In a society without conscious myths, rites and sacraments to conjure the sacred and guide the soul to its calling, queer identity carries enormous power. Queer people live the story of the hero. We each embody the archetypal pattern of the singular individual who, with improbable courage, finds and creates a home in a hostile world.


Greece, Herculaneum, Chiron with Achilles, wall painting

We are the ones who dare depart the safe confines of a predictable life and venture into a dangerous unknown. Our goal cannot be personal aggrandizement or social approval. We each move instead to grasp and live the fabulous wonder of an inborn self. Becoming queer means harkening to the will of gods, despite doubt and fear, in the face of innumerable obstacles. We swim upstream, impossible distances, against the odds, with only our inmost impulses to guide us. The incredible journey – to self-knowledge, to love and community – stands in drastic contrast to souls sunk in cynicism, rotting with surfeit, cowering in fear of imagined perils.

There is an essential generosity, a call to community, in our story. Tyranny – including the tyranny of what is ordinary, expected, possible, and easy – overtakes any place without heroes to inspire rebellion.[1] Queers are icons to all who would dare to risk despair for the sake of freedom. We make a place in the world for mythic struggle and transformation, when we endure punishment for the dream of love.

Shadow: The symbol of the hero can seduce us into believing we can triumph over adversity. We may be lured by the cheap trick of the happy ending. Suffering unfolds regardless, and our own failure, fear, self-loathing and surrender also need mercy and healing awareness.

Related Figures and Attributes: Stranger, Victim, Lonely

For more writing on this symbol, see these chapters of Orientation: Mapping Queer Meanings: The River, Suffering

[1] This idea originates with Rollo May, 1991.