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Congregational Voices: I, a Spiritual Queer Being

by Bonnie Violet

I, Bonnie Violet AKA a queer chaplain, live in San Francisco’s Lower Haight. I currently identify as a trans genderqueer spiritual drag artist. Assigned male at birth and given the name Duane after my father’s best friend, I grew up in a small town in rural Idaho with two amazing parents and a childhood I struggle to remember.


Family stories have told me that at around age 5 or 6 I witnessed a violent attack that left me unable to speak, mute to the extent that my family didn’t know if I would ever speak again. Much of what I can recall begins at the age of 12 after the death of a friend and an aunt. From the get go, I struggled expressing myself in a way that was both comfortable to me and pleasing to those around me. If ever the she of me was noticed, it was silenced and censored. I sought refuge in church; it was a place that I felt the most comfortable.


I worked really hard as a teen to leave the little town I grew up in. I was able to move to Phoenix, Arizona where I explored being an architect, an actor, a model and a preacher. At the age of 19, I was infected with HIV, and at the age of 20 I learned of it and became just another “faggot with AIDS.” This made me no longer acceptable to my church, so I left and had no clue what to do with God. I knew God understood me and loved me, but I just couldn’t see how. Somewhere deep within me, however, I knew our relationship would be reconciled one day.


Ecstasy became my refuge, refuge from disappointment in myself and from the fear of dying having not lived into my bigger purpose. Drugs softened the blow of life and the embrace of the queer community filled me with the life I needed to keep going.


Over the next decade, ecstasy would turn to meth and the light of life would be so hard to see. In retrospect, I can now see that I was living my purpose all along and it was all part of the journey.


At 29, I stepped away from a life that I wasn’t fully present for, into a life I belonged to and could participate in. This is where the intentional seeking began, the seeking to understand and connect with my Creator, whom I sometimes call God.


This was largely made possible by coming to know myself, by seeing others a bit more like myself: as spiritual queer beings.


I have come from being a hurt person who unintentionally hurt others to being a healed person who intentionally helps others heal from similar wounds.


I do this by creating platforms and opportunities for people to see themselves in the narrative of the Other, laced with my own spiritual thread.