Queer Identity Politics (30 Years Ago) Part 2

Part 2:

The Myth of the Homosexual:
Creating Power in the Concept of Otherness

Published in the GLBT Center Newsletter December 1980

Ronald Reagan is the president and according to the national gay press the sky is falling. We are told the “gains” in the area of gay/lesbian rights made in the late ‘70’s are seriously imperiled. No doubt this is possibly true. Perhaps though there is a valuable lesson in this for us as gay/lesbian peoples. On one level we need to realize how fragile our “rights” are when handed to us by society. Can they just as easily be taken back? On yet another level the issue becomes the validity of gay/lesbian peoples putting any energy into gay rights issues or any straight politics: left, right or middle-of-the-road.

According to Mitch Walker, a gay visionary, “…. even from the start gay people were forced to battle on society’s terms, as to whether or not homosexuality was ‘bad’ and therefore whether they won or lost this argument, they lost their vision.” The sky may be falling as far as gay/lesbian peoples are concerned but it started long before Ronald Reagan was elected president. It began for each of us when, sometime early in our lives, we started to become aware that straight hetero society had categorized and defined us. We were HOMOSEXUALS.

Instinctively as little lesbian girls and gay boys we naturally began expressing our non-hetero essence at a very early age. This essence was quickly identified as “other” by the hetero hordes who surrounded us and they didn’t think it was cute. You see hetero society has realized over the centuries that they cannot stamp out this “otherness” in us. So what society has done instead is to exercise control over its definition and in that way control over those expressing it.

This definition is embodied in a myth about us. It is the “myth of the homosexual”. Simply stated this myth implies that the essence of gayness/lesbianism is a sexual act. An indication of how we have swallowed this line is the frequency with which you hear gays/lesbians everywhere and frequently screech, “ The only difference between us and straight people is what we do in bed”. How sad, and threatening to us as a people, that this is actually a fairly apt description of how most of us view ourselves 11 years after the beginning of this wave of gay liberation.

  Why has society felt it so necessary to have control over us? Simple! They have realized, much better than we have, that we are a real threat to the status quo if allowed to flower into our “otherness”.  As Mitch Walker so succinctly states in Visionary Love:
“The purpose of this myth has been, and is, to rob gay people of the power inherent in them to destroy the established order and replace it according to their vision”.

  We have much personal and group work to do though before we are going to replace the death dance that is the world order. The first step is to extricate ourselves from the dance. This needs to begin with our getting in touch with our true gay/lesbian natures, and this will involve by necessity a total repudiation of the myth of the homosexual.

  It is a bit scary that in search of ourselves we are definitely embarking on uncharted waters or else waters last traveled so long ago that guides are hard to come by. We are in search of a lost vision: a vision of the universe perhaps unique to gay/lesbian peoples. Similar visions will most certainly be shared with many of our non-gay sisters and brothers, but before this can happen we need to rediscover our own so that we will have something to contribute – some uniquely gay and lesbian insights into how humankind needs to go about re-balancing with Mother.

  An exercise others and I have found helpful in beginning to get in touch with our true essence is to remember back to the first inkling you had that you might somehow be different in some way from everyone around you. Try and remember the circumstances around this bit of insight. This is a particularly good vision rediscovering/creating exercise to do in groups. Just trying to recall what your early feelings and perceptions were of the world around you can lead to some amazing insights. Particularly helpful is to re-explore those behaviors that elicited the remarks “little boys/girls don’t do/say/feel those kinds of things”.

  The election of Ronald Reagan was a timely reminder, which we really didn’t need, that the dance is truly out of hand. Gays and lesbians buying into the myth of the homosexual must realize that that they are no more a threat to the status quo than Ronald Reagan. The rediscovery/creation of our vision can extricate us from the dance and return us to control of our identities. Our vision quest will allow us to soar above their dance and thus avoid getting hit with any falling pieces of sky while we are working on the growth-full business of creating a whole earth.

(This piece was originally titled “The Sky is Falling or the Re-birth of a Vision Quest”.)

Radical Gay Politics Index