Contributors to Heaven Bent

Senator Louise Pratt, Luke Gahan, Tiffany Jones, Jacqueline Ingram, Henry von Doussa, Brodie Paparella, Alyena Mohummadally, David Rosenberg, Gina Wilson, Ellen Kessler, Paul N Martin, Brigitte Lewis, Sparkle (Rob Anderson), Shelley Dennison, Victor Marsh, Eric Glare, Sally Goldner, Michael Bernard Kelly, Catherine Politis, Lee Dunbar, Sarah de Rooy, Johnathan Jones, Stephen Blood, Kevin Ekendahl, Gregory Storer, Sharlot Clark, Ronald Blythe, Sharon Whittle, Jason Lydon, Kimberly A Mahaffy, Eric M Rodriguez, David L Shmerler, Zenith Virago.

Senator Louise Pratt

Louise Pratt is a Labor Senator for Western Australia. Prior to her election to the Senate Louise served as member of the West Australian Parliament from 2001 to 2007. She was the youngest woman ever elected to the Legislative Council at the time of her election, and the second openly lesbian woman to be elected to an Australian parliament. Louise has a long history of queer rights activism, having served as a spokesperson for Gay and Lesbian Equality WA prior to entering Parliament, and playing an instrumental role in the introduction of gay and lesbian law reform in Western Australia. Louise’s partner is Aram Hosie, who is a transman and fellow queer rights activist.

Henry von Doussa

Henry von Doussa lives in Melbourne and works as a social researcher for the Bouverie Centre at La Trobe University. Much of his work is in the area of sexuality and sexual health. In 2006 von Doussa won the Civic Choice Award of the Melbourne Prize for Literature for his novel The Park Bench. In 2010 he started regularly attending a local Anglican church in an attempt to make sense of his family’s ambivalent attachment to church life during his childhood.

Brodie Paparella

Brodie Paparella has a Bachelor of Public Relations and currently works for the Foundation for Young Australians, one of Australia’s largest youth organisations. Raised between traditional values and liberal spirited communities, he has sought reconciliation of religious beliefs with secular living. Having experienced ‘spiritual distress’ as he moved from a Christian dance ministry to a Wiccan teaching group, Brodie is currently taking his passion for spiritual equality into academia and working with organisations to improve health services. Having previously been Vice President of Gay and Lesbian Community Services SA, and contributing opinions to blaze magazine, Brodie has also written for pagan publications on being gay and spiritual. Read more at

Alyena Mohummadally

Alyena Mohummadally is a mum, partner, friend, daughter, sister, government policy adviser, social justice activist and a keen cricket fan. Prior to government, Alyena was a principal and policy lawyer in a community legal centre, and has a long history of working in the not-for-profit sector. Alyena has been published in books, journals and online and she frequently speaks at conferences, workshops and on air. She founded the Queer Muslims in Australia Yahoo! Group and is currently the Chair of the Australian GLBTIQ Multicultural Council Inc. Alyena lives in Melbourne with her partner, their young son and two cats, and enjoys a fiery debate, albeit the energy has weakened due to the many sleepless nights a toddler gives its parents!

David Rosenberg

Born in Jerusalem, David and his family moved to Australia when he was 3 months old. He grew up in a Jewish Orthodox community in Sydney and currently lives in close to his family in the prominent Jewish neighbourhood of Bondi Junction. When his community discovered his same-sex attraction, Rosenberg was sent to New Jersey USA to attend a Jewish ex-gay program known as ‘JONAH’ – Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality. Today, David and his husband Elcid are both active members of the Sydney Gay Jewish group Dayenu and attend a Masorti congregation that welcomes all people no matter what their background or status. Rosenberg has a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Design from the University of New South Wales and is currently undertaking a postgraduate degree in law. In January 2013 David and his partner officially became husbands, in a Jewish ceremony conducted by their Rabbi.

Gina Wilson

Gina is the president of the Organisation Intersex International (Oii) Australia. An Intersex rights activist/advocate for many years, she has been a board member of the LGBTI Health Alliance since November 2011. Gina was born in rural Victoria in the 1950s and survived significant childhood sexual abuse as a result of her (so called) ‘ambiguous’ genital appearance. She has a degree in aeronautical engineering and another in electronics. She spent a good deal of her life restoring and flying old aeroplanes and specialised in ex-military jets. Gina is an incredibly active member of the community and volunteers with intersex groups, child abuse survivor and recovery groups, suicide and mental illness awareness and support groups and LGBTI health organisations. Gina is now retired and devotes time to writing, literature and the visual arts and lives with her life partner.

Ellen Kessler

Ellen migrated to Australia from the United States in 1989 on ‘Strong Humanitarian Grounds’ on the basis of her same sex relationship. Ellen has spent her life writing, and when her spiritual beliefs became more self-evident in 2007 she began connecting the two. Although she does not invest much conviction in the dogma of Judaism, it is undeniable that her Jewish faith, and in turn the mysticism of the Kabbalah, has helped her to develop personally and spiritually. Ellen now lives in Brunswick Victoria and works as a community development officer in the western suburbs.

Paul N Martin

In 2008 and 2010 Dr Paul N Martin was voted as one of Australia’s 25 Most Influential Gays and Lesbians. He was formerly the principal Psychologist at the Centre for Human Potential in Brisbane and he is currently a Queensland Political Liaison Officer at the Australian Psychological Society. He is a lecturer at Griffith University in the Master of Organizational Psychology Program and has developed and facilitated many programs for organizations, health professionals, Christian leaders, and organisations. During his early teenage years he was strongly committed to his faith. Later during his early adulthood Paul’s faith was damaged due to his experience with a Christian ex-gay program for which he became a spokesperson. Today Paul Martin is a psychologist and for over twenty-five years he has specialised in the mental health of same-sex attracted and sexually diverse people.

Brigitte Lewis

Dr Brigitte Lewis has a PhD in Sociology from the University of Melbourne on the limits of rationality and how they can be transcended. Her research included a stint in an ashram where she wrote ‘ode to my soul’ and attended psychotherapeutic acting course where she uncovered her dark side and tantric bodywork where she learnt how to full body orgasm. In 2013 she began touring Mouth to Mouth a spoken-word show she performs alongside Niccolo Palandri. Brigitte is also an elected member of the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby Organising Committee. She lives to write, perform and teach. Embodiment is her mantra. Paradox her very best friend. You can follow her work at

Sparkle (Rob Anderson)

Sparkle lives within a radical faerie community in northern New South Wales with eight other men. According to Sparkle, they live simply and do so with a deep awareness of and involvement in, social justice issues, radical creativity and of course – play! Growing up Catholic, Bob Anderson was taught that sex was evil and the furthest possible thing from his spirit. In 1997 Sparkle went to Portland Oregon in the USA to study process-oriented psychology. While there he undertook his first ‘Body Electric’ workshop, which radically transformed how he viewed himself and be began to understand that his sexuality and spirituality have never been separate.

Shelley Dennison

Shelley is a 52 year old animal advocate originally from Auckland, New Zealand. She realised she was lesbian in 1981 during a five-year world travelling adventure. In 1982 she started a lifelong journey of meditation-based self-discovery. She has worked as a personnel consultant and is a horticulturalist. In 1990 she was diagnosed with Lupus disease and now lives a gentle life in Northern New South Wales.

Victor Marsh

Victor Marsh

Dr Victor Marsh PhD is an honorary Research Fellow at the University of Queensland and does sessional teaching at Southern Cross University. His doctoral dissertation The Journey of the Queer ‘I’ focused on identity positioning in gay men’s spiritual autobiographies. In 2010 he wrote Mr Isherwood Changes Trains: Christopher Isherwood and the Search for the home self, a critical discussion of the often-misunderstood religious life of the British writer whose relationship with his guru, a Swami in the Ramakrishna Order of Monks, lasted nearly 40 years. In 2011 Victor compiled and edited a collection of essays on issues surrounding same-sex marriage in Australia Speak Now. During the 1980s he taught meditation on behalf of his own guru in a dozen countries throughout Asia and the Pacific Rim and his memoir The Boy in the Yellow Dress is currently being prepared for publication.

Eric M Glare

Dr Eric M. Glare PhD specialises in genetics and immunology. He depicts himself as a fundamentalist through and through – a scientist, an HIV– positive public speaker and advocate, and a former member of a fundamentalist Christian cult that had no name. From an early age Eric was aware of being treated roughly by his father on the family farm because of a ‘defect in his mind’ but ironically it was his faith and his long fight against his homosexuality following the tenets of Christianity that finally set him free. Now he describes his religious beliefs as that of a fundamentalist antitheist atheist.

Sally Goldner

Sally Goldner has been an active participant in Melbourne’s queer community for the last fifteen years. This includes ongoing involvement with TransGender Victoria, Radio 3CR’s ‘Out of the Pan’, Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, and Bisexual Alliance Victoria. Previous involvement includes PolyVic, Zoe Belle Gender Centre, BENT TV and Seahorse Club of Victoria. She is the focus of an autobiographical documentary Sally’s Story and was noted in The Age’s Top 100 most creative and influential people in Melbourne in 2011. She is also a spoken word performer and stand-up comedian. Brought into the world via two Jewish parents, Sally describes herself as ‘technically Jewish.’ An incredibly diverse range of religious and spiritual experiences has enriched her life. As a teenager, Sally attended the all-boys Brighton Anglican Grammar School in Melbourne and while at university Sally joined the Australian Union of Jewish Students on a tour of Israel and became deeply fascinated by the Bahá’í Faith. Sally has given an address at the Metropolitan Community Church in Melbourne and has a connection to Wiccan and Pagan Spirituality.

Michael Bernard Kelly

Michael holds professional qualifications in theology, spirituality, education and creative media. For seventeen years he was employed as a Religious Education specialist in the Catholic education system. In 1993 he came out as an openly gay man, and his career in Catholic education ended. Since coming out, Michael has committed himself to living contemplatively and to shaping new forms of ministry with gay and lesbian people. In 2007 a collection of his writings, Seduced by Grace: contemporary spirituality, Gay experience and Christian faith, was published by Clouds of Magellan. Michael continues to be an activist, counsellor and educator specialising in spirituality, sexuality and human integration.

Catherine Politis

Catherine Politis is a 53-year-old Greek Australian lesbian and practising Greek Orthodox. She has been living in Australia for almost 50 years. Politis is divorced with two grown up children, a 28-year-old daughter and a 24-year-old son. Neither of her children have come to terms with their mother’s sexuality. Catherine has been in a relationship with her partner for five years and works for the Australian Government. She has been involved in many social, sporting and community groups throughout her life. Her chapter reflects her deep internal struggle of trying to balance her religious beliefs and gay life within an ever-changing society.

Lee Dunbar and Sarah de Rooy

Lee is a retired schoolteacher and now works fulltime as a volunteer for God. Her position as Church Life Council Coordinator keeps her very busy as well as having the role of ‘home manager’ within relationship with Sarah. Sarah works in the financial industry as a brokerage manager with long hours and stress. Nonetheless, she tries to bring the Spirit into her work to make a difference to those with whom she has contact. They are both vegetarian for humanitarian reasons and remain active, outdoor women. Lee and Sarah met at a BBQ in 1997 and became partners in early 1998. As well as this year being their 15th anniversary as a couple, Lee and Sarah will be celebrating 15 years of attending the Metropolitan Community Church in Sydney. They are both Members of the church and have been involved in the Church Life Council since its inception in 2008. They sing and are involved in organising two evening services each month. Lee & Sarah have a great love of God, each other and of their MCC Sydney family.

Johnathan Jones

Rev. Johnathan Jones received his Bachelor’s Degree in Divinity from United Theological College in Parramatta, Australia. HehEHe was ordained as a minister of Word and Sacrament at the age of 23 in Sydney, Australia. Since then Rev. Jones has worked as a Youth Officer within the National Council of Churches in Australia, pastored churches in Alaska and Scotland, and has ministered widely throughout South East Asia. He has become a passionate equal rights advocate and has lobbied the United States Congress and has worked with the Equality and Human Rights Commission of the Scottish Parliament, the Alaska Civil Liberties Union, and with LGBT non-profit organizations. Rev. Jones has been a guest columnist in several journals and magazines throughout the United States and Australia. His ministry is now with the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Allies (LGBTA) community in Alaska where he performs marriages, funerals and provides guidance to LGBT youth. He also educates clergy, teachers, students and mental health professionals on LGBT issues. Rev. Jones now lives in his home of choice, with his family of choice, in Eagle River, Alaska. (And no he can’t see Russia from his house).

Stephen Blood

Stephen Blood is a gay man in his mid-forties and born and raised in the eastern bible belt of Melbourne. He now lives in Sydney and recently finished up a twenty-five year career in investment banking. He is now passionately focussed on completing a Bachelor of Applied Social Science and building a new career in community services and counselling. Stephen is no longer affiliated with any organised religion but is working through embracing and growing the spirit within.

Jacqueline Ingram

Jacqueline is a 34 year old nurse from the Central Queensland town of Rockhampton – a town that boasts 300 days of sunshine a year and according to Jacqueline is a ‘redneck town’ within ‘Campbell Newman’s Queensland’. Jacqueline writes for her own amusement and has never shared her poetry before. She describes herself as a Queer atheist who is obsessed with Judith Butler.

Kevin Ekendahl

Kevin Ekendahl is the Liberal Party candidate for the federal seat of Melbourne Ports. Often known as the “Bagel Belt” of Melbourne, the electorate sees the conservative Jewish communities living next door to a growing LGBTI community. The clash between religion and the secular is central to the spiritual journey of Kevin – a Jewish man who was baptised Catholic at age seven. Kevin’s maternal grandparents left the Franco religious dictatorship of Spain to seek freedom in Australia. His grandparents struggle for secular government and freedom of choice had an incredible impact on Kevin’s spiritual and political journey. Ekendahl has an incredible sense of spirituality and while at high school he was a member of ‘The Solidarity of Our Lady’ – a group run by the more religious students. Kevin’s family afforded him the choice to choose his own path in life – a value that he desires to share with the people of Melbourne Ports.

Sharlot Clark

Sharlot Clark is a 49 year old mother of two adult children who ardently identifies as Pagan, Spiritual, Bisexual and Queer. She has two life partners, both of whom are transgendered. She brings a wealth of life experience to any work and study that she undertakes. Sharlot has lived, studied and worked in Melbourne after emigrating from the United Kingdom in the early 1990’s. She initially trained in the UK to be a Registered Nurse. After arriving in Melbourne she underwent further training and became a cancer support nurse. Later Clarke became a volunteer telephone counsellor for 7 years. She has just completed her Bachelor of Social Work and practices as a Counsellor. Clark aims to reflect the diversity within LGBTI communities, and give a voice to Bisexual identity within the acronym that suffers from ‘invisibility’ within both the LGBT and wider communities. Her chapter chronicles the journey to where her spirituality and sexualities have both intersected and influenced each other and beyond. In her own words she regards herself not as a human with spirituality, but rather, a spirit who has humanity.

Ronald Blythe

‘Ronald Blythe’ is a pseudonym we allocated to this author at his request. Ronald served as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) in Japan for 2 years where he was responsible for 10 people joining the Mormon faith. ‘Elder’ Blythe stopped attending the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 2006 but keeps close ties to his family who remain members of the faith. He now lives with his same-sex partner in Melbourne and works for a research organisation developing medicines. Ronald completed a degree in music, medical Science, forensics and completed a PhD in forensic chemistry. He worked as a chemical criminalist for a number of years before moving into research for a cancer research organisation where he developed chemotherapy agents for terminal cancer patients.

Gregory Storer

Gregory Storer lives in Carnegie in Melbourne’s southeast. He lives with his partner Michael and his two adult children. In 2010, Storer was a candidate for the Secular Party of Australia in the federal division of Melbourne Ports. According to Gregory, there should be a clear separation of church and state, and human rights should be paramount to the way we live our lives. He has no religious or supernatural beliefs. Gregory comes from a small rural town where he was raised Catholic and was once heavily involved in the local church. He has moved from a solid believer to a secular person with a heightened sense of social justice.

Sharon Whittle

Sharon was born in the United Kingdom and moved to Sydney, Australia nearly three decades ago, where she trained in nursing, specialising in palliative care. She later studied for a Fine Arts degree, with drawing and painting as her majors. Sharon currently lives in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, where she works in animal welfare. She continues to paint and enjoys gardening.

Zenith Virago

picture: Grant McIntyre
picture: Grant McIntyre

As the founding member of the non-profit Natural Death Centre, and long-time member of the Byron Hospice Service, Zenith Virago has pioneered a more accepting and holistic approach to death and bereavement since 1995. She works with both the dying and the bereaved as a professional death consultant, celebrant, physical and spiritual caretaker. Zenith sees her work as a privilege and an important part of her life’s journey, giving her a deep love and gratitude for the wonderful mystery of life and death of which we are all a part. She is co-author of The Intimacy of Death and Dying, (2009).

Jason Lydon

Rev. Jason Lydon is a Unitarian Universalist community minister focusing his ministry with LGBTQ people in prison. He is the founder of Black and Pink, an open family of LGBTQ prisoners and free world allies who support each other in the work of abolishing the prison industrial complex. Jason’s previous publications include: ‘Tearing Down the Walls: Queerness, Anarchism, and the Prison Industrial Complex’ in Queering Anarchism: Addressing and Undressing Power and Desire (AK Press, 2012), ‘Prisons and Closets’ in Why are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots: Flaming Challenges to Masculinity, Objectification, and the Desire to Conform (AK Press, 2012) and A Theology for the Penal Abolition Movement in Peace Review: A Journal of Social Justice (2011).

Kimberly A Mahaffy

Dr Kimberly A Mahaffy PhD is a sociologist at Millersville University of Pennsylvania, USA. She earned her B.S. in Mathematics from Gordon College, an M.S. in Human Resource Counselling from Northeastern University, and an MA and PhD in Sociology from the University of New Hampshire. Her chapter, “Lesbian Christians: A Study of Self-Disclosure and Stigma Management” demonstrates that many lesbians have remained in the Christian church, but their presentation of self and association with other LGBT people varies. After a lengthy exile, she joined an Open and Affirming congregation in the United Church of Christ. She and her partner have been together for 26 years.

Eric M Rodriguez

Dr Eric M Rodriguez PhD is an assistant professor of psychology in the social science department at the New York City College of Technology, one of the senior colleges in the City University of New York system (City Tech, CUNY). He has been writing about, and conducting research with LGBTQI people of faith since 1995. He is an out gay man whose own personal spiritual journey has recently returned him to his childhood religion where he is currently an active member of his local Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) congregation – Trinity Lutheran Church of Astoria/LIC in New York City. In September 2012, Dr Rodriguez began a three-year training process to become a Deacon in his church and this past December 2012, he became engaged to Dr David Shmerler – his co-author and long-term partner of over twelve years.

David L Shmerler

Dr David L Shmerler PhD is the Director of Psychological Services and the outgoing Director of the pre-doctoral Internship Training program at Kings County Hospital Center in Brooklyn, New York. Dr Shmerler also maintains a private clinical practice in Manhattan where he specializes in work with the LGBT community. Additionally, Dr Shmerler has substantial experience working with HIV+ individuals, through both his past affiliation with clinical research programs and current provision of training to the Kings County psychology trainees. As part of the didactic seminar series on cross-cultural treatment issues, Dr Shmerler provides annual training on clinical work with LGBT individuals. Dr Shmerler is an out gay, Jewish man and is engaged to be married to Dr Eric Rodriguez, his co-author and long-term partner of over twelve years.


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