Platt Lynes, Nicholas Magallanes and Francisco Moncion in
homosexual orientation is a journey underground, to the realm of
silence and uncreated things. There are no easy assumptions and
predetermined projects. Each lesbian and gay person begins by asking
what it means to be queer. Who am I? What am I here for? Is there a
buried history? A higher purpose? A special gift for art and music?
Or is queer something one can refuse to be, like James Baldwin, who
puts it down to “love, in the tough and universal sense of quest,
and daring and growth”?[i]
Homosexuality is marked by this existential uncertainty, a
passionate awareness of personal responsibility, a need to call into
being both self and community.
means we cannot live an unexamined life. And here, with respect to
all the lesbian and gay people who do, I will say again that I am
speaking of homosexuality as a social construct, and not describing
particular queer lives. In social and cultural terms, homosexuality
is de-naturalized, set apart as a problem which requires at least an
opinion if not a solution. “The love that once dared not speak its
name now can’t keep its mouth shut,” Time Magazine opined after
the Stonewall Rebellion in 1969.[ii]
Homosexuality is the sexuality which must be described, hushed up,
explained, claimed, denied, celebrated and studied. Every lesbian
and gay person forges an identity inside this welter of words and
silences. Each one of us is invited, if not forced, to scrutinize
history, personal feelings and the structure of society before we
admit to homosexuality.
queer engages us in an archetypal journey beneath the surface of
things. We go down into the dark, deep immensity of the Underworld.
We follow the yellow brick road to the Emerald City.[iii]
Like Orpheus, we create unearthly music. Like Dorothy, we will make
irreplaceable friends. We are bound to meet death, and our own fear
of death, as we subvert the inevitability of breeding. We wrestle
with the bad witch, cajole the ineffectual wizard, and contest the
Underworld for our beloved. We integrate despised and fearful
aspects of female power and male vulnerability. We encounter our own
failure. We face self-doubt and find, to our great surprise, we
already have the courage, heart and brains that we’ve been
seeking. Finally we click our red heels together, and say
“There’s no place like home.”
is homosexuality – an underground reservoir of cool, sweet
water. In her 1974 sociological study, Carol Warren writes, “The
gay world, because it is stigmatized and set apart, is one that
demands total identification. Thus a person who affiliates with the
community and accepts gay identity possesses a rarity in
contemporary life: a total and all-encompassing core of existence by
which to answer the question Who am I?”[iv]
Being queer embraces all of who we are. It answers the heart’s
deepest yearnings for place and identity.
reach the aquifer one must travel alone, beneath norms, expectations
and established forms of relationship. Once we drink there, we are
irrevocably changed. Homosexuality alters the form and content of
our relationship with whatever other communities, religious
affiliations, class, race and family alliances claim us. It calls
for new social forms and a radical re-visioning of human capacities.
If there is love between men, how will armies function?[v]
If women are hard and men are penetrable, what is gender? Will the
patriarchy fissure and split apart? Michel Foucault comments, “We
have to understand that with our desires go new forms of
relationships, new forms of love, new forms of creation. Sex is not
a fatality; it is a possibility for creative life.”[vi]
is achieved by the lonely undertaking of a mythic journey. Yet our
identity is derived from the hard give and take of our connections
with one another. Queer community gives us a name and a home, though
it scarcely exists. No institutions support it; no place defines it;
no spokesperson can represent it. The community is “an ephemeral,
woven network of belonging” (Aaron Betsky)[vii]
that depends on our participation. Orientation continually weaves
both self and community.
makes us acutely sensitive. We need to be open and empathic enough
to find our way in and then brave enough to find our way down. We
move inside the maw of fear, past all the possibilities and
expectations we were born to, guided by feeling, going on faith. It
is a journey home to love. Each lesbian and gay person can claim and
embrace a self that balances sensitivity with courage, delicacy with
strength. Concomitantly, we learn to have and to hold each other.
Love that is big enough to admit us can also admit what is awful and
incomplete about us. We hold on, even to the terrible and tedious
aspects of the beloved, inside this space of radical openness. We
hold all the glittering immensity
we can be and give birth to.
passions take us down into the secret heart of the world. Inside the
dark earth, down deep below the surfaces, we find this untapped
aquifer of queer meanings. ▼
James Baldwin, 1985, (375).
quoted in “Today’s Outlook” 1998 Calendar, Nov. 6-7.
Hopke in conversation with Mark Thompson, 1994 explores
The Wizard of Oz as a
Carol Warren, 1974, (145) or (162).
This is a question asked by Michel Foucault.
Mark Thompson, ed., 1984, (265)
Aaron Betsky, 1997, (265).