Gay and Lesbian Humanist Network
by Harley Brown
The following article is from the Secular
Humanist Bulletin, Volume 14, Number 1.
As the founder of the Philadephia Gay and Lesbian
Secular Humanists, I have been asked why I chose to start a gay and lesbian secular
humanist group, when unlike the homophobia in the religious groups, humanists were open
and accepting of the range of human sexuality. The answer includes many different reasons.
From the point of view of one who would like to extend humanism to new people, especially
those who are suffering in religion, it would seem that speaking as one gay person to
another is more effective than the alternative. There is no paternalism, no outsider
prejudice, just common experience and empathy.
If one of the main reasons to join a group is to create community, then attracting gays
and lesbians to a gay humanist group should be easier, since they already share so many
perceptions to start with. Furthermore, because of the rejection by mainstream society for
so long, we have developed our own communities with our own economic services and customs.
We feel comfortable in them. It is clear from the reactions of people at our meetings that
they really enjoy being able to open up and share their experiences and know that they are
not being judged by straight prejudices. I've discovered that the gay men's chorus that I
sing in is more fun that straight ones. We meet other gays with similar interest and
friendships blossom. We hug and kiss and don't think twice about it. I think this is what
we are looking for in a gay humanist group and feel is missing in straight groups.
Strictly from the point of view of getting the word out, gays and lesbians have a great
advantage. Since our communities are small and focused, reaching the gay audience is easy.
I started by advertising in the Philadelphia Gay News.
They never batted an eye when I used the word atheist in my ad. When I did that a
year earlier in the mainstream press they either refused to put an ad in or asked me to
tone the wording down. The Philadelphia Gay News reaches just about all gays
and lesbians in the Philadelphia region at some point in the year. What mainstream
publication can claim that? Once we had gotten started as a group, we could put up flyers
in gay hangouts, and leaflet and put up tables at the various gay pride parades and street
fairs. We meet in a gay community center and are listed on their bulletins. We are posted
on the gay paper's community events section.
Considering that we are a minority of a minority, I think we have grown rapidly, from
four in March to thirty seven in October. What is even more telling is that, with the
exception of myself, none of the others were at the time they contacted us going to
meetings of any other humanist group. Clearly we are filling a need. Our next challenge is
to create a program with enough interest to maintain the membership of those who have
I have three objectives in writing this article. First to let everyone know of our
presence and rationale for being. Second to reach any potential members in the
Philadelphia region who might join us (see address etc. below). Third to encourage the
formation of gay and lesbian groups in other areas of the country. To my knowledge there
are only similar groups in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.. We can surely
make a bigger impact on the national gay media and on gay issues in general if we have
numbers behind us. If anyone has questions about starting a local group, or would like to
keep in touch with us in Philadelphia, please use the following contact information:
Philadelphia Gay and
Lesbian Secular Humanists
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Harley Brown is the founder of the Philadelphia Gay
and Lesbian Secular Humanists.