Steven “Quazar” Goings works to bridge seemingly disparate groups, including the African-American, LGBT, spiritual, peace and justice, and student communities.
“I try to work in multiple communities because it’s all the same work,” says Goings, who grew up in Fort Ord and Seaside. “I work the areas between the borders. Not everyone gets along.”
He does this from positions of leadership (he’s a past president of the Monterey Peace and Justice Center), from support positions (he’s a secretary at the local National Coalition Building Institute, or NCBI), and from his current role as an adviser for the local NAACP.
He identifies himself as “two-spirited,” a term from the spiritual gay men’s group Radical Faeries, which itself adopted the notion from a Native American way of respecting homosexuals. But just “gay” also works, he says.
His ideas are powerful. For instance, he believes bigotry and bias are malleable, and thus subject to persuasion.
“Race isn’t real, so it’s a belief system,” he says. “I think in terms of what is going on underneath the structures in society that are organizing our lives. Though it’s important and necessary to change the structures, it’s not enough. You have to work at the level of individual beliefs.”
At CSU Monterey Bay, he opened a spiritual space to the LGBT community, often shut out of the solace church offers, by founding an inclusive spiritual group called Out & About, later renamed The Gathering. The NAACP and NCBI are now working with Unity Church of Monterey.
“A lot of white progressive communities around here fret they don’t have as much Latino and African-American participation,” he says. “African-Americans are 6 percent in the county. It’s presumptuous to think [they] have any activists they can spare to join in any white bandwagon, no matter how worthy. The white progressive community has to come into these communities first.”
His insights came at a hard price. In the late 1980s, at age 23, he moved from Seaside to San Francisco and became an addict. “I was out of control,” he says.
Then he contracted HIV. He had already buried many friends in their 20s, and he didn’t think he would survive more than three years. But he had a “clear as a bell” epiphany that he would not survive unless he moved. He came back to Seaside to nurse himself back to health and turn his life around. He found his mission in community organizing.
Goings paneled a colloquium at CSUMB titled “Queer Justice: Past, Present, Future” in which he talked to a large audience about “queer people and spirituality.” He says the LGBT community has its own prejudices, with the more mainstream maligning the transgender community. But things are changing. Because it all comes down to beliefs. It will take a concerted, integrated effort, he says, to combat the “fundamental problem with human beings: Instead of responding to nature, they try to get nature to respond to their ideas.”