Written by Dana Perkiss - 10 minute read
Through a lovely LGBTQ+ Slack chat group, I met Bex Mui when she reached out asking if Queers for a Cause (QC) would be interested in a blog she wrote about reclaiming religion and the need for queer faith community. We were most definitely interested in the piece, and even more interested to learn of the creator behind the writing. True to new relationships during Covid, it wasn’t long before we hopped on a Zoom call and I had the pleasure of talking with Bex.
With positive energy simply emitting off her, it’s no wonder Bex has a long history of LGBTQ+ activism and is the Founder of House of our Queer (HOOQ), a virtual space she holds in the name of reclaiming LGBTQ+ religion and spiritual practices.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
“I’m Bex Mui, she/her. I’m biracial - Chinese, Polish, first and third generation American.” She paused and laughed, “I’m a queer, cisish femme.” Bex has spent most of her life on the East Coast but is now living in Oakland, California, where she is a writer, activist, and runs HOOQ.
What is House of our Queer? Can you tell us more about it?
“It’s a space on Instagram, currently that is where most of my spiritual organizing is focused. I started it in January 2021 to put into practice some of the ideas and the organizing that I had been doing for the past couple of years within and outside of the larger LGBTQ+ advocacy.”
Why did you start HOOQ?
“I started it for a number of reasons, one is in response to social justice organizing and burn out. I’ve been professionally organizing on a national level on LGBTQ+ rights and working in somewhat crisis management response. I love the work and it felt really important and meaningful; I still do that in some aspects of my consulting, but what I was missing was a grounding center and a place to recharge from the work.”
And so HOOQ was created as the space she needed, with her goal to find other folx who are interested in the same work.
“I want to build community with other LGBTQ+ people who want to find and share spiritual and grounding practices as we continue to fight daily oppression.”
What types of events does HOOQ host?
“One state of HOOQ is something called Queer Church, a weekly Sunday free IG live event that happens at 10 AM PT every week. It’s a place where I often share a framing and grounding for the week ahead and provide some spiritual practices that are in what I’ve been calling my spiritual toolbox.
Also, often I have IG live talks and guests on HOOQ to almost invite folx to fishbowl in and observe a conversation that is so often not had in the queer community around our spiritual practices and questions we have around a larger purpose - the ways we’ve been rejected by institutional religions, the ways we’re finding community and lifting ourselves up… There’s a lot of work in HOOQ focused on inclusive and affirming sex ed, and that I think is in direct relation to the shaming and negative messages not just for queer folx but for all people in many institutional religions. So HOOQ has another goal, a way to provide conversation and resources on comprehensive affirming kink and sex positive information."
Bex offers readings and brings in outside voices who have also been doing spiritual work. They’re usually queer folx, women, witches, or LGBTQ+ elders in the movement, as a way to bring their voices and advice into a space for the community. She also offers astrology as a means to look ahead, and always involves some tarot cards.
“My spiritual practices, especially new age practices like astrology and tarot, one of the reasons why I include them is both because they’re practices that I have but also because they’re some of the tools I see being the most misused in queer and larger mainstream society. I invite folx who do have a practice of astrology or tarot to lean into the spaciousness that these tools can bring; they’re not meant to be stereotyping each other or relationships. The more I learn about these practices, the more space there is in them.
If we’re using them to put ourselves or other people in boxes, then we’re missing the point of those practices.”
How do you see HOOQ evolving in the future?
“I think there are so many ways that HOOQ could continue to grow. One thing I'd love is to invite more folx to share their practices. Queer Church is my framing - it has my Catholic roots upbringing mixed with Buddhist and witchy practices because that’s what I do, but I would love for other folx to use the space to provide their own offerings or invite more folx on to share their practices to better understanding themselves and their grounding.”
For HOOQ and Queer Church specifically, do you feel it primarily pertains to Christianity, or is it open to all spirituality and religions?
“Right now, HOOQ and Queer Church are just me and led by me - and so it does reflect that, particularly Queer Church. The reason it has its own name is because it does have some Christian roots and draws on my experiences going to church and reclaiming the positive aspects of having a Sunday ritual of starting your morning counting time, having a reading to reflect on and offerings for your week. I have taken some parts of the more traditional mass and tried to expand for the LGBTQ+ community. It does have Christian roots so I am mindful not to tread on triggers for folks who are in the pain place with Christian churches.
I would say that many of the offerings are not related at all to Christianity - but I don’t have experience with other faiths. Catholics are raised very separate, even from other Christians - my understanding of Christianity is really from a small singular denomination - the reclaiming that I have comes from that place. I would love to have other folx that might understand other brands of Christianity or other faith backgrounds to do a similar practice and HOOQ has space for them...
I offer through HOOQ and Queer Church a social justice approach with a spiritual lens to current events. I think it's important if we’re looking at systems of oppression in our society to better understand Christianity and its roots because our country is so rooted in and continues to be perpetuating Christian base stereotypes.”
Would you mind sharing more about your own journey of your sexuality and gender identity in relation to your religion and spirituality?
“I was raised in a small town, I’m Polish and Chinese and my family immigrated on both sides. There are beliefs and practices that helped us make it through that have been foundational to my ancestors and my family’s ability to make peace in their lives. On my Polish side it’s Roman Catholic, that’s how I was raised and I was very involved in the church as a young Aries. I thought that was going to be my path and was really devastated when I went to college in New York and learned about other ways to be."
After coming out as queer, Bex unfortunately found that the church community and her family were not ready to be supportive or inclusive.
"That’s what I refer to as the ‘pain place’. So much happens when our beliefs are tied to one specific institution and we can’t separate our beliefs, our rituals, our need for support from the leaders of that institution. It took me a lot of years to even be interested in reclaiming spirituality again. I like to name that because for many folx, maybe that's the rest of your lifetime in that ‘pain place’ which is okay, but for me, there was a time years after when I realized a lot of the things I was doing were still rooted in the ways I was raised. I wasn’t praying to God, but I was asking for support from the universe. I wasn’t going to church every Sunday, but I made a Sunday ritual for myself whatever it was, like going to the park, a comedy show, always something that would acknowledge to me that the week was over and a new week was beginning.”
Bex shared that she has also been able to build up her "magical practices" over the last few years, such as understanding astrology, card reading, gems, and stones.
"Those parts of my spirituality I think are rooted in my childhood. I grew up in Massachusetts, outside of Salem, so as I was learning in my Catholic church about Eve and about these magical and forbidden feared women, I was also learning in the culture about witches and their powers. I’ve always been drawn to the magic and the power of women, so my spiritual practice of witchiness is centered around the femme divine.
I believe that exists outside of gender and outside of bodies, but instead in this feminine nurturing aspect that we all have access to.
It’s very Earth-based and grounding, very femme type of ways that remind us the moon and the stars are in connection to the planet and that we can tap into them if we’re looking for answers.”
Would you mind sharing a little more about if/when you have felt a disconnect between spirituality and sexuality, and then how do you get back to that place of connection?
“One thing that’s been true for me as a queer person is that I’ve never felt internal conflict around my queerness or my gender expression, as fluid as it is. There’s something around my experience in this lifetime and my intuition that has felt like what I'm doing is my truth and that's okay. It’s the sharing and the external, like, are these people who are in charge of the community going to let me in, or going to bring shame or honor to my family? Because of that I’ve been able to skirt and find new communities rather than changing internally myself. I know that is a privilege, but I think that’s how I’ve always felt about my identity.”
Why do you feel, especially as a queer person, it’s important to have spiritual/religious practices - or rather the importance of reclaiming spiritual/religious connections?
“It’s funny, you know Facebook likes to remind you of things you’ve done. I saw a blog I wrote three years ago on coming out as queer and spiritual, and that’s how it felt when I started having these conversations on a public facing medium. It’s not easy because it’s not widely accepted to talk about spiritual or especially rooted in religious practices in the LGBTQ+ community, especially in activists queer organizing. I think that is one of the reasons I lean into it as well. I’m very curious about when I'm holding myself back from something because I fear external judgement or push back. That is why I left the Catholic church and conservative community, so I’m very mindful when I feel that type of pressure in queer spaces, intentionally or not.
I think its so important, especially in activists spaces and queer spaces, to have something that is recharging and have a balance between I’m out here doing the work, showing up with everything I have, and then what? Where do we go and how do we uplift ourselves?
I know at least for myself, spirituality and ritual is the answer. It's one of the pieces I was missing and I want to share about it because I think there are more folx who have spiritual or religious practices that maybe aren’t saying it, and I am hoping to find them.”
What are some of your weekly spiritual practices?
“One of my practices is honoring my ancestors, which is a Chinese rooted practice. I have an altar for my grandparents and every morning I light incense for them and bring water and offerings and ask them to be with me and thank them for watching over me in this lifetime. I believe that our ancestors are delighted when we are living our truth, whatever those truths are. That feels true to me in my bones, and I believe that by cultivating that practice over time has helped me be able to feel more secure in my queerness, my identity, my sexuality and desires, that are a part of relationships and distance those things - me being me, who I am - from messages externally telling all of us, in particularly consumerist patriarchal American society, who we should be, how we should look, how our relationships should be…"
In regards to honoring our history, I’m curious what you think about June being designated as “Pride month” and what it means to you in comparison to how it has been commercialized, especially in Western culture?
Bex immediately laughed and said, “Literally today I posted on HOOQ this quote that said magic is inherently anti-capitalist, and my description was that Pride is inherently anti-capitalist. I do a lot of work around LGBTQ+ history, and Pride was started by anti-police rioting by Black and Latinx trans women, drag queens, and queer folx in New York who were done being treated poorly and with violence. I don't mind honoring that history.
One of my big principles of HOOQ and in my spiritual practice is why reject when we can reclaim? I think as a queer community we are often, as we we should be, critical and skeptical of mainstream things that are often shoved at us and are not fitting. At the same time, if our practice is to reject and push away, then we are sometimes left without things and continuously starting from scratch. That can make the community feel more loss and sometimes more vulnerable… for me, the practice of reclaiming means getting back to the roots of what something started as and better understanding how I as a biracial queer person from an immigrant family can show up in these spaces. How to celebrate in a way that feels true to me and in a way that’s showing solidarity to the communities who are part of the larger LGBTQ+ community.”
You briefly touched on your LGBTQ+ activist history. Do you want to talk a little more about that?
“I started in education, I was an elementary school teacher in New York. As many queer folx or folx with marginalized identities are, I became the advocate for anyone like me and students like me, and that included non-white LGBTQ+ people. I always advocated both inside the system I'm working in and outside. I was teaching an inclusive curriculum, I was out as a teacher even to my students, working in an inclusion school, doing professional development for the school and families, working on the diversity committee, and doing grassroots organizing with radical educators. That work led me to working for a nonprofit where I did national LGBTQ+ advocacy and the focus there was helping other schools and educators make inclusive classrooms.
With spiritual organizing, all of the work I’ve done in advocacy isn’t things I was trained in or why I have a masters, but it's… I’ve always just leaned into work that feels right and feels good, that puts together what I know about social justice systems. I did go to a social justice college, so as I was learning about education I was also learning about systems of oppression, learning about identity and figuring out where it all fits. For me I’ve never been able to ignore or piece out different buckets that aren’t related - everything to me is related.
Everything is identity. Everything is who we are and how we show up and understanding that these systems in our society continue to be there, so what do we do?
With my organizing now, I have my own independent consulting practice. I work with schools and organizations to do presentations and give consulting advice on wherever folx are. I consider it an aspect of my ministry; I am available for folx wherever they’re coming from, whether that be a queer center space or personal learning space. I like meeting people where they are, I like providing and holding space to affirm and share resources.”
You’re also a writer. Would you like to talk more about your passions and what you like to write about?
"Writing has always been a way that I can almost explain to myself what it is I'm thinking. I’ve journaled my whole life, I’ve written blogs forever, and the writing that I do now is often centered around my identity and my advocacy and my spiritual organizing. It’s a way for me to better share where I am and hopefully try to find other folx who either are having resonant experiences and/or are interested in connecting and doing this work together.
It has been great. I wrote a blog for QC during May which is on mixed race identity and Asian identity. It’s something I wanted to write for a really long time, and was really scary to write too. I think it is tough to forward-front one aspect of my identity when I feel like I’m living and breathing in so many aspects at the same time. It makes it more vulnerable but it was such a beautiful opportunity and through that writing I've been contacted by lots of folx and other mixed race Asian folx who felt seen. That was really my goal, that's also part of why I write. I never saw anyone like me growing up, there are not a lot of queer biracial freckled Asian people, and I like to share about my experience so other folx might relate."
Do you have any words of advice or inspiration for anyone reading this?
“The advice I would give is something that is what holds me together when I need it. I'm a big fan of Pema Chödrön, her Buddhist practices and advice. She talks a lot about living with uncertainty and the idea of acknowledging that things fall apart, that that is the way things are. We think there’s a pinnacle, something we’re always striving for. Especially queer folx, we can be really hard on ourselves trying to compare ourselves to the version that would have been straight or would have done landmarks at different times or would have done whatever. We have pressures on ourselves, sometimes internally or from family or society. There's this idea that we should reach certain goals by certain times, and then we’ll be what, done? It’s this experience of climbing on top of a mountain but we don’t know what's there when we get there, and you get there and it's just more mountains. Pemma talks about that’s how life is:
Things fall apart and they come together, and then they fall apart and they come together. From that, I take revel in our joy when we feel joy, fall apart and have feelings when we feel sad, know that things will swing around and that is actually the only thing we’re doing in life."