Being Gay Is…

I thought for a short while I might just copout on this one and simply write a long string of single words to complete the phrase. The first that came to mind was: Being Gay is fabulous. That of course is true but there is so much more to be said on the topic that I thought this the lazy queer’s way out. I’ll close out the piece with what I think is the best word to complete this phrase.

Before I get to that conclusion though I want to wade briefly into the thicket that is ‘essentialism verses social construction’ as the two most prominent theories for trying to explain what ‘Being Gay Is’. Very basically and crudely put ‘essentialism’ is a theory that purports that gayness is inborn, an unchangeable reality or essence if you will.  “Constructionist theory” implies that we are a cultural creation that has come about in large part because we have been so stigmatized. The constructionists believe that if it weren’t for this stigmatization that everyone would have queer thoughts and feelings perhaps actualized and that exclusive heterosexuality would fade away and I assume exclusive homosexuality would too. There would therefore be no more Kinsey 6’s or Kinsey 1’s and we would all drift to being 3’s or 4’s. This sounds like a disturbing ‘homogenized’ version of human identity to me. I can’t speak from a hetero perspective but from a queer one it would take a gun to my head to even try to perform sexually with a woman these days.

I am, being a disciple of Harry Hay, very clearly planted in the essentialist camp historically but if I were to apply the rather rigorous intellectual examination of these two theories that is required I would most likely today come out as some sort of hybrid. Though I must say in my day-to-day life it all seems pretty simply essential to me – I am queer through and through and always have been.

The best critique of these two theories I have ever run across for me remains Will Roscoe’s Afterword in his biography of Harry Hay: Radically Gay. Let me quote briefly from that Afterword: “The fact is, for most Lesbians and Gay men homosexuality is not a construction, not something acquired, not an accident of childrearing, but an ongoing profound motivation. Perhaps they were born that way; in any case, it is not something that can be changed at will, as some constructionists and Queer theorists imply”.

I suppose it is possible that the phrase Being Gay Is…can be completed in as many different ways as there are gay people on earth. The responses would of course run the gamut from describing the worst possible fate to befall one to the absolute best thing that ever happened. As promised my word for completing the phrase would be “Being Gay Is an Opportunity”.

In my more grandiose moments I like to think that we as a people have been given the opportunity to be in the vanguard of great social change, perhaps revolutionary enough to save the whole planet and the human race. This view I have is based in part again on teachings I gleaned from the years I was hanging out with Harry Hay. Harry was fond of talking about the “gay window”. Being gay allows us to look at the world from a different perspective that our straight brothers and sisters. It is the same world they are looking out at but a distinctly different view of it.

This different view potentially provides the opportunity to problem solve in unique and often very queer ways. I do not believe this potential is best facilitated when we engage in the current major efforts of assimilation and those would be marriage equality and equal participation in the military. We need to spend much more time exploring and actualizing our difference and not constantly harping on our similarities. Let’s face it the current way of doing things has brought the human race to the brink of catastrophe in the form of climate disaster and strong arguments can be made that marriage and the military are pathetically failed human institutions.

Hay on many occasions talked about subject-subject vs. subject-object consciousness. He believed that we were as queers were given a leg up in viewing others, and I would expand that to all of Gaia, as subjects on an equal footing and not as objects. We are able, though we don’t always actualize it, to view one another of the same sex as equals. We get a pass on the unequal power dynamic that seems to be the intrinsically heterosexual paradigm of the sexes. We are given the opportunity to view relating to other humans in a profoundly different way from the existing imbalanced heterosexual dynamic.

This Story Telling Group is a great example of the intrinsic opportunity we so often avail ourselves to as a unique people to explore who the hell we really are. Here is to lots more stories giving form, shape and completion to the phrase: Being Gay Is…

(A few words for this piece were lifted from the following web site: queer by choice dot com )

SAGE Story Telling Group Index