My pagan identity was already fully formed when, in 1988, I visited New Vrindaban, a rural Hare Krishna community in West Virginia, so I never had any intention of joining or staying. I went, rather, to learn about temple ritual and Indian cooking, and I did. This learning turned out to be formative and, years later, I'm still grateful for the experience.

I learned a few other valuable things too.

While I was there, I heard a lot about the NV guru, Kirtanananda Swami ( Keith Ham).

Guru-ji stands in the place of 'God.'

Guru-ji knows everything.

Guru-ji knows you better than you know yourself.

I saw people prostrate themselves when KS drove by. I saw them kiss his 'lotus' feet.

During my visit, I stayed in the men's dorm along with the other unmarried guys of the community. One day I went with them to a meeting at Guru-ji's office. There I learned something interesting about Kirtanananda.

While describing the community's next building project, he was eying me over.

He wasn't just noticing a fresh new face, that much was obvious. Every young gay guy gets this look from older men, and knows what it means.

Well, I thought, and got out of there as quickly as I could.

Keith Ham liked young guys, and later got in trouble with the law over it. I'm sure that he had some sort of religious excuse justifying his exploitation of all those young men, probably along the lines of Krishna's love-play with the gopis. Some guru.

Pagans don't do gurus. Guru-ship, along with its accompanying lack of accountability, is a system crying out—pleading—for abuse.

Pagans have teachers; we have elders. They don't stand in the place of the gods; they don't know everything. They certainly don't know you better than you know yourself.

Over the years, a few have tried to give me the guru treatment. I've always been careful to throttle such attempts at birth. Any pagan leader with any integrity will do the same. Nobody deserves that degree of trust. Nobody.

So thank you, Kirtanananda Swami, for teaching me something important about leadership.

You lecherous old creep.