back from a year overseas I went to an art school in Florence Italy and let me tell you being queer there did not suck for I sucked and very well for the first time I lost my Florence, Italy. Oh my God couldn't be I lost my virginity like full on in Venice during cut in the valley with an Austrian. If your name is Florian Schindler and he's screwed a skinny boy from America and you only spoke French all night because it's the only language you guys had in common. Hi, call me. I'm in Los Angeles. You were the best. I love you. Oh,
Mike Gerle 5:37
that is important though. Your first experience really was a good one. Oh,
Sister Unity 5:40
the first one I was like is is there like is Aphrodite like typing this out up into Olympus and writing this? I couldn't believe how fairytale perfect and romantic and lovely it was
Mike Gerle 5:50
How old were you?
Sister Unity 5:51
I was 20 I was like a couple months shy of 21. And I was like please God, do not let me hit 21 having gotten some So, so I got home and I was living on campus where I was going to college for the summers taking graduate courses. Because I am just that smart. I think I was studying fungal bio commerce with a side of theater because they go together, you know synchronicity. And I was sitting in the kitchen with my friends in this attic apartment that we rented total queer space, it was just queer architecture really, culturally and and most of us were queer and I just pretended to write letters to my mother I wrote Dear Mom I'm and then in like, huge five inch tall letters. Gaayyyyy. And I thought Haha, and then something inside of me had shifted a year on my own in a fairytale land. But also like learning to cook for myself learning to do for myself. Like on an adventure a successful a glorious fabulous adventure of my own had done something inside and I realized after I did that, and I was joking like Haha, what Wouldn't that be funny as though it were never to be possible, but something inside was like, you know, you have to write that letter now. So I then wrote her a letter and I tried to explain how I feel for this person this way and that person that way. And they're similar in this way and different. It was just a mess. long as she called me, I was like, I got your letter. I don't want to talk on the phone about it. Because that's there's a lot to talk about. Come home and we'll talk. And I was like, Well, I'm not coming home just for that. I'll see when I get home on vacation or wherever. Home is in Maine. I was born in Portland, Maine, and I grew up in Maine and just outside of Boston. A lot of people think because I'm sister unit a we're orange chiffon, and I'm a rubber chicken flibbertigibbet that I'm all easy, but I am sorry, I'm I'm a flinty Yankee. So coming out for me was not difficult. Coming out was difficult. And that is not a negative experience. It's a difficult experience. For some people. It's an absolutely negative experience. It's risky and horrifying to think. It's risky and horrifying to execute. It's risky and horrifying in the results. Some people are thrown out of their families you and I know full well, we've seen the kids on the streets here in Los Angeles. Yes, it is a horror story. It is deplorable. It is the worst of American society. Right, like right up there with misogyny and racism in my opinion. Mine luckily was nothing like that. I could have very well known and guessed that she would have accepted me and she did. She called me home for this talk. And she just really wanted to sort of it was really just micromanaging. She just wanted to like get her her her two cents in on what her son was going through and have her say if you will, just part of our our relationship dynamics. We're okay. It's kind of obnoxious for me because I was like, why aren't you giving me a cake? You give me a chiffon dress to celebrate? Okay, um, but even with that, even with an accepting parent, and you see the videos on YouTube, kids with parents who immediately tell They love them and hug them and everything. Yeah, you could the kid is freaking out and you know, brought to tears because it is hard. Yeah. And I think you were in the when, in the message that you sent me about the questions you wanted to ask you mentioned is coming out of hero's journey.
Sister Unity 9:16
And that resonates with me, the way that Joseph Campbell describes the hero's journey. One of the things about it is and for some reason, I always go back to Lord of the Rings for the my sort of go to here, Mr. Joseph Campbell points out that one of part of the hero's journey is death, you die and you're reborn. Gandalf dies, fighting the Balrog in will goes down into the underworld, and then literally arrives at the mountaintop, cloud and white he's transcended and renewed and reborn and refreshed. Mm hmm. And I think that coming out is very much that the risk that you feel is the death of the ego is the destruction of the world you knew and we're saying And unhappy and as a child, you're being asked to change all that to destroy it to shatter a glass of a perfect family or have you been completely accepted by your parents and that being unperturbed, the boat has not been rocked and you're like now I'm going to rock the boat. And I don't know what the result is and we get varied results and for those who come out successfully and are accepted by their parents, the rebirth is somewhat easier for those who are rejected the rebirth is more difficult. But and the success of it after and the weeks and months and years after depends on who they are, what their resources are and how well they can do with those.
Sister Unity 10:41
But it is a reborn into a life that is different than than the one prior they've they've killed off the old self and they are now in the new self and whether that is a pleasant self or not is up to many different factors.
Mike Gerle 10:54
Yes, and they meet their love these hero's journeys. They meet the goblins, the most Monsters, the whatever. And I think it's just so metaphorically appropriate for especially those of us who came from Maine. I came from Wyoming and Idaho. And then we come out here and we have drag queens and leather people and bears and twinks. And like this whole, a whole cast, I always
Sister Unity 11:19
think of LA as Oz. There are so many pairs and that was my favorite movie growing up and there's a big connection in that movie. And for some reason, maybe because I live near the Wiltern theater, which is an art deco emerald green building, that I especially think of LA as coming to Oz. Oh,
Mike Gerle 11:40
yeah, yeah. So you mentioned two scenarios. There's, you know, both depending on how the parents react. I want to talk like this other scenario when someone and I'm still shocked to see it today. I see men who are still trying to Not be gay. They're chosen to deny their their sexuality their love of men. And they either do it overtly or covertly. That's my that's what I make up. It's a judgement some of them that are like covertly their own hookup apps with you know on the doubt and down low or whatever, or something else is happening and
Sister Unity 12:27
or they're a senator.
Mike Gerle 12:29
Well, I was gonna ask you, what do you think the fate is for those men? Um
Sister Unity 12:39
The truth is so hard to live loyalty, loyal loyalty with. It is so hard to be a devotee and practitioner of truth, to always speak it to honor it to act in truth did make choices that honor truth. It is all So the clearest, and ultimately the healthiest path. The reason people don't or can't is because people aren't okay with everything that happens to them. They are afraid of pain, they are afraid of change, destruction, death of the ego death of physical death. There's many things that many people are afraid of, and for many reasons, good, bad and everything in between. So it's really hard to ask someone to speak the truth. Like, you know, someone grows up in a Mormon family and they just and the family is homophobic and overtly so and you ask them to tell their parents that they're gay. That is a truth that will, you know, breaking, breaking open the whole subject and the whole discourse of the family by saying it would end up with some kind of liberation, you would hope. Even if the family completely rejects them, then you could argue that that person is then free to live an honest life and free life. Free from the constraints of their family. You could argue that, but Damn, that's a price to pay. And, like us being human, how do you ask someone to pay that price? It could makes complete sense that some people make twisted choices. I don't mean twisted and immoral. Like I'm judging you think I mean, choices that call for mental and emotional gymnastics? Yes,
Mike Gerle 14:24
I just did just record an interview with my Mormon dad. And we've gotten like, first this Christmas. I hadn't been back in 16 years. It's not that I had never hadn't been back there. There was a three year period we didn't talk at all. Because it was so hard and difficult and that stuff, but it is possible. And that's not what this interview is about. But we've resolved it and come to unconditional love.
Sister Unity 14:49
I believe and this has been in my mind for two years now. I believe that queer kids of whatever gender and sexual identity but queer In the family from from the children is the parents opportunity from God or life or the universe, to grow and to know, to know whether know themself to know God, if you believe in God to know life to know what the more free, transcendent truth of our universe is. And some parents accept it. And some parents allow themselves to go through this change, like it sounds like your father did. And some absolutely do not. And you find the same thing with monks, you know, they're making a point of studying the things that that change your life and put you closer to truth or God and some of them make it and some of them don't. But I do think absolutely that the world is a muddy crossword puzzle. It is a twisted, chaotic Rubik's Cube, where we come we incarnate to do our homework. That's my personal belief as a practicing Hindu. We come here to do our homework and part of the homework part of the way the world offers those parents Homework of breaking their concepts so they can be free to address God and truth on God and truths terms is by answering the proposition given by a queer child, or queer community member. Mm hmm.
Mike Gerle 16:16
And that's a reframing that the conversation I want to start with our community to is saying, this is a, this is a way you described it a gift that you brought into that bio family unit, as opposed to a curse or a Absolutely. Some sort of baggage.
Sister Unity 16:36
Right. You know, I think we've talked about this before, I was honored to do research on the history of drag for Paramount Pictures of all things. And well, and the thing that I discovered that was so stunning to me was that across the world in early urban and Peri urban civilizations, queer men, particularly ones who broke the gender line Men, trans women, and non binary people were all and just flat out gay people were all ascribed the role of spiritual functionary, they were the ones who negotiated between the secular and the transcendent, whatever their cultures version of that was, and in the same sense, as a straight child brings the promise of continuing the family line and new life and continuing of the food and everything that a baby grows up to be is such an enormous treasure chest of riches. Yes, oh, queer child. And I use queer I know some people are comfortable with it. I need a catch all phrase to mean try and write with their ways. By say all this
Mike Gerle 17:45
Yeah, all of us, all of us. So
Sister Unity 17:46
a queer child brings the opportunity of changing and opening right where you are now. Which one is the physical continuance and growth in the world and one is the spiritual continuance a growth of you.
Mike Gerle 18:06
That's stunning.
Sister Unity 18:07
Yeah, so every child is a treasure chest.
Mike Gerle 18:10
Yes. And you're saying they have they bring different roles and joys and challenges
Sister Unity 18:17
and this said, let me not stick with a binary characterization of you know, sis and het and queer and trans. We all have pieces of each other's you know, the Kinsey scale was like, very few people are perfect Sarah and a perfect six. We all have pieces of each other there are heterosexual cisgendered people who are wonderfully queer sister Edna St. Vincent-Get-Laid was such a wonderful example of a queer sis het woman. Okay.
Mike Gerle 18:43
Yeah. It takes a while to get their ego. You said death of the ego. I think that that's what is that word? Can you just explain what you mean by that what the ego is and
Sister Unity 18:59
yes It's big cereal with little berries in them.
Mike Gerle 19:04
To the ego to
Sister Unity 19:05
me, ego means different things in the West and in western psychology. Ego means self sense of self self identity. And in the East ego is like the big nasty like Oh get rid of your ego you're not free to get rid of your ego. Yeah, never mind that, you know what they actually say is that you need your ego it's just you need to master it. To me contemplating it, it seems to be most succinctly put as it's who you think you are. Hmm. It may or may not be who you are, it may or may not incorporate parts of who you actually are. But it is certainly who you think you are consciously up in the intellect and way down in the ID and you know, the parts of you that are reflexive and not so verbal. However you think you're you are and your life is that's ego. And you're saying that for our best growth is when who I think I am who I'm very clear about who I am dies Yes, yes, it may, there are parts of it that will remain or come back and be just the same after that you die and be reborn. Usually there'll be, you know, spit shine they'll have gone through the carwash cannot look and shiny and new and the parts that you don't need, and the parts that were archaic and unusable or based on things that were delusion or what they call some scars based on sort of impressions of what's happened to you, and just sort of clung as a reaction to continuing reaction those will hopefully drop away and you'll be left what you're left with is is the view of you. And that goes on different levels. What you're left with is what they call corruptor karma, the karma that doesn't go away that you can't burn off at spiritual practices like I will age. I am in a assigned male at birth body. I am silly because my father was silly and his father was silly, and I wasn't raised by my father and the first day he showed up when I was 11. It became patently out Because it was genetic were the same jokes, same sense of humor. So that seems to be corrupted karma for me. So those things remain, and they are who I am. But the difference is, I knew I was silly and I constructed myself around that when I was an adolescent and a kid and and a young adult, and I sort of went to town with it, and you know, made up stuff about myself about being silly and folded it into my public persona and purposefully presented it and used it in very purposeful, intentional ways. I gave up performing shortly after I started practicing meditation and studying Hindu philosophy. I gave it up cold turkey, I bought a one way ticket to an ashram in India. And I was not silly for like three and a half months in India, turning inward, and I'm sure I cracked the occasional joke, but
Sister Unity 21:55
and when I came back, I had given up performing and I went to computer school and I studied Programming goodness right like who are you and what have you done with sister unity? She All right, she had an underground bunker in the garage and and then something like that that was a period of time. That was about two years long three years long. And then somehow I started to feel around and I happened upon Tim Miller's Gaiman's performance art workshop out at highways performance space, okay and Monica and I struggled with whether or not to go a part of me instinctually thought this will be great. And another part of me wanted to stay safe and not go somewhere risky and strange. And it was eartha Madre Chris Doggett who called me up like half an hour before the thing it was like you get your ass and you're going to get out there and I almost got into accidents on the way and and when I got there, it threw open the the doors of my life and queerness came flooding back. And when it came back, it came Back on its own, and it informed me how I was to enjoy being queer. And it became an identity that eventually led to and I have to give Chris Doggett credit here. I did dream work with him and the dream work we did led to the manifestation of sister unity. Okay. So you know queer magic right there. Sister unity is partly born of queer magic. How do you like? Yeah. But it was telling me. The great artists will tell you that this is their experience, like they say about sculpture, they see a form in the sculpture, they just have to free it with their chisel. They don't go I'm gonna chisel this rock into this thing. They're like I see a thing. It's in there. Let's free it. Yeah, great artists and writers will tell you the story. The art piece has a life of its own and uses you to make itself if you know how to get out of the way. And that's another way of saying if you know how to kill off the ego, to let the channel be open to, for this to come out. Studying improv is a really good exercise in how to open those doors, kill off or turn off or shove aside your ego, your sense of who you are your sense of how the world is your ontology, or your sense of how this should go. Yes, get that out of the way and start listening in a state of preparedness of readiness. And when you are there and you are working, whatever your discipline is, you know, you're working with the painter, you're working with your behavior on stage with another performer. You're in the moment, responding to the world and responding to your intuitive impulses, and letting them come out. So that is the ego less ego, that is the self in worldly form, doing its thing being you through you, as opposed to what I'm describing as the ego, your intellect and and all of the prejudices and the wants and the all the stuff that you've learned today. Do a lot of reaction to what's happened to you the mind. Yeah, making micromanaging. micromanaging the ego is a micromanager. Yeah, the ego, consciously sometimes unconsciously chokes off what would be the organic well being the organic impulses that would lead to strange scary paths for people but paths that ultimately, they would be pleased with. I feel very lucky that I was pushed and prodded and cajoled and distracted into following an intuitive path. I came here to Hollywood to be Robin Williams, or Will Ferrell, and I had the resources to do it. Mostly. I just got interested in other things, and it took me somewhere and I'm not there and I regret you know, not being rich and famous and be able to do a movie about talking scrotums because I have you know, I know enough people in Hollywood I could do that. But I'm sister unity, and I could never have imagined that before. I I was 23 I could never have expected that. But oh my god, how better that is. Thank you for explaining that. And for people like me.
Mike Gerle 26:13
I grew up knowing I was gay with last name girly and Cheyenne, Wyoming in Pocatello, Idaho. The whole idea of stepping at Mormon, so much security in that religion because every day you are told what to do. Yeah, yeah. Andy's family home evening, Tuesday night is scouts, Wednesday nights Relief Society. Saturday is the day we get ready for Sunday and just unveiled reprogrammed all around planet. Yes, you know, all you have to do is very not at all from this hardline Patty, right where the AI which works clearly for like at least 20% of the people on the planet are built that way. But they don't play to everybody anyway. For me, it's like it's a heresy to let go of like how my ego had develop kept up to that point. I loved the church until puberty. And then it's like, wait, this doesn't fit. And And today, I still think, especially right now the polarized country is we're right on this side. We're right on this side. We're right in the middle. Everybody's right. And that's there. It's like, to me, it's a personification of this. I understand exactly. I understand everything in the universe. I think the people raised that way, are very courageous, to be willing to put that down and say maybe I don't know. Yes. Because maybe I don't know, is not what especially men are supposed to say, in a boardroom. Or you better know when we're spending money on you. Yes. Or in a group of, you know, even in our queer circles, it's like, you know, I know who I am, I know what I'm doing. Because you're lost if you don't
Sister Unity 27:57
think you're weak, or there won't be any interested in you?
Mike Gerle 28:01
being weak is bad, right? Being yielding is bad, right? It's misogyny is that is my Sasha Yeah. And those kinds of things. So are you saying Do you think that was innate in you to be willing to take that kind of a risk? Or do you think that you had the right?
Sister Unity 28:18
I know, you lucky. I don't know if it's genetic or just me or what, but I are in being in New England. It's kind of a thing to where skeptics in New England. I grew up, wanting to cut through the bullshit and find out what the fuck was really. Hmm. I grew up with Watergate and Vietnam, right. We got life, Newsweek, and Time magazine and I would rereading all about both the Vietnam War the protests and Watergate. Okay, and I just it just that whole time and the place where I was raised, and my own family's political awareness, which was pretty high. If you if you mumbled anything during Walter Cronkite you got shushed but the And my sister 10 years older than I, and she was a hippie and she she was an artist and she went to California and San Francisco and helped to start the punk movement in the 70s. All of this led me to be a person who was looking to get out from behind to uncover to unmask the bullshit, and to find out what was really going on. That ended up leading me to my spiritual and philosophical pursuits. It's like, Okay, all right. Christianity is fucked. Like, that's, that's bullshit. We know that. Bertrand Russell, we created God in our own image.
Sister Unity 29:37
But then I was like, you know,
Sister Unity 29:40
there's something going on. I read the doubt aging and it's like, that's a different way of looking at this. Well.
Sister Unity 29:47
Are you casting aspersions dumping?
Mike Gerle 29:50
No, I actually I'm not really how dare you just the whole concept of, of of dow or blows my mind.
Sister Unity 30:03
Oh, that's it then then you get it. You were talking about not knowing right? Yeah, you're talking about that's it. You're there. Don't try to know more. That's the Dow
Mike Gerle 30:13
and that's just not I just yeah, I want to figure it out
Sister Unity 30:16
Good! Be confounded! That's the whole point that lotsa is writing about be confounded because all this stuff that's founded Yeah. Is that is what I was describing as the ego Oh I know this now is a great passage in the Upanishads "those who know do not know", "who who don't know." No. If you are confounded, you're ready for improv. You're ready to make art because you're open and you're unbiased. There's a soliloquy in Hamlet one of his last ones where he talks about there's Providence in the fall of a sparrow getting over the whole thing but he ends it with the readiness is all like it could happen then it could happen now could who knows when that will happen? Don't pay attention to the details. It'll happen and being ready being there. Be Here Now Ram Dass is the thing and being confounded leaves you in that space, it leaves you available to be there in that space. And that's the kind of yielding weakness if you will. That is actually stronger than invented strength.
Mike Gerle 31:22
Yes. Well, and I feel it. Like, as we're talking, when I was 49, I started getting serious about yoga again, and I got and I dove into that and the Upanishads and
Sister Unity 31:34
I like blueberry yoga.
Mike Gerle 31:38
And this whole idea of not knowing what you're talking about, is steel. It seems to me that's where like all the juice is that's where all the the unknown spiritual realness, yes, you know, is
Sister Unity 31:55
any truth you're going to find you will find so much faster, easier and stronger when you're in that Place in that state. All so many of the great artists that talk about this in the great thinkers say this in one way or another, just thought of john Steinbeck at the end of East of Eden. And how the, I think Adam, the father tells his remaining son, Tim shell, this Yiddish, Hebrew term that means now mayest meaning it's all open, and it's all in your hands. What will it be? It's all wide open. He doesn't say do this do that he's active, rather opens the door there against the skin. This open space is open door. Yeah, the truth needs a vagina is it? queers are the people who are not defined as one or the other poles. They're not the male or the female explicitly for talking about gender. They're not like the expected sexuality. They're the ones in the liminal spaces, in the marginal spaces in the spaces that aren't all occupied by the constructs of society. They because of this were seen by a lot of the Native American peoples as able to go between the transcendent and the secular because they didn't have any boundaries. They were The Inbetweeners. So this space that we're talking about where you don't know are confounded, purposefully confounded in joy and bliss confounded. You're in the liminal space that the liminal
Mike Gerle 33:20
space, that queer space weirdness is a manifestation of that queerness
Sister Unity 33:25
is a manifestation of that. Exactly, right. Exactly. Right. There's the sun the Apollonian paradigm of masculinity, the earth, the gay and not gay, gay and paradigm of the the mother and the feminine at the womb, that brings forth life, blah, blah,
Mike Gerle 33:40
blah. You talked about so Hindu you say that? That's it. You're like, that's my personal thing. personal thing.
Sister Unity 33:49
Arena in which I consider philosophy.
Mike Gerle 33:52
Yeah. And so you got there. And I would say that most of the things that I turned to I got through, you know, yoga, teacher training or whatever really But I've you know, read a lot of books. And I meditate and I, you know, blue. How does it go with like Hindu sister unity and then the fetish community? How do you reconcile all of that?
Sister Unity 34:12
Why would I bother or, or here's how,
Mike Gerle 34:16
Sister Unity 34:17
I practiced meditation, I was practicing meditation before I started to become Sister unity, I had the opportunity to become Sister Unity. So now I practice meditation and ancestor unity, and the sisters serve the gay community. And part of that is the fetish community. And so I followed Sister Candy into a leather bar and started talking to people and finding out what it was about and talking to people and then carrying the message forward that I thought would liberate people. So that's how that happened. And that's, that's about all the analysis it really deserves.
Mike Gerle 34:46
And that's when you say it that way. It's just very succinct.
Sister Unity 34:50
We'll be here now. I was meditating because I found it and it worked for me. So there I was. I got invited to be a sister of perpetual indulgence. And are you kidding me like I'm not going to do that. So I was there then. Then they were like, okay, we're going to this fetish thing and we're going to talk to the Leatherman. I would trust them. So I went with them. I was in the moment, then then and then. And so I ended up with that combo.
Mike Gerle 35:15
The sisters are blessing these events, Byzantine. And, and I do see people it's very fun and it's very funny. There's some poking being done at like traditional iOS on Apple as well as like traditional, like religion and things like that. Oh,
Sister Unity 35:35
Mike Gerle 35:36
And but I've always felt at first I thought it was this joke happening. It was and it is a joke. Yeah, but it's also now it's like, I want the blessing is real. For me. It is also real.
Sister Unity 35:51
Yes. And unless you don't want it to be in which case we throw in some broccoli and rubber chickens. just laugh that
Mike Gerle 35:58
Yeah. Do you Wonder like I realized a lot of what holds me back is, is I you know, worried about outing people having an ouch moment or me looking ridiculous or all these reasons for not bringing beauty forward or bringing a blessing forward. I think that's one of the things that people older people's role is, as far as I'm concerned is is to bless things that are
Sister Unity 36:31
to tell them to grow, to encourage them to do their thing and do it well. with integrity. Yeah, yeah, yes. Yeah. And as one meditation master put it
Sister Unity 36:42
to make room for others good.
Mike Gerle 36:45
There is a there is a thing happening that needs to be looked at and rectified and certainly is considered. Unity is just hilarious. I mean, you like sense
Sister Unity 37:01
Well, we're very conscious that we are clowns and we use being a clown to do things and to cheer people up and to get across political messages. But we're also human beings and we're part of the community as well. You know, there we exist outside of makeup as well. Yes. So when things like when fucked up, shit happens, we feel that fucked up, shit has happened. And we just so happened to have people's attention because we're flamboyant, and colorful and hopefully interesting. So we're like, give me that megaphone. I need to say this some fucked up shit is happening in hopes that other people recognize that the shit is fucked up so that we can unfuck the shit and get back to good wholesome food. That is unfucked. Okay, it's definitely using the pulpit that we've invented with our rubber chickens and chiffon for other purposes. Yeah. And often, I find that the serious stuff, which is perhaps a majority of the time, a minority of the times that I'm speaking or posting. Now, if you see me on Twitter, it's all serious. So sorry, this is fun to debate with anyway. It rings louder because we've been silly. And people go, Wait a minute, the colorful silly. flibbertigibbet is saying something and it's serious. You know if you if you if it has the ring of truth to it and you're good at rhetoric, the fact of the contrast makes it land more heavily than someone they're used to hearing serious things from. I'm like, Oh, this is that serious. Even the clowns are saying it. Yeah. And then the truth is that of course, the good clowns always say the truth. Hmm.
Mike Gerle 38:29
Well, I want to thank you for doing that. It's a pleasure. It's
Sister Unity 38:33
it really. It's so much fun. Being an outsider. And being a fluffy, colorful entertainer does give you a little bit of leverage, I would say maybe access or access to attention, access to people's attention. Yeah. And if you say things, if you're, you know, clear with what you want to say, and it had it. It's something that matters to people and you do that often enough. That You get a reputation. And you can use that. Yeah, reputation for its own sake is is just bullshit. But if you can use it as a resource to get across important message and to increase amplify the voice of the voiceless people, then reputation is a useful tool.
Mike Gerle 39:16
So the premise of this podcast is I want to help individual what gay men is what my target audiences, I've heard them and know who they are, identify and know their primary family, whether it's chosen in our bio or both, and know their place in the world, the entire world with just sister unity will just I think there's two personas too, right? There's Bennett and there's sister unity. There's only one persona.
Sister Unity 39:54
There's only one persona, what does that mean? So this is what my college essay was about. You know, I grew up in theater. And there's this whole thing about peeling the onion and the layers of the onion and who's the real person underneath all of it, and people would see this unity as the outward layer that I'm performing. And then the inner layer is someone else. Okay. And I disagree. I look at it. And this is what I wrote. It's, it's a multi faceted box or a tetrahedron or whatever, however many sides it has sitting on a turntable. And sometimes we turn the table and sometimes forces are the people or life turns the table, but people may see one side or five sides or all the sides. It depends on the circumstances in the context, but it's all one thing. It has facets. It is not that there are two people because the very first night I went out assist a unity. We went to Mardi Gras in West Hollywood when they still had it, okay. And I was as I walked up to the crowd, I was thinking okay, do I be me, I secular self Do I input in drag? And, you know, talk sincerely, but in drag? Do I play a character because I'm used to characters I can invent a really funny character who would that be? And I tried the character route. And that worked for some stick and passers by. And then I met this tall guy about six foot four, and he just looked glum. He looks so depressed. And so I started to talk to him and it became immediately apparent that what I could offer him came from my own secular life not from the Sister Unity performance. Okay. And so I talked to him about things that I learned from my meditation practice and from my own therapy work and offered him a few tools that I had found useful and had to drop the character voice I had been doing because that isn't doesn't play, right. Okay. Yeah. And at night, so I discovered that it is combination and context will tell you which to do when so on some onstage at the eagle, I might be like, I can see you Yeah, exactly. And then there'll be a moment and the crowd will hotshot and be like, I let me just remind you that there are five to 15,000 of our kids who identify as LGBTATTI O U on the streets of Los Angeles, homeless, because no one will let them in to their homes. And you have enough money for that beer, give some money to help these kids or go volunteer. And so that will be my secular voice. But I'm sister unity at the time. So it all it's all together. It's all one thing together.
Mike Gerle 42:37
Awesome. So that's, that's your core person.
Sister Unity 42:41
It's all my core. It's all me.
Mike Gerle 42:43
Yeah. And then so who's your core community? Or communities, which, which communities or community would you say is your is your family who's gonna be at the hospital? Who's gonna put you in the ground.
Sister Unity 43:01
Yes, it's funny how that varies, isn't it? Yeah.
Sister Unity 43:05
I wish I could say is My name is sister unity. I wish I could say that the world is my community and then we're gonna get to the world. And I guess you could I guess I get I'm getting to a point where, you know, being a Hindu where I can see everyone as me like this whole thing of reincarnation, like we all think of it as like I die and then 10 years later I come back as a new person. Well, we know that outside of linear time The time is not a thing it's what is it a circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere? So if time is not a thing, then I could be reading could you could be me sitting in where you're my reincarnation because time isn't a thing. I just got bored. And so then you're like, and then you go, Oh, wait a minute. Isn't that what the spiritualist say? We all are one. We all are together. Right now. I'm having a conversation with myself. I came to interview myself and I'm talking to myself. I just happen to be on a bus one. So a lot of you All right. You are the me that was born Mormon and blonde and would eventually be an IML winner. I'm the you that was born in Maine and has a predilection for capes and chiffon. It's not what you as you think of yourself ego like, but it's just isn't it amazing that you could also be that person that similar and different and that you could also be that black homeless guy who smells like pee. And that black rap star dress drenched in diamonds have that Asian comedian who's making it big in movies now and that obscure elder Polish person who everyone's forgotten about and they didn't have any kids and they're in an apartment in Boyle Heights that are so unlike Mike girly you but that those are you when you're like that. So in one sense My family has ever Where you see your family? That's easy in the head? Yeah, answer your question. My niece will put me in the ground. I bet my friend Melinda will put me on the ground. That's such a good way of expressing who you regard as trustworthy and and intimate. In your in your private sensitive life who would be so my my best friend Melinda, my best friend could be my niece, Kristin, my sister Sally. My Mother, she lived me, but she's 19 may not outlive me. These were family family who would put me in the ground. Okay. There are sisters who would put me in the ground. I'm sure. It's amazing. Yeah. So you're and the answer is for me, is very specific with very specific individuals. And if I if anyone's listening that I've left out, I'm so sorry. I was oh my god. Those are the names I came up with because I had been texting with those guys recently. Mm hmm.
Sister Unity 45:55
And for other people, I know the answer varies.
Mike Gerle 45:58
Yeah, I think the AIDS The plague helped me get clear on that too, because I think it's very academic before death was everywhere. Yes. And then after when death was everywhere, then it was like, now this whole thing about spirituality, this whole thing about who shows up and who does it was illustrated around me. That's the reason I look at it that way. And I think that as that subsides enough, people aren't get people giving you really enough thought. And there's a plague. There's another another plague. There's a crisis of loneliness that more men are dying from hit self inflicted hand gunshots that are from all the mass shootings, that this country that's a real statistic
Sister Unity 46:54
is sad to hear that that's alarming.
Mike Gerle 46:58
It is really, really sad, so fixable. It's Well, I think part of it is this core that I need to be this that's the toxic masculinity that I'm talking about. It's like I can't have feelings. We can't have dreams and wants and fears and loves and
Sister Unity 47:18
or that you're not allowed to share those. That's what I mean. ask other people to hold them to hold that
Mike Gerle 47:24
space. Yes. And and to do that. And so that's one of the reasons I'm having this conversation about is like, Who are those people around you? And if they're not there, then let's, let's start. I want to encourage people to identify those people and then bless them when they do spend time with whoever they are. I have my best friends. I have a couple members that I call my family have created this world of they're very, very close and they're all they're making porn. No. But they're doing it in a different way, which is just like with they all like each other. And if they don't like to hang out and play Exploding Kittens and these other things like going boat trips together, then they're not making porn with with each other. And they're actually like, and a friend of mine just was in the hospital. And these are the people who showed up. Yeah. And, and so I just, and some people wouldn't say that's not I don't have a family. And I want to look at those guys. Like you do have a family. You are showing up for each other. Yeah, you are.
Sister Unity 48:33
It's a loaded word. We've tried to make it mean something broader than it did to adjust to our situation. We queer people. Yeah. And it works sometimes. And it does work sometimes for me. I never felt like the people that weren't my family or my family. But maybe that's because I have family who are close to me. Yeah. So I feel like I'm betraying and if I do that, I know I was lucky and never got kicked out of my home. So that question for me is is confusing and difficult. Because I do have family, but when the one moment when I felt like I might not have family, I was like, well, who's going to be my family and I didn't have any romantic people that I could turn to his family. And I knew I had people who would have my back. That's different. And I think a lot of people assigned family to that.
Mike Gerle 49:19
One thing that straight people do on a regular basis is just marry or accidentally procreate, and then they have these connections.
Sister Unity 49:29
It's pretty easily laid out for them. Yes, we have to decide to buy into that in our own version or not. And if not, then what will it be? We get to make that up or we're lost? And we don't or
Mike Gerle 49:39
Yeah, who cares? Yes, or like, Who cares? And we all need to stay flexible, though, too. What do you do? I think you've already touched on it, but what's your role on the planet?
Sister Unity 49:52
Was it? No, actually, I have an answer for that because I thought this about the third year and to being a sister, I've been a sister for 24 years. Now is December 10. And as a sister my role is to be the hostess of the cocktail party of life to make sure that everyone's fed everyone has something nice in their hands to drink or whatever. Everyone's got someone to talk to everyone's smiling that conversation is flowing there's nice music everyone's okay. And you know, interpret that metaphor however you will but when we go out like say we go to a bar some sisters will you know be at the bar wait for people to come to them. Some sisters will like man, a table a man a booth, I float around and try to talk to everyone in the bar, because I feel like hostess cocktail party of life. Same thing we're out at like the AIDS March I try to interact with as many people as there are two that I am able to bump into and to interact with. And each one is completely different in some ways. I end up talking to for an hour and sometimes it's just a quick Hello. But you know, like a hostess going around a cocktail party. Like Auntie main Auntie Mame was the dream that I dreamt I was optimistic. When I said crystal get to the stream with me that Linda says to me, I dreamt I was Auntie Mame. And I went in with that dream and worked with him on it and realized a desire to be that sort of magical, catalytic.
Sister Unity 51:14
Amazing, fabulous, exotic, cultured, eccentric,
Sister Unity 51:24
empowering and enabling same female based personage. And then about six months later, sister unity happened. Eric Pruitt's sister Kandi called me up and asked me if I'd heard of the sisters, and if I wanted to be one, and I was like, hell, yes. So but you look at her in that opening scene of ATI name and you see her at her at the party she's holding and she's going around, and she's interacting with anyone shakes hands with the monkey and complements the guy who has the aircraft engines on stage for his musical piece, etc, etc, etc. And then when Patrick is there, and she realized who he is, she zeroes in on him and focuses on him because he has needs and she sees it Yeah, it's like that that's my role in the world.
Mike Gerle 52:02
Well, well with the classical. Those union archetypes the lover warrior, magician King. There's masculine, feminine. It's that really, that's very sovereign lover energy. You know, that's interesting new connection lover. Yeah. hostess that stuff that you're talking about though is really sovereign energy. And I said that's another time and I think where people get power confused.
Sister Unity 52:32
Well, yeah see, right. I mean it's her party. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, she's the one who bought all the goodies. She's feeding everyone. Yeah, it is a very sort of governmental role, isn't it?
Mike Gerle 52:41
Yeah. Oh, absolutely. And seeing that the right people are meeting the right people and the
Sister Unity 52:45
everyone thinks that governance is about power. It's really about caretaking. Yes, facilitation and
Mike Gerle 52:50
caretaking. That's when it's when it's when it's when it's in my judgment. Right.
Sister Unity 52:54
Yes. I would agree with you. You would know you worked in City Hall.
Mike Gerle 52:58
I do. Yes. Pretty much head there. But the
Sister Unity 53:02
theory is leading up to our conversation if I had to sort of think about it all in sum it up is that queer people are with our little coming out here as journeys. We are asked to create our own sense of who we are as individuals and also as a community. And as you were pointing out as sometimes it's family. Yeah. And that relates to the other thing we were talking about, in the sense that the way to do that is we will repeat the mistakes of our oppressors. If we keep trying to impose an intellectualized or overthought sense of I know what this should be, I know what should be right. Let me enforce that. So the way you do that is, you follow your intuition. You trust your intuition. You realize when you are overthinking things, and you'll go back to letting that just let it go just drop it and go back to Okay, what is my intuition? What am I guts think is the thing to do? And the other way to do that is respond to things in the moment. Don't try to plan and think everything out for years to come and make sure you've dotted every I and crossed every T. I mean, some planning is necessary but be spontaneous about to be in the moment, what's in front of you that needs defining or taking care of, or purchasing, or designing right now is that your apartment, and you break your apartment, and because you're queer, it'll come out queer, you'll just go find the things that please you. That's using your intuition. Do the thing that's right in front of you taking care of your apartment or buying your groceries or choosing your clothes or deciding whether or not you're going to speak to your parents or not. That's something that's practical that needs to be taken care of. And that's the way that the job in front of you is to define that relationship and you do it with Well, what do I mean by therapists think about the situation and work that out. That would be my summation of practical advice. Could be extrapolated from our long, complicated in at times, extremely silly conversation.
Mike Gerle 54:59
With that I'll close it. Thank you very much. You're absolutely welcome. Now
Sister Unity 55:03
take off your clothes.
Mike Gerle 55:05
And that brothers and sisters was the one and only sister unity.
Mike Gerle 55:09
I encourage you to follow her advice. follow your intuition, define your own story and celebrate your greatness. Until next time, this is Mike Gerle and The GerleMen podcast.
Mike Gerle 55:20
Thanks for listening to the show my friend. Now stay connected by subscribing to girly men podcast and sharing with your friends on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, or anywhere else podcasts can be found. Visit the web page at
Mike Gerle 55:36
Sign up for the newsletter and find more details about each episode. Let's make this a conversation because I'd really like to hear from you. Join us on Facebook at girly men submit your questions suggest topics or just chat with your brothers want to add your own two cents. Use the voice memo feature on your smartphone. Ask your question or say anything. We just might play it on the podcast, email the file to [email protected] until next time.

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