Alyena Mohummadally

For me, being Muslim is about spirituality. It is about having someone to thank and to ask for guidance, but it is also about having someone to get angry with! It is not about rituals and uncontested faith, rather it is about support, encouragement and peace. The word ‘Islam’ means peace – this is the Islam that I know and embrace.

Alyena Mohummadally, ‘The impossible dream’, Heaven Bent

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!


Victor Marsh

Meditation has taught me that before gender, there is the state of undifferentiated unity. I have learned to make my home there. Gender – as an initiation into duality – is a secondary state, and sexuality a distant, third order of being. I am learning to look beyond differences – as real as they are, in this social sphere – to recognise the presence of the underlying state of unity that subsumes all forms of difference.

Victor Marsh, ‘Searching for the ‘home-self’, Heaven Bent

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.

Tiffany Jones

I have a very Catholic mother and a very Atheist father. Not to mention other relatives, who span the rainbow of Taoist, Wiccan, Born-again Christian and Jewish. This, gentle readers, in no way creates the basis for a straightforward relationship with spirituality.

Tiffany Jones, ‘It’s all relatives’, Heaven Bent

Dr Tiffany Jones PhD is a lecturer and researcher at the University of New England, New South Wales. She contributed to the ‘From Blues to Rainbows’, ‘Writing Themselves In 3’ and ‘Beyond Homophobia’ projects alongside La Trobe researchers, where she completed her PhD on the impacts of education policy and provisions for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex and otherwise questioning students.

Ellen Kessler

It doesn’t suit me
This longing
With no intent.
Looking skyward,
Praying but not
Following the breath
To a meditative
State – ment …

Ellen Kessler, ‘I am not Cohen’, Heaven Bent

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

With none of my prayers answered, I eventually hit breaking point in my late teenage years. Our pastor continued to give homophobic sermons and with each one it felt like a knife going through the middle of my abdomen. Each time a politician or community leader would say something negative about a gay person I felt as though they were condemning me directly. Subsequently, while my same-sex desires intensified, so did my sense of isolation, failure and hopelessness.

Paul N Martin, ‘Christianity and my journey’, Heaven Bent

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.


A Mention in Victorian Parliament


Heaven Bent was mentioned in the Victorian Legislative Council yesterday by Ms Jaala Pullford MP.

From the Hansard:

Ms PULFORD (Western Victoria) — I would like to congratulate Luke Gahan and Tiffany Jones on the recent launch of their book, Heaven Bent — Australian Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Experiences of Faith, Religion and Spirituality. This fine collection of essays brings together academic, theological, activist, religious and political perspectives from a great variety of backgrounds — orthodox, Catholic and Protestant Christian, Islamic, Jewish, Buddhist, pagan and atheist. The book is a great contribution to the ongoing struggle of members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community for equal rights in our society, and the editors are to be commended for the contribution this work will make to this endeavour. 


HEAVEN BENT will be officially launched in Sydney by Prof. Kerryn Phelps & Jackie Stricker-Phelps

When: November 21st
Time: 6pm
Where: The Midnight shift (Lounge Bar), 91 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst

Guest Speakers include, Prof. Kerryn Phelps, Jackie Stricker-Phelps, Luke Gahan (Ed.) and Gina Wilson (chapter author)

Books will be available for purchase on the night (supplied by The Bookshop Darlinghurst)